Everyone calls you Bobbie, but only I get to call you Sister.
I never loved you more than when we sat in the yard of our house in Abbott and you ate the mud pies I made for you. We were little then, and man we ate a lot of mud, you and me, so some of our love came right out of that American prairie soil.
I never loved you more than when you held my hand when we were walking to the cotton fields to work, knowing that our fingers would be bleeding by the time we came home. We were too young to be there, but we both knew we needed those few dollars a day. I liked the music from the Black, Mexican and Czech farm workers, but I wanted out of those fields, and I wanted you out of them, too. We didn't even know we were poor back then. And maybe we weren't that poor after all, for we always had each other.
I never loved you more than when you played that first piano Mama bought and I sat close as you told me what chord and what key you were playing in. Or later when I got to sit beside you and play along on my Stella guitar. You were a natural musician from the beginning, and I would never have become the musician I am without you.
I never loved you more than when you finally joined my band, and we truly became the Willie Nelson Family Band. You were part of the reason that everyone who's played in the band are truly family. We are living proof of the unforeseeable and guaranteed value of families holding their bonds to each other.
I never loved you more than the thousands of times in front of millions of people when you play your beautiful piano version of Down Yonder. Your syncopated fingers tickle the ivories and lift every one of our audience members while I catch my breath, wipe my brow and decide what song we’ll play to kick us into high gear for the second half of the show.
It hasn't been that long since you and I returned to Abbott, Texas to rededicate the old Methodist Church where we used to sing. That old steepled church, built way back in 1883, had fallen into disrepair and the old rugged cross was looking a little too rugged.
I never loved you more than that Sunday afternoon when you and our Oklahoma pal, Leon Russell, played the first service in the newly restored church. You had pitched in with me to help put it right, and every pew and every heart was full that day. I can still hear you and Leon joining me on Precious Memories, I’ll Fly Away, and Amazing Grace. When we play Amazing Grace together, I’m reminded that all songs are, in their own way, gospel songs.
I never loved you more than all those times I showed up at your door with musicians I'd recorded with all night, or golf pals I'd played with all day. There was always a gang of us, and your kitchen smelled of pots of fresh coffee and plates of sausage and homemade biscuits and gravy. You always had a platter of fresh-sliced watermelon waiting for us, too. You didn't have to, but you always looked after your little brother. And whenever you need me, I'll always look after you.
I never loved you more than when we needed each other. We always have. And we always will.
With love, your baby brother and big brother all at once,