In Texas: Going for the Bird

Roger Welliver is flat. More than flat, he is almost completely off pitch. The song -- I'll Take You Home Again Kathleen -- calls for an F, but the note he is bellowing this scorching July morning in San Antonio is closer to a B flat. The problem is partly the fault of a ruddy young man in Big Smith overalls who has sounded the wrong note on a pitch pipe, but the small group of onlookers doesn't know that. They poke one another and guffaw.

The laughter doesn't faze Welliver, 42, a frozen-foods shipping clerk in Omaha. He is in...

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