By RICH FOLEY
Frequent readers of this space may remember the story of my niece, Shannon, and her adventures with Hurricane Rita last fall. Last month, the death of my Aunt Sue resulted in our paths crossing in person for the first time in 15 years. That gave us about half of Shannon’s life to catch up on.
I thought the last time I had seen her was in 1990, when I took her and her brother to a Toledo Mud Hens game where then 14-year-old Shannon became fascinated with Tidewater outfielder Darren Reed. Various other family moves kept her away from this area and after college, she settled in Texas, one of her many homes along the way.
After some discussion, we decided the last time we saw each other was really the following year when she, her brother and mother (my much-older sister) made a road trip to Michigan while brother-in-law Gary was overseas in the first Gulf War.
Shannon got married last month, which now allows me to refer to her as Mrs. Butkus. Husband George, the commodities trader she met on eharmony.com., is a relative of Dick Butkus, the Hall of Fame middle linebacker formerly of the Chicago Bears. I’m not quite sure what the connection is, but Dick isn’t closely enough related to have attended the ceremony. Still, that’s a bigger claim to fame than if she had married Darren Reed. And her completely unbiased uncle thinks it’s Reed’s loss.
Besides, there still was glamour attached to the ceremony as the wedding party had their hair done by a famous company. The hairdressers had worked in Hollywood for years before returning to their native Texas. They did the hair for the movie “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” which was shot in the state. I pointed out to Shannon that her hair may have been done by the same person who rinsed out Burt Reynolds’ toupee.
I asked Shannon why she didn’t sell publicity rights to eharmony.com in return for them paying for the wedding, but apparently, there are many more couples meeting and getting married this way than I would have guessed. She said they do send some sort of nice present to couples who send in wedding photos and there’s a yearly drawing for a bigger prize.
Since she had just gotten her wedding photos back, she brought them with her. My favorite was one of the wedding cake which inexplicably sat in front of a painting of a naked woman. Where was the reception, the Playboy Mansion? She also had photos of a side trip to Luckenbach, Texas, the town immortalized in song by Waylon Jennings. See, listening to her uncle play all his Waylon cassettes when she was a child stuck with her.
I decided to push my luck and asked if she had signed singer/writer Kinky Friedman’s petition to run for Texas governor. Not only had she done so, it turns out she worked one summer in Friedman’s hometown of Kerrville while attending Baylor. If the Kinkster happens to read this, I should point out that Shannon is a successful speech pathologist in Houston and would be a perfect choice to head the Texas Board of Health in a Friedman administration. Just a suggestion, Kinky.
One of my favorite memories of seeing Shannon again was when she asked her mother at dinner if Aunt Sue’s death made her the oldest person in the family now. Not quite, because there’s a couple of slightly older cousins, but I could swear I heard Jethro Tull’s “Too Old to Rock and Roll and Too Young to Die” playing in the background.
I also got a kick out of hearing that George framed last fall’s column about Shannon and hung it in their bathroom where visiting friends would be likely to see it. What the heck, her adventures made a good column.
And she’s still continuing to be newsworthy. She returned last week from a belated honeymoon cruise to Belize where she was stung by a jellyfish while snorkeling. Somehow, my being stung by a bee while sitting on the sofa in Fayette just doesn’t compare. Maybe I’d get enough material for a book if I just followed her around for awhile.
And if not, at least I’d get enough columns for George to finish papering the bathroom. Then, if Dick Butkus stops by with their wedding present, he’ll have something to read.