Isn’t it a good thing that all the bad stuff isn’t bunched up together in one person?

Johnny Cash would have turned 89 today. There are so many fitting letters to revisit on such an anniversary: Cash’s note to Bob Dylan, written on the back of a sick bag in 1963, a year before they first met; or the message he once sent to Tom Petty which read, in part, “You’re a good man to ride the river with.” There’s his famous letter to June, which features in Letters of Note: Love and reads, “You still fascinate and inspire me. You influence me for the better. You're the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence.” Or the note he wrote after June’s death, addressed to nobody in particular: “I love June Carter, I do. Yes I do. I love June Carter I do. And she loves me. But now she's an angel and I’m not. Now she's an angel and I’m not.”

All good options, but they’ll have to wait. Instead, a letter first shown to me back in 2010. It was sent to Cash in the early-1970s by a young kid who was concerned to learn that his musical idol had wound up in hospital with a broken nose (again). Cash later remarked that it was one of his favourites, and it’s easy to see why.

Dear Mr. Cash,

How is your nose? I hope it’s not sore. I was worried about why you was in the hospital at first but then I was glad when the paper said it was just on account of your nose. Noses aren’t too serious.

Mama said I wouldn’t say that if it was my nose. But lots of things are worse, like throwing up.

Anyway I hope you feel better now.

The lady on the news on TV said that you are out of the hospital and you are fine. Boy am I glad of that. I don’t like having nothing the matter with you even if it is just your nose.

Do you have a humidifier? They are good for noses because in the winter the air gets dry from the heater, and breathing soggy air is better than breathing dried up air I guess.

Anyway you are ok now and that’s great. How’s June’s back? How’s your daddy? Good luck on that show you do every year. I miss most of it because I have to go to bed.

Take care of yourself so your nose don’t bleed. Isn’t it a good thing that all the bad stuff isn’t bunched up together in one person?

Write soon.

Your friend, Mark Shane

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