WHEN COUNTRY WASN’T COOL

15590168_1550014341680151_293483791419753097_n[1]

24129630_1925515547463360_6799156173651245620_n[1]

IMG_20181124_123913910-2.jpg

WHEN COUNTRY WASN’T COOL

I couldn’t play a musical instrument to save my life.  Yet, every day, music saves my life.  Every day, at almost every moment when I can, I have music playing.  It fills me up, calms me down and transports me to magical places.  Very simply, it makes me happy.

***********

When my stepson was in college, he came for a weekend visit.  As he drove up the driveway, his music arrived before he did.   I was standing outside with my firstborn; he was about 12 years old.

“Wow, his music is loud,” I said.

“Mom, that’s what it sounds like when you pull up, too,” he said, in his usual poker-faced style.

I was busted.  I didn’t deny it either.

I’m pretty sure I still sound like that when I pull up, and it’s worth it to me.

**********

I am writing at 8:00 p.m., Saturday, March 30th.  Happy Birthday to our dad today; he would have been 85 years old.  Last week, I posted that I wanted to celebrate his birthday in a big way:  by going to the Willie Nelson concert in Newkirk, Oklahoma, a mere 2 ½ hour drive from my home.  However, since it is now 8:11 p.m., and the concert started at 8:00, clearly, I will not be going to the show.

I went to the website to check into purchasing tickets, and the show venue reported the bad news:  SOLD OUT.  The secondary sellers had some left, but for their inflated cost worth a month of groceries, I decided having had seen him three times already would have to suffice—for now.    The iconic Willie is one of my all-time favorites—obviously.

So, in his honor, I loaded up my five-disc CD changer with Willie CDs—I own eleven—all day.  I had my own concert in my home.

IMG_20190331_181930500.jpg

Gail is the CD queen.  In her CD-purchasing heyday, she built her collection up to about 700 CDs.  I may own perhaps 200.  Suzanne—ever the minimalist– said she owns only enough to fit into a shoebox.

17915.jpeg

Gail stores most of the CDs in old suitcases…

17891.jpeg

Gail has vinyl too–this was her first purchase, followed by this sampling:

17894.jpeg

17897.jpeg

17892.jpeg

17898.jpeg

Our oldest brother got his first turntable in the early 70’s, and Gail reports she was hooked.  It was a top-of-the-line Pioneer system.  T-Rex and Badfinger were the two bands she remembers most clearly from those early days of her newfound love of music.

Gail kept most of her vinyl, even replacing some of her favorites with the same one on CD.   She began her CD collection sometime in the late 1980’s, I think.  Several years later,  needing an adventure, I spent 1990 in suburban Philadelphia as a nanny.  Gail, Suzanne and I were not as close then as we are now, but we were still tight.  We kept in touch by phone—the land-line kind—and I recall very clearly a phone conversation Suzanne and I had, I think in the fall:

“I’m kind of worried about Gail,” Suzanne said.  “ I think she’s gone off the deep end with this new country music thing.  There’s this guy, Garth Brooks, and she listens to him all the time.  He has this song ‘Friends in Low Places,’ and she just loves it.”

This was the beginning of “New Country,” and Gail’s tastes were obviously on the cutting edge.  Suzanne and I just didn’t know it yet.

We have our favorite country artists, both new and old.  You know who my “old country” favorite is already.  Suzanne doesn’t have a clear favorite, old or new.  Gail also had a spell of Kenny Chesney fever, having gone to several of his concerts.

Being Gail, she found a way to express herself, even among thousands of other fans.  She and a friend saw him in Kansas City, and made a sign that read “KC in KC.”  They followed him to Oklahoma City, and made a sign that read “KC in OKC.”

Coming from Gail, this shouldn’t surprise you.  She finds a way to express herself, and it usually draws positive attention.

I am a concert goer, too.  Having been bitten by the bug with the Beach Boys live as a teenager, right here in my small city, I have always loved to hear my favorite musicians live, sometimes more than once.

None of us knew at the time, but the woman about my age singing with her family band at a wedding dance I went to with my college roommate when I went to her southern Kansas farm home with her in 1985 would become famous.  She was Kansas’s own Martina McBride.  Obviously, some wonderful women came from that neck of the woods; I credit Marilyn as my inspiration to become a speech therapist.

22540012_1881370708544511_1899387985769989678_n[1]

I have seen Martina McBride two other times, and she has the biggest, most beautiful voice I have ever heard coming from such a tiny woman.  I am biased, but I think her version of “How Great Thou Art” is the best recorded version of all time.  If you haven’t heard it, check it out.  You won’t be disappointed, especially when she hits the high notes at the end.

**********

I have seen Phil Collins twice, and I would love to see him again.  Mary Chapin Carpenter is another one I have seen twice, and will drop everything when she comes around again.  I have about a dozen CDs from each of them.

Having crossed Billy Joel, Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen off my ‘Buffet’ list, that leaves Van Morrison and Jimmy Buffet as must-sees.

Our small city boasts a beautiful art-deco theater in its downtown, offering unparalleled acts like The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band from just ten days ago.  Among the other stars I have taken in there include:  Steve Winwood, Dave Mason, Jackson Browne, Lindsay Buckingham, Jewel, The Mavericks, Cheap Trick, Rob Thomas, Weird Al Yankovic, George Jones, Don Williams, Phil Vassar, Rick Springfield, Willie Nelson once, as well as his son Lucas Nelson in a separate show, and Martina McBride one of the two times, then again down the road a few months later in Manhattan, Kansas.

Music is a healing balm, providing the brain with stimulation that cannot be achieved in any other way.  In my work with stroke patients, I have encountered several talented, certified music therapists who provide musical stimulation to the injured brain.  The results are always positive.

Music—specifically special songs—have the power to transport us back in time to a place filled with memories, as if we are returning there physically.  Every time I hear Boston singing “More Than A Feeling,” I am immediately transported back to May, 1982.  And that’s all I am going to tell you about why I remember that song.

**********

Our living room remodel that I recently wrote about cramped my style in several ways, chiefly the loss of my in-home CD player.

Our five-disc changer, along with the rest of the components sit in this Hoosier cabinet that my husband refinished.  It sat in our grandmother’s garage for years, having been carted from one home to another after a previous resident left it in their newly-acquired home years ago.  Wanting to pass it on, and knowing my husband was the man for the job, she gave it to us.  It began as a dilapidated treasure, but he restored it to its present state of beauty:

IMG_20190331_144136205.jpg

IMG_20190331_144150839.jpg

The components are in the bottom,

IMG_20190331_144226493.jpg

And the CDs are in the top.

I had to suffer through several months without my CD music, but mercifully, I was able to play Amazon music through my Kindle.  It is now back where it belongs.

img_20190331_144349218.jpg

 

We even have speakers wired through to the back porch so we can enjoy the music when I am tending to my redneck clothesline,

img_20190331_144343094_hdr.jpg

Or when we are enjoying our redneck backyard pool.

IMG_20180707_143725031.jpg

**********

I remember Mom and Dad’s vinyl.  I wish we had kept some of their records, but it simply wasn’t practical then.  With Gail’s help, we recalled a few of their favorites:  Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Eydie Gorme, Eddie Arnold, Mama Cass and Helen Reddy.

screenshot_20190331-174732.png

I didn’t question this cover as a child, but perhaps I should have.  I do now.

***********

Suzanne, ever the one who is happy with simple, doesn’t have a Buffet list for concerts.  She is simply happy listening to her 70’s and 80’s music on Spotify.  Having Sirius satellite radio in my car, I find my favorite stations are the 70’s and 80’s songs as well.  Those songs are the soundtracks of our youth.

Bruce Springsteen, “The Boss,” is one of Gail’s concert quests.  Having seen him once, he is the one show I would choose to see again if I could.  He delivered three hours of non-stop rock with every ounce of energy he possessed in his early sixties, pausing only for ten seconds of silence to honor his recently deceased saxophonist, Clarence Clemons.  Perhaps we should make that a priority for us to see him.

img_20190329_105204870.jpg

I have the Bruce station on preset in my car.

As well as Bruce, Gail has always wanted to see Bob Seger.  Sadly, for us, he recently announced his upcoming retirement from touring after 56 years.   Perhaps it’s not too late to work on that dream as well, as he still has a few dates left.

Music.  Live or recorded, let it fill you.  Let it move you.  Let it be a part of your day, every day.  It is a gift to be opened and enjoyed.  Whether it’s Bruce or Willie, Bob or Martina, or whoever you enjoy, their gift to all of us is their musical talent.

If you possess a singing talent, or perhaps you can play a musical instrument, then please share your gift with the world.

I’m always available for a private concert.

img_20180527_180120629-e1527462748575.jpg

Happy Spring from the April Fools!

 

MIDWEST FARMER’S DAUGHTERS

15590168_1550014341680151_293483791419753097_n[1]

24129630_1925515547463360_6799156173651245620_n[1]

IMG_20181124_123913910-2.jpg

MIDWEST FARMER’S DAUGHTERS

I’m all about celebrating birthdays.  Gail’s was last month, and we honored her in several posts.  Suzanne’s is in August, and she will be feted as well.  And, just so you don’t forget, mine is coming up next month.

We recognized Mom’s birthday in January, and now it is time to celebrate Dad.  He would have been 85 next weekend, and I like to think we would have had a big party for such a big birthday for such a big-hearted man.

We had a giant party for his 70th birthday.  We had one planned for Mom on her 70th,  but the weather didn’t allow it.  We never did make up for it, and I wish we had.  Yet another reason to keep celebrating them every day of our lives.

So, in his honor, we are celebrating his farmer heritage, which also gave us our farm-girl heritage.  We wouldn’t trade it for all the riches we never had, and likely never will.

If you knew our dad, you knew this about him:  he loved to talk—to anyone, he spoke his mind—even when it didn’t make him popular, he called a spade a spade and he was a man of his word.

He worked the land, and he worked it hard.  He knew the value of hard work, and, along with Mom, he taught this value to his seven children.  And we are forever grateful for that lesson.

IMG_20190324_172626522.jpg

Dad’s favorite tractor was his  Farmall “H”

Life on a farm in a family of nine people brings many tasks; work that simply must be done.  Ground to work, crops to plan, plant and harvest, livestock to breed, feed, care for, take to market and perhaps butcher, machinery to maintain and a multitude of other obligations to the land that must be met in order to have our needs met.

And they were always met.  Perhaps not our wants, but always our needs.  Nine mouths to feed was not an easy task.  Having beef and pork in the freezer—and chickens to butcher in the earlier days, I recall (more on this torture later)—was the most fundamental building block of our meal planning and preparation.  Despite the toughest of times in the farm economy in the 1980’s,   I don’t ever recall a time when there wasn’t enough food to go around.  I remember an abundance, to be exact. We always had a garden planted in the spring (Mom didn’t enjoy gardening much, but she knew it was part and parcel of the package), we had fruit trees—apple, pear and cherry (more on cherry picking later), and in our small-town grocery store, we had a running credit account.  I remember the folded, lined card that was produced from the box under the counter that constituted our “bill.”  It was ongoing, and it was a wonderful service the grocer provided for many families in our community.  We simply initialed it when we made a purchase large or small, and somehow, Mom and Dad always had the money to pay it off.

***********

As an only child, Dad inherited the family farm without question.  He was the third generation to farm our family land, and now two of our brothers farm the land he left.  Two of our nephews show promise to be fifth-generation farmers, and for this, we are so grateful.

The land is more than just property, and farming is more than just a job.  The land is part of our heritage, and farming, if it is what you love doing, is in your blood.  It is a lifestyle, not just a job.

Perhaps it would have been different if any of us three farm girls had fallen in love with a farmer, but none of us did, and neither did any of us marry farmers.

We would have made good farm wives, though.  Gail, being the eternal Swiss Army Knife in whatever job she finds herself in, was the Jill-of-all-trades, (and master of all) both indoors and outdoors.  She could drive a tractor, truck or combine—and often did.  She also could cook and bake, clean and do laundry, change diapers and take care of whatever younger siblings needed care, which was five of us.

Me, I was mostly inside.  I never learned to drive any farm machinery, but I could—and still can—bake and cook.  I remember folding clothes, a task I rather enjoy now.   I still enjoy baking, and I will cook when I have to.  I was also in charge of taking out the trash, which was mostly burned in barrels just across the fence near the chicken house.  Speaking of the chickens, they were my responsibility, and I loathed them.  My husband occasionally jokes about getting me more chickens, and I tell him “I hope YOU enjoy taking care of them.”

Gail reminded me that the chickens were initially her idea.  When she was in the eighth grade, apparently she felt she needed more responsibility, so she set up the chicken operation.  She quickly became disillusioned with the idea, and since she had plenty of other tasks to complete, the responsibility fell on  me.  Thanks, Gail.

To further illustrate my distaste for chickens, I must share this story:

Our grandpa—Dad’s dad—lived in town five miles away and would often come to the farm to see how his progeny was continuing his legacy.  (I think he was pleased.)  He accompanied me into the chicken house once to feed them and gather the eggs.  My routine was swift and mindless, as I had performed it hundreds of times.  So mindless, in fact, that I forgot he was in there with me.  I got in and out quick, locking the door from the outside when I left.

Several hours later, one of our brothers heard a faint “Hey! Help!” coming from the direction of the chicken house.  They let him out with no apparent harm done.

I was only an observer of the chicken’s demise when it was time to butcher.  I know firsthand where the phrase “like a chicken with it’s head cut off” comes from.  I wish I could un-see that, but it’s burned on my brain.

Suzanne’s responsibilities included a lot of mowing.  She also kept the cats and dog fed and watered—we always had one dog, and several cats, and some indoor duties as well.

Come June, we were all involved in cherry-picking. (Ugh.)  I remember groaning at Mom as she woke us up early to beat the heat when it was time to pick the cherries.  We picked most of the morning, and pitted most of the afternoon.  I grew to despise that job, too.  Now, however, I am thrilled to finally have a producing cherry tree in our backyard thanks to my husband’s efforts.

IMG_20180618_193034660.jpg

Last year’s harvest

***********

I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have grown up on a farm:  for the lessons the farm taught me, for learning about nature from the seasons, the weather and the animals, for the chance to get dirty and dusty—and especially muddy, for learning how to climb trees and how jump safely into a hayloft or out of a swing.

25398993_1950435271638054_856744925146866973_n[1]

27867198_2014574081890839_1820938094393023267_n[1]

We delighted in the muddy squalor the heavy summer rains sometimes left us, just like our boys did when they were kids.

 

More than that, I am thankful for the women we became from our early years on the farm.  Each of us spent our first 18 years on the farm before leaving for college.  We learned how to work hard to make our way in the world, because, for us, there was no other way.   Looking back now, we would have it no other way.  We learned early and often that in farming, and in life, there are no guarantees.

 

35123438_2159040530777526_65481694165073920_n[3]

19756604_1759937557354494_5526553150979117856_n[1]

Spending a day in the harvest field every summer is still a priority for me.

************

My husband and I had the opportunity last week to take in an amazing concert in the beautiful Stiefel Theater in the downtown of our small city.

Playing together for 53 years, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band put on a show we will never forget.  Much of their music has a sense of fun and lightness, such as one of their most notable songs—”Fishin’ in the Dark.

They were talkers as well as singers, often explaining the meanings and origins of many songs.  Another one of my favorites hit home for me after they explained the origin.

Nowhere To Go” is a heavier song, a 1988 hit that tells the story of a farmer who lost his farm due to the ailing farm economy.  The 1980’s was a devastating decade for many Midwest farmers, due to extremely  high interest rates, record debt for land and equipment, record crop production which subsequently lowered the grain prices and the grain embargo against the Soviet Union.

“I’m a workin’ man with nowhere to go…”

I was in high school in the early 80’s, and I remember clearly the specter of the auction block lingering around us and many other farmers in our area.  I recall that several of the farmers lost their farms, and I remember the very real concern that it could happen to almost every farmer.

My heart broke for those who lost their farms, and mercifully, we were able to hold on to ours.  I will be forever grateful to my dad and my brothers for their hard work that helped us survive these toughest of times.

The lead singer of the band went on to talk about his friend Willie Nelson, who, along with John Mellencamp and several other musicians, started Farm Aid.  Their goal was to provide their musical gifts in concert to raise money to keep American farmers on the land.

Nelson and Mellencamp then brought family farmers before Congress to testify about the state of family farming in America.  As a result, Congress passed the Agricultural Credit Act of 1987 to help save family farms from foreclosure.

Farm Aid continues as an annual event; this year’s concert will mark 34 years in operation.

IMG_20190324_163137922.jpg

In the process of sorting and rearranging during the remodel, I rediscovered this book that I stacked under some other books, never reading it.  I am reading it now.

My husband and I are Willie Nelson fans, having seen him in concert three times.  Dad’s birthday is next Saturday, the same day Willie plays live just across the Kansas border in northern Oklahoma.

Happy Birthday Dad.  I think it’s time to celebrate.

 

img_20190324_132303507.jpg

My son in the harvest field with Dad

 

17602.jpeg

Gail’s son enjoying a tractor ride with Dad

***********

17605.jpeg

Dad taking a meal break in the field