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Posts tagged ‘Loretta Lynn’

You Never Even Call Me By My Name

I remember the first time I walked into Big Rosie’s place. The jukebox was playing Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn. Louisiana Woman Mississippi Man. I wanted to walk up to those flashing lights and educate Mr Twitty on what Louisiana women could do. Some of them, not all of them.

I wore black to my interview: black jeans, black cowboy shirt, black boots, black hat. Hell, even my underwear was black for the occasion. I remember stretching out my legs and crossing them at the ankles and thinking The Black Cowboy. What a goddamn joke.

That’s the first thing Big Rosie said to me, you know, like she read my mind or something. I mean, I was afraid the chair wouldn’t hold her when she sat and turned those black holes of eyes onto me.

“This ain’t no place for none of that Muskrat Ramble horse shit.” That’s what she said. I mean, no “hello” or “My name’s Rosie” or anything.

I downed a gulp of Jack Daniels – you know, trying to play the part – and smiled, remembering how many times I danced with my instrument. It was like it breathed, you know? Even played it a few times with that kid, that singing-piano-playing-prodigy who was the son of a New Orleans Important. Muskrat Ramble was the music of my life.

“Just give me a minute.” I said it into the microphone.

Big Rosie heaved herself to her feet. “Jesus-God. Spare me from another country singer who is tem-per-men-tal.” She waddled off behind the bar and poured herself a jam jar full of something clear and slugged it. I mean, slugged the whole damn thing.

I watched her to make sure she wasn’t going to, you know, spontaneously combust or something. And, I dug into the front pocket of my jeans. It was where I always carried it, a stained envelope that was split at the creases. It was her last letter, you know, over a year old, but I blinked my eyes and tried to focus on her cursive scrawl.

Dear Daddy My Dearest Daddy!

I write you every day. Life without you is no fun. Aunt Bertie tries to sing me to sleep when she’s not busy at my bedtime, but her voice isn’t pretty like yours. Sometimes, I sing with her and pretend my voice is yours, because it came from you, didn’t it? 

It doesn’t help. Nothing does. 

I hope you will come for me someday and take me away with you. I’d do almost anything to see you again!!!

I love you Daddy.

Emmaline Cagney

Well, I had to wipe my eyes, about the time Big Rosie’s voice boomed out of the back.

“Sing it. Sing. It. You take all that crybaby horse shit and channel it into a goddamn song in exactly three seconds, or I will personally pick up your skinny Black Cowboy cliched ass and throw it into the street out there.”

You know, she could do it, too.

Anyway, I stuffed Emmaline’s letter between the strings of my guitar, right there at the top, and I strummed a chord, and I sang. I mean, I don’t even remember what song it was, but when I finished, Big Rosie stood back there, her hands on whatever accounted for her waist, and I think she was smiling. It was always hard to tell with her, you know, but I think she was.

To read the first post in this series, click here. I hope you’ll see it again someday.

Hatfields and McCoys

Stories about my Mamaw. A gift to my cousin Lori, who only met her once that she remembers. Set in the hillbilly hollows of Eastern Kentucky. Part of Lori’s and my collective heritage probably includes DNA from both the Hatfields and McCoys. That’s just how things roll around those parts. Mamaw is back row left in the photo below.

My early memories of my Mamaw are skimmed with murk. She had dark skin and the high cheekbones of an American Indian. She often joked that she could get a suntan by standing in front of a window for a few minutes, leaving me wondering how I could be descended from her. My milky white arm next to her coffee-hued one didn’t add up in my little girl brain.

She wasn’t tall, but she had that look, the one that conveyed that she could take just about anybody in a fight. Mixed with her grandmother-tomboy style, she cut an impressive presence in any gathering. I never could reconcile her sporty wardrobe with the piles of costume jewelry that littered her front bedroom, bright shiny objects that captivated me for days.

Mamaw smelled like Oil of Olay, a pink elixir she kept next to her jewelry. It was the sole ingredient in her beauty ritual besides a jar of Ponds Cold Cream I found in her only bathroom.

Her house was a two-story number, and it had the aroma of coal fire all year long. The coal stove sat in the center of the shag carpeted front room, which led through a dining room into a sunlit kitchen with wood cabinets and an ancient fridge. It always held that aura of gas and sulfur, the water dripping from the faucet and turning everything orange.

She slept on the sun porch at the back of the house. Not a real bedroom, but she preferred it. Maybe she could hear the trickle of Greasy Creek out back, or see the lightning bugs blinking on the hillside at night. She never told me why, in her lilting accent that sounded just like a young Loretta Lynn.

Sometimes, when I want to hear Mamaw’s voice again, I find old YouTube videos of Loretta giving interviews. I close my eyes and imagine Mamaw alive, yelling at me for eating the white centers out of a whole package of Oreo cookies and throwing the dark ends in the trash. For a few seconds, I truly feared she would make me dig them out of the garbage and eat them. Every one. She stared me down with her fiery eyes, her nostrils flaring with heat. It was an afterthought when she smiled and warned me not to do it again.

I never did. I never could. To this day, it is the whole cookie or nothing. All because of Mamaw.

Where Everywhere’s a Stage

Nashville. A country music wonderland, where everyone wears high falutin’ Western wear and cowboy boots and carries a guitar slung over the shoulder just so.

Okay, that’s not really how it is at all. Tonight, I saw the Mel Brooks musical “Young Frankenstein.” The song “Puttin’ on the Ritz” did not have a country twang.

What IS striking about this place is the, ahem, number of creative places they find to put performance stages. We found a nice one today in a random city park. Of course, the hotel bar has one. In a local coffee shop? A stage AND an upright piano. With lighting. We even walked past a grocery store that sported a stage of decent size. Wherever I look, I see opportunities to jump into the limelight with my very own version of “Don’t Come Home A’Drinkin’ With Lovin’ on Your Mind.”

Dear God, that would be dreadful.

Still, encountering random performance spaces in unexpected places has me a little off kilter. It’s weird. I keep wondering if they exist for patrons of an establishment to get up there and perform? Or if one must reserve a slot? Or does one audition? Or is it the expectation in Nashville that EVERYONE must perform? Sometime. Someplace, I might sit in the wrong seat and be foisted up there against my will, forced to warble a dastardly version of “Stand by Your Man.”

If they gave me the bouffant blonde wig and the Tammy Wynette makeup and a sparkly dress………I think that might be kinda fun.

Too Much is Just Enough: Stages in all the Wrong Places

Giving Up on Lent

Religious preference is not something I often broach in this space. I want this blog to be lighthearted and fun to read, meaning that the topics of religion, politics, and dissing other people’s children (and thus the parenting skills of the diss-ees) must remain undiscussed. I have never had the urge to pen a polemic.

However, today marks the beginning of Lent, a season that (given my unnamed denominational upbringing) I thought was spelled L-i-n-t for much of my life and referred to the particles I got out of the dryer. The concept of going without something for forty days and forty nights was lost on me.

Maybe that’s because I went without a lot of the things everyone gives up for Lent during my formative years. I’m not bitter about any of it, and I’m not questioning anyone’s parenting skills on my blog. (Just putting that out there for re-iteration.) My parents did the best they could for me, and I know they both love me very much. I love them, too, very much.

Still, here’s a short list of the things I went without as a kid:

  • Rock music – This was defined as anything secular, but especially 1970’s rock-and-roll up to present time. I guess country music wasn’t secular, because my Dad listened to it on the radio. In his defense, he tried to do it when we weren’t in the car, something for which I was grateful.
  • Pants – I was not allowed to wear pants to school from 3rd grade to graduation, and the dresses and skirts I donned had to be knee-length or longer. Yes, even my cheerleading uniform. Oh, and we couldn’t turn cart wheels or anything like that in our uniforms, lest we reveal our bloomers and cause lustful thoughts. That rule was a good thing for me, because I couldn’t turn a somersault, much less a cart wheel.
  • Split skirts – I took physical education in a split skirt. For FIVE YEARS, I had to wear that disastrous piece of fashion. I hope no one was offended when I skipped the culotte craze when it resurfaced several years ago. Ick.
  • Movies – NO MOVIES. EVER. I never even saw a G-rated movie at the theater growing up. It was considered a bad testimony to go to a movie theater to see “Pinocchio,” because someone might see my Mom there with my five-year-old self and think, God forbid, she was taking me to see “Midnight Cowboy.”
  • Bathing suits – I had to swim in my clothes. No bathing suits. (See comment above on lustful thoughts.) I guess no lustful thoughts were ever caused by wet t-shirts.

I could go on, but I hope you get the idea, Dear Reader. So, I’m not giving anything up for Lent. I think I will see one movie per week during the entire forty-day-span, play my ’80s hair-band iPod tracks every day, overspend on a new hat and debut it for Easter at my Lent-observing church.

I’m typing away to Def Leppard‘s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” right now. *Smile*

Too Much is Just Enough: Giving up on giving up


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