Where the Famous Dead Have Fallen

By Al Maginnes

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In his wallet, Dixon kept his ticket to the concert Lynyrd Skynyrd was flying to when his plane crashed. When he was home from college he used to ride with his friends to the field where Rick Nelson’s plane crashed on the last night of 1985. They drank beer from coolers, passed joints, tried to turn the music loud enough to fill that empty field and the long silence surrounding it. Beneath whatever moon there was and stars shifting too slowly to track, they felt themselves more alive in a place where others had fallen. Graves and the stone monuments cast for the dead are one thing. The places they fell are another, small territories granted mystery because a treasured spirit vanished there. As though some danger may linger, as though blood lost there might rise from the dirt and stain one’s feet. In the town where Dixon and I went to school, one guitar shop had a small museum of stringed instruments attached. Some of Rick Nelson’s guitars and hand-tooled guitar straps hung there beside an antique banjo, a string bass carved from a cedar trunk, a three-necked mandolin. A sign warned not to touch the instruments. A rule I broke only once, when I thumbed the unturned E string of one of Nelson’s guitars, then stood listening while the plump note resonated far longer than it should, a voice willing itself to go on.

Al Maginnes