The tragic tale of Sonny and Kara Lee, two ill-fated nineteenth century lovers, is recounted in “Tucson”, the Shakin’ Apostles’ second CD. Each song of this 1995 release describes a piece of the Freddie Krc short story that accompanies the album.
“Tucson” was inspired by and is dedicated to the SAN FRANCISCO CHARLATANS: George Hunter, Mike Wilhelm, Dan Hicks, Richie Olsen and Mike Ferguson.
By Freddie Steady Krc
Heat from the blood red sunset threw a shimmering haze over the E BAR K ranch. For Sonny, this made his situation even more surreal.
Nightly for the last week, sleep brought a recurring dream of he and Kara Lee walking arm and arm through a sunlit field of wildflowers. Abruptly, the vision was interrupted by the image of a hand holding a pistol. Suddenly everything was washed in blood. Sonny’s young heart beat wildly as he tried to understand what this dream might mean. A collage of thoughts and images raced through his mind accompanied by questions. Didn’t all he shared with Kara Lee bond them into one? What could have warranted the hatred her father had for him?
Sonny felt he and Kara Lee had been thrown together by divine providence. The unlikely circumstance of their meeting seemed proof enough they were destined to be together.
As he rode toward the ranch, Sonny tried to put together the pieces of his and Kara Lee’s lives like some jigsaw puzzle that upon completion might reveal a final picture.
With key pieces to the puzzle missing, Sonny continued to ride.
It was late November in the year of ’68.
Winter in Edinburgh always guaranteed low temperatures and bitter winds. This winter though, was the coldest James and Elizabeth Anderson had ever seen. The wind that blew through the streets of their hometown seemed unusually cruel and unforgiving.
Elizabeth had always been fragile in health. The complications that accompanied the pre- mature birth of their first child, a daughter they named Kara Lee, had rendered her bedridden.
James decided that soon as Elizabeth was strong enough to travel they would leave Scotland and never return. Friends and relatives who had already made the journey wrote that the American West was a magical place with wide open spaces and a warm, dry climate. After carefully studying his map, James decided Tucson, Arizona would be where they would settle. He could set about the task of making his fortune, Elizabeth could gain her health and Kara Lee could grow up, all on the new frontier.
The Andersons sold their house and all their belongings. With that money and a meager savings, James booked their passage on a ship leaving for America in early January. The voyage was hard and took longer than James had anticipated.
There were times he feared Elizabeth might not ever see Tucson. They finally arrived in New York City, tired but determined to push on to Arizona.
The hardships of the long, wearisome journey were somehow lessened by the hopes and dreams of something wonderful awaiting them in Tucson. Every day on the road was filled with things different and new; how they would marvel at each discovery of an arrowhead or Indian pot shards found along the way.
For years to come, their overland trip across America gave James and Elizabeth topics for many conversations. They would talk for hours about everything from the new fragrances of certain flowers or trees to the differences between the rocky, barren Sacred Navajo Mountains and the smooth, round and grassy mountains of their former homeland.
By late spring of ’69 the Andersons arrived in Tucson and staked their claim. Through hard work and shrewd business deals James managed to amass a big cattle spread and a small fortune. But it seemed as through all the love and money in the world could not improve Elizabeth’s health. Even the easiest chores seemed to tire her so quickly. In October of ’84 she took a fever and died one month before Kara Lee’s sixteenth birthday.
James Anderson was a big man with fiery red hair matched only by the fire in his eyes when he was angered. When his darling Elizabeth died he was left with only four things – a ranch to run, the hardship of raising a daughter on his own, an uncontrollable temper and idea that no suitor would ever be worthy of his daughter’s affection.
Sonny Barton was the only son of a farmer from South Carolina. He was extremely quite and shy. These traits would later earn him the reputation of a loner. Restless by nature, he grew tired of the everyday sun up to sun down farm chores he began to feel “put upon” to do. Like most young men he longed for adventure. He considered the Army but decided he didn’t want the discipline.
Sonny finally settled on the idea of going west and cowboying for a living. He could trail cattle and see some sights along the way. Also, he could be his own boss for the most part.
After reaching the Arizona Territory, Sonny heard of a big ranch outside of Tucson that was hiring. He would never forget the excitement he felt and the strange feeling something big was going to happen when he reached the front gate and read that sign – E BAR K RANCH JAMES ANDERSON PROPRIETOR.
Sonny met Mr. Anderson and got hired straight away. He also met Kara Lee that first day and decided she was the most beautiful and delicate thing he had ever seen. As the days went by, Sonny found it impossible to take his eyes off Kara Lee. He would seize any opportunity to go up to the ranch house just to say hello. Eventually, James began to notice Sonny and Kara Lee exchanging glances. They were the same kind of glances he and Elizabeth used to share when they thought no one was watching. James knew a confrontation between he and the young cowboy was inevitable. So did Sonny.
Weeks went by with Sonny and Kara Lee talking every chance they got. Some days she would pack a picnic lunch and they would go riding. Finally James could tolerate no more. Even though Sonny had turned into the best damn cowboy in his employ he fired him and told him to leave the ranch and never return.
Sonny left and rode out a few miles from the ranch. He pitched camp and pondered his next move. After a week or so Sonny realized he could not quell his burning desire to see Kara Lee again. Even though he knew his return would mean certain trouble, he rode back toward the ranch.
It was almost sundown and no one was in sight but Mr. Anderson when Sonny arrived at the ranch house. Harsh words were exchanged. Sonny felt a sickness deep in the pit of his stomach.
When Mr. Anderson stared him down and reached for his gun Sonny knew in a split second that he would have to make a decision that would affect the rest of his life. Would he ever see Kara Lee again? If he was the faster draw would she know it was not his fault and he just did what he had to do?
Sonny was scared. it was that kind of deep-down fear a man hopes he will never be confronted with ever in his life. His heart began to race as Sonny drew his gun and pulled the trigger. He jumped on his horse and cut a hasty path in a southeast direction. The mountains to the north- east would lend many places to hide but this way he could make greater distance in less time. Sonny finally stopped to rest in a Mexican border town called Ciudad Acuna. It sat just south of Del Rio, Texas.
Fatigue and the knowledge that nobody knew him there kept Sonny in town for a while. The food was good and he grew especially fond of those hot peppers that came with every meal. The tequila he drank at the cantina gave him a temporary escape from the problems he knew would eventually have to be dealt with. As each day passed the longing for Kara Lee grew stronger.
Almost out of money and ready to take his chances Sonny headed for Ft. Worth, Texas. He knew it was a risk but he could get work cowboying. Upon arrival he discovered he was “wanted” for the murder of James Anderson. His worst fears had come true. He grew more uneasy with each glance from a stranger’s eyes.
Unwilling to risk the freedom he held so dear, Sonny rode toward Mexico. He stopped to rest in Austin. Because the city was smaller than Ft. Worth, he figured chances of being recognized were slim. Even with danger all around, Sonny’s desire for Kara Lee burned stronger than a winter campfire.
Sonny began to devise a plan. A rumor had been spreading along the border that he was killed in a gunfight down in Mexico. Some say the rumor was started by a young gunslinger trying to make a name for himself. Others believed Sonny may have started the rumor himself in order to discourage any bounty hunters or interested parties that may have been on his trail. He prayed the rumors and confusion would buy him the time he desperately needed.
The one thing Sonny knew full well was he could never go back to Tucson. And though he loved the wild, untamed beauty of Mexico, he knew it was much too rough a place for a lady of refinement such as Kara Lee.
During his short stay in Fort Worth he had overheard two well-traveled gents discussing the City of San Francisco. It was the jewel of the West and sat overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Because it was the first stopping place on the trade route from the Orient, San Francisco offered a wide variety of beauty and wonderment to people of culture. Also, a city so large and diverse, who would take notice of one more face in the crowd?
The next step in Sonny’s plan would be more difficult than the long trip ahead to California. He must put pen to paper and write to his beloved Kara Lee. In a letter, he would have to explain what happened that day at the ranch, beg her forgiveness and try to make her understand. Many times they both had witnessed her father’s violent temper unleashed on those deserving and undeserving. Still, could she harbor any love for Sonny in her confused and saddened heart? He finished the letter by telling her he would go to San Francisco, find a room and write where she could meet him. If she did not come, he would understand. At the bottom he wrote – I will love you forever, Sonny
Many letters would follow. Sonny would write everyday on the trail. Occasionally, when feeling safe enough, he would venture into a small town to post his mail.
Weeks on the trail began to blur. Days ran into nights and time became alternately of the essence and inconsequential. The only matter of importance was arrival in San Francisco. Sonny rode south of the border through the Mexican badlands. He chose the danger of encountering lawless bandits over traveling close to Tucson.
His ride became so relentless Sonny was never exactly sure where he was. One night a strange feeling of familiarity overtook him. He felt dangerously close to Tucson and began to shake so hard it seemed to rattle his bones. That moonlit desert night was so bright and quiet Sonny felt he could be seen and heard for a hundred miles in any direction. It would be a night he wouldn’t soon forget.
Upon arrival in Southern California Sonny began to feel a little more at ease. Maybe it was the knowing he had put a distance between himself and Tucson or maybe sheer exhaustion that calmed his nerves. Although he loved the freedom and beauty of the desert, Sonny grew restless and began to wonder if he would ever reach San Francisco.
It seemed Sonny’s tired, thirsty eyes could not be quenched by the beauty of his first Pacific sunset. He stood watching on the San Francisco shoreline as the sun began to disappear into the ocean. He listened to the waves lap gently against the shore and dreamed of one day sharing this with Kara Lee. He pulled out his picture of her from his shirt pocket and stared at it until the last rays of the sun were stolen by the night. Sonny closed his eyes and thought back to that day in Tucson when he and Kara Lee had pictures made of each other. He bowed his head and said a silent prayer that the photograph would not be his last memory of Kara Lee.
Finding a room to rent was easy for Sonny. Especially the kind of cheap, edge-of-town place that would lend the anonymity he required. Because of his quiet nature, Sonny seemed to fit right in with his neighbors who quietly minded their own business. He figured he was not the only one there with something to hide.
Sonny continued his daily ritual of writing to Kara Lee. He would begin each letter by giving his return address and pleading her to write him back. Each letter was full of detailed accounts of people, places and things he encountered since he last saw her. He especially enjoyed writing about his first Pacific sunset. Maybe he hoped that would sway her decision in his favor to join him. Although he found it unpleasant to write about all the demeaning odd jobs he’d been forced to take to get by, the more he wrote, the closer to her he felt.
Days turned into weeks without a word from Kara Lee. Sonny grew more despondent with every unanswered letter. Unlike Kara Lee, the thought never crossed his mind that if she started sending letters to San Francisco, the Post Master might become suspicious and alert the authorities who would then discover his whereabouts.
Sonny sank into deep depression. He began to seek escape in saloons, opium dens and in the arms of a young Oriental woman. Mornings would find him broke and unfulfilled. Then there was the paranoia that would creep in. Sonny figured the longer he stayed in one place, the greater the chance of being recognized. He became adept at the art of disguise. One week he would shave off his mustache, the next week grow a beard and always wear different hats and coats.
Friends and neighbors of Kara Lee could not have been more surprised, and perhaps a little suspicious, when she announced she was selling the ranch. Claiming the E BAR K and Tucson held too many bad memories, she would travel a while then settle somewhere in California. The ranch had proved the most successful in all the Arizona Territory so its sale was immediate and quite profitable. Kara Lee packed a few belongings and headed west for a new start with her true love, Sonny.
Upon her arrival in San Francisco, Kara Lee was rendered breathless by the beauty of this bustling city and the anticipation of seeing Sonny again. A million questions raced through her mind. Had he changed? How so? Would he look or act differently? These were the same questions that went through her mind every day at the ranch since he left.
The site of the seedy, run-down boarding house at the address Sonny had given her was almost enough to send Kara Lee running back to Tucson. As she made her way down the dimly lit hallway to his room her heart beat wildly with uncertainty, fear and anticipation. Her hand went numb as she made a fist and tentatively knocked on his door. As the door slowly opened, a moment in time stood still. Kara Lee stared into the eyes of the boy who loved her. Eyes now housed in a man’s face filled with pain and sorrow. Kara Lee’s eyes revealed to Sonny her unquestioning love. With each lover’s kiss and long embrace their doubts and fears began to melt away.
Weeks flew by faster than a shooting star. Weeks filled with the kind of love only shared by people who took nothing for granted. Long walks, taking meals in fine restaurants and passionate nights would temporarily mask reality.
Eventually, the mask was removed by Sonny’s fear of recognition and apprehension. His need for freedom versus profound love for Kara Lee proved worthy adversaries of his intentions. Sonny knew if he stayed too long in one place he would eventually be discovered, yet it was unfair to ask Kara Lee to share a life of hardship with him on the run. Having her forgiveness and love would have to indefinitely sustain him.
Saying goodbye would prove to be the hardest thing Sonny or Kara Lee ever had to do. He would go on the run and try like hell not to be apprehended. She would stay in the city, open up a dress shop and try to be content to see him whenever he felt safe enough to visit.
Years would pass with only occasional visits serving to sustain their love. Sometimes Kara Lee would imagine their child in the eyes of a little boy or girl who would come in her shop with their mother.
It was November in the year of ’24. An older couple bought a little place in the hills outside the mining town of Sonora. No one paid them much mind. They seldom came into town and rarely socialized. When they did, the townsfolk took note and discussed the fact that although they appeared to be close to the same age, she seemed merely brushed by the hand of time and he seemed ravaged by it. The townsfolk also noticed how they always held hands and the way they gazed into each other’s eyes. They seemed more in love than anyone deserved to be.
Sonny has been sent away by James Anderson, his true love Kara Lee’s father. His love for Kara lee is strong and he must see her again. Perhaps he knows what fate awaits him if he goes back for her…
How Far Would You Go (5:36)
Sonny knows how far he would go for Kara Lee, how about her?
Devil’s Hand (3:01)
Confusion overwhelms Sonny as he tries to recount exactly what happened tat th E BAR K ranch. He seeks deliverance through faith.
Ciudad Acuna (2:52)
Sonny finds temporary escape in this sad, beautiful Mexican town.
Taste of Freedom (3:48)
After riding to Fort Worth to find work, Sonny finds instead his worst fears have come true. James Anderson is dead and he is wanted for murder. Sonny’s feelings of being unjustly accused are overpowered by his immediate desire for freedom.
Lover’s Prayer (3:32)
Kara Lee prays for the wisdom to see the basic judgement of right and wrong. Can she overcome the grief of her father’s death to clearly understand how a boy like Sonny could cross an uncrossable line?
The Wish (4:35)
As Sonny rides west he wishes for many things. His greatest wish is for Kara Lee to be by his side.
Treasure of the Orient (4:13)
Sonny’s hope begins to fade with every unanswered letter he writes to Kara Lee. Depression drives him to seek comfort in the wrong places. He comes away even more empty.
Someone Following Me (3:55)
Paranoia becomes Sonny’s constant companion. Even after becoming highly skilled in the art of disguise, he knows the longer he stays in one place, the greater the chance of being recognized.
Paint By Numbers World (3:58)
Sonny curses the hand he and Kara Lee have been dealt by fate. He dreams of happiness and prays their love can endure an uncertain future.
Kara Lee (Tucson Reprise) (4:32)
Sonny continues to wonder what the future has in store for him. A beautiful reunion with Kara lee or a lonely, violent death.
TUCSON – THE SHAKIN’ APOSTLES
FREDDIE STEADY: Lead vocals, rythm guitar and lead guitar solo on “Paint By Numbers World”.
JOHN INMON: Lead and rhythm guitars, banjo and percussion.
DANNY THORPE:Rhythm and lead guitars.
RONNIE JOHNSON:Bass guitar.
ROOSTER ARMBROOSTER: Drums and percussion.
CAM KING:Electric 12-string guitar and electric B-string bending on the “The Wish“.
DANNY LEVIN: Keyboards, string arrangments and all strings.
WES MCGHEE:Lead and rhythm guitars (with John and Freddie), 6-string bass and bass guitar on “Ciudad Acuna“.
CHAMP HOOD: Mandolin
LLOYD MAINES:Dobro and pedal steel guitar.
RILEY OSBORN:Organ on “Paint By Numbers World”.
SONNY COLLIE:Bass guitar on “The Wish“, “Paint By Numbers World” and “Lover’s Prayer“.