Country Cookin'

The owner said: "I'll climb down, and you lower her to me feet first."
Morey and the embalmer did as they were told. Slowly, carefully, they dragged the woman to the stairs. Grunting, straining, they lowered her down.

"Be careful, will you?"
"Not so damn fast!"
"Wait a minute! I'm losing my grip."
No one said a word.
The family glanced toward the house.

Morey and the others scooped up the dead woman, hauled her to the hearse and hit the gas. Four back-breaking hours later, they sagged into chairs in the mortuary, the big woman lying on the embalming table.

That night, Morey made six bucks.

Mom Davolt had a beautiful voice. Music came to her as easily as opening the window and letting the breeze blow in. She loved hymns, especially "The Old Rugged Cross." She picked up a few songs on piano, organ and mouth harp and taught Morey to sing harmony.

"I was born with perfect pitch," he recalls. "I wouldn't have to sound a note to sing in a certain key. I probably got that from her."

When he was eleven he joined a band. At the time, he and Mom Davolt lived near Bennett, thirty miles east of Denver, among coyotes, jackrabbits and rattlesnakes. She taught school for a living, and he chopped wood.

One night there was a dance. People came from miles around, on horseback, in buggies, in Studebakers--however they could. In Bennett, dances were big business. The band, which consisted of a drummer, saxophone player and organist, played until dawn. On this particular evening, the band leader had bad news: "The organist is sick. Does anyone out there know how to play?"

Mom Davolt raised her hand. "My boy knows a few chords."
Faster than you could say "grab yer partner," Morey took the stage. That night, and for every dance thereafter for several months, he played until 4 a.m., milked the cows at 5 a.m., then scrambled to school by 8 a.m.

"You knew you had been somewhere when you tromped on that damn pump organ for four or five hours," he says.

When he was sixteen he bought his first guitar. It was a fluke, really. Back in Denver again, he wandered into a Montgomery Ward, where he picked out a no-name acoustic for $6.25 and also a 25-cent book of instructions.

"I took to it like a duck to water," he says. "I had been playing sax and piano, but nothing felt right. After I picked up that guitar, I drove Mom crazy playing 'My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.'"

A year later he stood on the stage again. Prohi-bition had just been lifted, and beer gardens were popping up like weeds. Among them was Hart's Corner, which featured a drive-in bar and outdoor orchestra of fiddler, banjo, guitarist and singer.

Morey pulled his Model T coupe into Hart's every Saturday night. He wasn't old enough to drink beer, but he did anyway.

One time the fiddler saw Morey's guitar sticking up in the seat (he carried the damn thing everywhere) and said, "Can you play that thing?"

"I know a few chords."
"Well, get on up here."
It turned out the fiddler was Bruzz "Andy" Anderson, Colorado's old-time fiddle champion, and his guitar player was too drunk to play. He recruited Morey on the spot, taught him chords for the next song and winked at him during the changes.

A few hours later, Morey had seven new chords and a new career.
"That was the best job I ever had," Morey recalls. "I got one dollar a night, a cut from the kitty jar, a hamburger and a glass of beer."

Then Morey got really lucky.
He was just out of high school, working for a Forest Service warehouse unloading everything from razor blades to Caterpillar tractors. One afternoon he got a postcard from the federal government: He'd just been approved as a skilled helper for the Bureau of Printing and Engraving in Washington, D.C.

Morey was stunned. He'd applied for a messenger's job five years earlier, but he'd misspelled "bureau" and figured that was that. But there it was in writing: a real job. For a whopping $1,377 a year. Morey drove to Washington in 46 hours flat.

On his first day, shuttling printing supplies at the mint, he met Julia, the woman who would become his wife. Then he climbed the civil-service ranks in record time, moving from supply clerk to draftsman to designer of underwater torpedo tubes, pancake machine guns and various other wartime implements.

"In Washington, everything just clicked," Morey recalls. "But I worked like hell and had some common sense. And I knew some pretty secretaries, too."

Then he met the president.
It was a routine shift at the Naval Gun Factory. Morey sat at his drafting table designing some anti-Nazi device when a man in a wheelchair burst into the office flanked by two Secret Servicemen and several armed Marines.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
When the president tired of his White House duties, he apparently liked to visit munitions factories. On this particular afternoon, he wanted a tour.

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