In 1950 at Sampson Air Base, New York, I came home to my quarters on base and my wife asked if I’d take our family to the NCO Club for lunch the next day. I was worn out from my week’s work, but I told her I’d be happy to.
The club was only a couple of blocks from our quarters, and I noticed Estelle was acting strange. She had something in a brown paper bag that she carried to the club.
When we walked into the club, Johnny Cash was standing almost in the doorway. She handed Johnny the bag. I never thought anything about it. I just thought she had washed something for him.
My friends who ran the club had a table ready for my family. I saw Johnny near the back of the club, chowing down on something. As we were eating our food, here comes Johnny. He had the large paper bag and a 1/2-gallon lard bucket and handed it to Estelle. He told her that it was the best meal he’d had in a long time. He kissed my wife on the cheek, and I thought she would pass out.
Estelle was a great Southern cook. She learned from the best. My family stayed with my parents while I was assigned to a base that could not take my family. My mom taught her for years.
Johnny Cash had called Estelle a couple of days before, asking her if she would cook some pinto beans for him. She cooked the beans, fried some potatoes and had a pone of cornbread for him.
Estelle became his best friend for the rest of his stay on base.
(Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.)