The goodbye side of an airport gate

Pat Haley - Contributing Columnist

On May 25, 1993, after a grueling day of unpacking furniture at our new home on North Coalter Street in Staunton, Virginia, I glanced across the street and noticed a sign at Robert E. Lee High School advertising a baseball game at Turner Ashby High School in Dayton, Virginia.

“Brenda, why don’t we go to the game?” I asked my wife. “It will be nice to relax after the long drive and the challenging afternoon.”

“That sounds good,” Brenda responded slipping on her red visor.

Dayton, Virginia is a small town about 30 miles north of Staunton off historic and scenic Route 11. We pulled into the ballpark, which was located in a large, green clearing surrounded by pine trees. We made our way to the left foul line where we like to sit to watch high school baseball.

The smooth, fluid delivery of the left-handed pitcher was the first thing that caught my eye.

The pitcher was sharp that day. His fastball had movement, the curveball had a nice hook, and his change-up kept the batters off stride. There is no better feeling in the world than the loud smack of a catcher’s mitt receiving a 90-mile-an-hour fastball.

Although it was a good game to watch, the Leemen of Staunton came up short.

“I think the Staunton pitcher has a bright future,” I told Brenda, as we headed for the exit and the pleasant drive south to our new home.

My prediction was correct. According to reports in the local newspaper, major league scouts were interested in signing the pitcher to a contract with a team in the high minor leagues. The mature young man told the scouts he appreciated their interest in him, but he was in love, and didn’t think it would be fair to give less than 100 percent to baseball.

The young man was in love all right. As it turned out, he was in love with music. He possessed a smooth tenor voice and was an outstanding guitarist, and even at this early age, had a way with words that made songwriting easy.

The young man’s name was Langdon Reid. We found out he lived just down the street from us. Langdon and his cousin, Wil Reid, had formed a duo, a band called Grandstaff. Just two guitars and two country singers.

Country music is a tough business. Langdon and Wil, however, were tough themselves. Not in the physical sense, but they possessed a toughness of character and spirit. We often hear about the supposed shortcomings of today’s young adults, but we know a counter to that argument. Their name was Grandstaff. Langdon and Wil were kind, well-mannered, and wise beyond their years.

Over the years we watched the duo grow. We saw them travel to Nashville, and several years ago, record one of the best CD’s of the year, titled Circles.

Langdon plays guitar, and sings nice tenor harmony to Wil’s deeper baritone. They have become a professional, polished country music act, enjoying a great deal of success touring America.

As the years have gone by and after many miles traveled, Grandstaff changed their name to Wilson Fairchild. The miles have not been easy ones. Like any group starting out, the odds of becoming a success in country music can be discouraging. These two men have been determined and focused since the first day they picked up their guitars.

I had the opportunity to visit with Langdon last fall on our trip home to Staunton. Langdon has been married several years now, has two children, and is an elder in his Presbyterian church. He still has the easy smile and quick wit we noticed in high school.

We talked about his music, of course, and spent some time on Trump and politics, but on that day he wanted to talk about his mother. Langdon said she wasn’t well. He said she was suffering from several ailments, and he feared the disease was wearing her down.

Langdon spoke of how his mother had always supported him in baseball, school, music and life in general. She was naturally witty, and passed that trait along to her son. Neither took themselves too seriously.

We parted that warm September day with a handshake and a promise to stay in touch.

There is something very special about the bond between mothers and sons. Mothers shape their sons, and the smart man looks for similar traits in his girlfriends and wife. Langdon picked a wife just as nice as his mother.

Late this past Saturday evening, a few hours before Mother’s Day, I received a message that Langdon’s mother, Gloria, had passed away.

Langdon’s heart was broken. But we remember what he wrote in Circles about goodbye; ‘On the goodbye side of an airport gate.”

Now, it was the goodbye side of Heaven’s gate.

And both are at peace.

Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.

Pat Haley

Contributing Columnist