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<em>All Shook Up </em>in Sawyerton Springs

Articles Inspirational articles from Hay House authors

All Shook Up in Sawyerton Springs

A tribute to Elvis fans.
Andy  Andrews
Andy Andrews More by this author
Jan 08, 2011 at 09:00 AM

Michael Ted Williams passed away last week. In another month, he would have been ninety-five years old. He was tall and skinny and had been a part of the landscape in Sawyerton Springs for as long as anyone could remember.

Mr. Michael Ted had more than ten thousand cats, or at least it seemed that way. There were cats inside the house, outside the house, around the house, and on the house. He had black cats, white cats, and every kind of cat in between. Funny thing, though, he actually claimed to hate cats.

For all the talking Michael Ted Williams did about hating the cats, he never adequately explained to anyone why he bought 50-pound sacks of cat food. Or why he made toys for them. Or why he made them all sleep inside when it was cold.

There was one place in his house, however, where the cats were not allowed. It was an area the whole town knew about, because most of us had been through it. We younger people thought it was neat, but its very existence caused most of the adults in town to think Michael Ted Williams was rather a nut. I am referring to the Elvis Room.

Mr. Michael Ted liked Elvis Presley. No, strike that. Mr. Michael Ted loved Elvis Presley. He absolutely idolized the man.

The Elvis Room was a shrine. Hundreds of pictures were stacked on shelves anchored by Elvis decanters or other figurines. Movie posters were on the walls—Fun in Acapulco, Girls Girls Girls, Viva Las Vegas, G.I. Blues, and Clambake—all framed nicely. By the door, a filing cabinet held every single record the man ever made—every album and every 45—still in their original jackets. One hundred twenty-nine ticket stubs were neatly displayed on a table in the corner. Each stub was a reminder of particular concert attended by Mr. Michael Ted.

When Elvis died in 1977, Mr. Michael Ted left his cats in the care of his nephew Billy Pat and headed to Memphis. We saw him drive out of town past the elementary school with tears rolling down his face. For three days, he stood outside the gates at Graceland, paying his respects with thousands of others.

He met a lady about his same age, Patsy Jones, from DeKalb, Mississippi. She had met Elvis once at a train station. Having missed her connection that night, she hadn’t had any money to eat supper. Patsy showed Mr. Michael Ted the five-dollar bill Elvis had given her for food, and as he held the bill admiringly, he asked why she hadn’t spent it. She had been too excited to eat, she told him, and besides, she added, it was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for her.

When he got back to town, there wasn’t a trace of sadness in Michael Ted Williams. “Elvis was way too young to go,” he explained, “but the young fellow had a good life. He helped a lot of people ease their loneliness, and I, for one, will always be grateful.

We still got his music . . . so we still got him.”

About a year ago, Mr. Michael Ted started giving away his cats. “I ain’t real young anymore, y’know, and these fur balls need to be kicked around by somebody.” Almost every person in town took a cat or two. We knew that he was preparing for the end. What we didn’t know, however, was how prepared he actually was . . .

It was all very simple actually. The house and lot were to become the property of the Methodist Church. The contents of the house were to be divided between friends and family, except for the Elvis memorabilia. It was all to be carefully packed and shipped to DeKalb, Mississippi, in care of Patsy Jones. As the closest blood relation to the deceased, Billy Pat Williams had been named executor of the estate.

Billy Pat arrived at the bank shortly after they opened and followed a teller into the vault. The will said the funeral instructions were in a safety deposit box. He unlocked box number 30024 and inside he found an envelope marked: INSTRUCTIONS. Slipping it into his jacket pocket, Billy Pat thanked the teller, left the bank, and drove directly to the only funeral home in Sawyerton Springs, Mike’s Mortuary.

Mike Martin, the mortician, met Billy Pat in the foyer, took the unopened envelope, and assured him that all would be taken care of. “I’ll call you after lunch with the final details,” Mike said, “but let’s go ahead and set the service for Friday at two o’clock.”

Ten minutes later, as Billy Pat walked into his office at the Toyota dealership, his secretary held the phone out to him and said, “Mr. Martin is on the phone. It must be important, because he insisted on holding, and he has been holding for seven or eight minutes!”

“Billy Pat? Did you read the instructions your uncle left for his funeral?” Mike asked.

“Well, no,” Billy Pat said, “I never even opened the envelope.”

“For God’s sake, Billy Pat, get down here—you are not going to believe this!”

On Friday afternoon at two o’clock, Beauman’s Pond United Methodist Church was filled to overflowing. In fact, I believe it safe to say that the entire town was there. Every man, woman, and child—even some people who weren’t particularly close to Mr. Michael Ted. There existed an air of expectation one rarely experiences at a funeral. The word had gotten out.

Mike Martin stood to the side. He knew what was about to come, and it seemed to him almost indecent, but as was his custom, he had done exactly as the deceased requested.

Pastor Ward was nervous. Maybe it was the music. “Love Me Tender” was playing in the background. New things always made Pastor Ward nervous, and today, he was about to perform his first Elvis funeral.

Mike nodded at Terri Henley, who approached the pulpit to sing the first song. This is nuts, she thought. A song like this at a funeral?

Well, here goes . . .“You aren’t anything but a hound dog, crying all the time. You aren’t anything but a hound dog, crying all the time. You haven’t ever caught a rabbit, and you aren’t any friend of mine.”

Terri sang the song. She wasn’t happy about it, but she did it. It wasn’t appropriate to use improper English in church, she felt, so she took the liberty of changing some words. “Well, they said you were high class, but that was not the truth . . .”

As he finished his prepared words about how wonderful a person the dearly departed had been, Pastor Ward paused to say a silent prayer of his own. “Sweet Jesus,” he muttered. “Get me through this next part.”

Reading from a printed sheet of paper Mike had given to him earlier, Pastor Ward said, “And now, ladies and gentleman . . . the moment you’ve all been waiting for . . . from Sawyerton Springs, Alabama . . . Michael Ted Williams.”

Mike Martin pushed the button on a tape player and started toward the coffin.

As the music from 2001: A Space Odyssey filled the sanctuary, Mike slowly lifted the casket lid.

As the lid opened, the mourners stood up and moved forward to get a better look. There, amid the flash bulbs popping was Mr. Michael Ted Williams. His hair had been dyed jet black. He was wearing fake side burns and a gold tux. He looked like a ninety-four year-old Elvis Presley!

It is an understatement to say that no one will ever forget Mr. Michael Ted. He was a great old guy who provided us with laughter even after passing. One can imagine him chuckling as he wrote down the instructions for his own funeral—the most amazing production any of us had ever seen.

There was one more time during the service in which the congregation applauded. It was out of respect and admiration for the old man. Applause is intended as acknowledgment of a job well done, whether that job is a show . . . or life itself. So it was fitting that the congregation stood as one, clapping and cheering, as the casket was carried out of the church.

And then, with a big smile on his face, Pastor Ward looked at the people and said, “Ladies and gentleman, you can all go home. Michael Ted has left the building!”

About Author
Andy  Andrews
Hailed by The New York Times as someone who has “quietly become one of the most influential people in America,” Andy Andrews is a best-selling novelist and in-demand speaker for some of the world’s largest organizations. The Traveler’s Gift, a featur Continue reading