Courtship and romance usually result in a good story. Add destiny and the story becomes remarkable, as in the case of the courtship of Terry Brown and Hilda Machado.
Many readers will remember Terry Brown, featured in an Enterprise article last November. Terry, who lives in Los Banos resident, was given four national awards by the Pro Cowboy Country Association in 2017, including Songwriter and Male Vocalist of the Year.
Long-time residents of Los Banos will also recognize the name of Hilda Machado, from her high school days when she had lead roles in Los Banos community musicals like “Annie, Get Your Gun” to her international renown as a professional trick roper.
What most people don’t know is the story of Terry’s and Hilda’s courtship, the unlikely narrative of a shy young man growing up in small town near Tulsa meeting an effervescent Los Banos woman by chance, their two years of friendship and their eventual (and seemingly inevitable) marriage in 1980.
Terry and Hilda’s courtship began in Claremore, Okla. (Rogers County), 200 miles from Terry Brown’s home town of Gracemont, and 1,600 miles from Hilda’s hometown of Los Banos. Rogers County is best known as the birthplace of Will Rogers, a legendary American comedian and trick roper. It’s also the home of the Hank Thompson School of Country Music, which acted like a magnet for Terry.
That’s not surprising. Terry liked to sing; always had. He started entertaining others with his singing when he was 3 years old. The youngest of five siblings, he was dragged by his older brothers on a burlap sack while they picked cotton, and Terry would sing to them to help pass the time.
It took an act of destiny, however, for Hilda to end up in Claremore. By the time she was 20 Hilda had seen a good part of the country, just not Oklahoma. Following in the footsteps of her father, Thomas Machado Jr., Hilda had become a trick roper by age 12 and she had turned professional by 15. When she was 21, she traveled to China with her mother Lucille Machado to be the opening act in the Great American Rodeo Show.
Besides trick roping, Hilda had an interest in singing and acting. In high school she been the lead in several Los Banos community musicals; in college she played lead roles in Merced theatrical productions. But Hilda also loved country and western music.
While driving with her sister Mary to Missouri for a trick-roping gig, Hilda and Mary were passing through Oklahoma. That’s when Hilda saw the sign: “Welcome to Claremore, the Home of the Hank Thompson School of Country Music.” Though she had never heard of the school (or even the town), Hilda said to Mary, “That’s where I want to go.”
She didn’t stop, but she made a point to remember it.
When she returned to Los Banos, Hilda, encouraged by Mary, used some of the money she had won as runner-up in a Miss Merced County pageant for an airplane ticket. She flew to Tulsa, the closest airport to Claremore Junior College’s Hank Thompson School of Music – a college she hadn’t yet seen.
Hilda didn’t know that the college was a former army barracks. When she arrived, Hilda found it bleak and desolate. She knew no one and felt isolated. She called home to tell her family she was coming back, but Mary gave her a strong pep talk and persuaded her to stay.
At the Hank Thompson School of Country Music, students were assigned to performing musical groups. Hilda, in her first semester, was assigned as a back-up singer for a band featuring Terry Brown as the lead singer. In his second semester, Terry was happy about this coincidence, since he had noticed Hilda on campus. “That’s the girl,” he had told a friend, “I want to marry.”
Hilda, on the other hand, wasn’t exactly dazzled when she first encountered Terry.
(To be continued.)
John Spevak is a resident of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.