The Jesse James family was utterly surprised when Drury Woodson James showed up, alive and in person, at their family reunion in 2002, even though the event program announced he would be there.
When Drury was scheduled to appear, Judge James R. Ross and myself were just looking to insert a little diversion into the program, more as a fun break from some of the serious presentations and content that had gone before. Little did we expect that Drury’s appearance would throw the remainting events off schedule when people started lining up to have their photos taken with him.
When I agreed to enact D. W. James, I thought nothing of it. After all, I was retired from a sixteen-year career as a professional actor. I hadn’t given a second thought to the fact that it had been a long time since I had been on the stage or appeared before a large audience.
When I left the meeting room to go put on Drury’s costume, something strange seemed to be changing in my body. When I had put on the costume completely, I finally added my hat. Suddenly, a surprising panic seized me. My costume smothered me in a gigantic envelope of unexpected stage fright.
As the presenter continued on in the other room, I sat outside, waiting for the time for my appearance. I had written no script. Everything I was to say was supposed to be extempore and improvised. I had a list of key points about Drury’s life that had to be made. But, for the life of me, my mind was starting to lose everything I had learned about the man. As the moments crept on, I was losing more and more of my memory of Drury Woodson James.
Oops! Too late, now.
As the applause for the earlier speaker died down, I threw open the door, and Drury Woodson James entered the room to meet his guests at his Paso Robles Hotel. He was well met with appreciation. Everyone enjoyed being with him as he enjoyed their company, too. He was very comfortable among his hotel guests. And he was freindly as expected, and very conversational. Everyone had a good time.
To this day, I still don’t know where Drury Woodson James came from. But I sure am grateful he showed up.