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Country Music May Be Over My Head

6 June 2005

Stuart Lake
Paarens Beach Provincial Park
Fort Saint James, BC

There's a beautiful sunset tonight, painting rose the flat surface of a freshwater inland sea. I almost had to scrape the mosquitoes off my lens to take a picture of it, though.

Okay, okay, okay. In my last letter I let fly a few frustrated complaints about how stupid country music is. What a waste of time. Then I had the effrontery to offer up a "country song" of my own.

I have since acquired a few critics. Of course, this was on newsnet, where one may easily start multi-generational feuds by saying "Hello". Some of these critics remain safely pseudonymous. The rest have joined the growing list of people I need to track down and kill.

That was a joke. Heh, heh. Sure. Old "Just Kidding" Giddings, they call me. Really, Ossifer. Just a joke. I don't know what happened to them guys.

One of these experts opined that my effort "won't fly, but there may be better chicks in the nest." In other words, keep trying, fool. Right.

That advice reminds me of a situation in one of James Baldwin's books. Upon graduation, this fellow had obtained numerous sealed letters of recommendation from the kindly old president of his all-black college, and promptly went looking for a job. Time after time he was turned down, but always with the parting polite rejoinder that "Maybe so-and-so can help you." So he went on from tip to tip, with ever declining confidence. Finally, months later, he was down to his last dime. And his last letter. He started to throw it away, but then he had second thoughts. He fished it back out of the basket and broke the seal.

Inside was a broad creamy sheet of paper on which was neatly typewritten a single line: "Keep this nigger running."

I get enough exercise.

Another of my wonderful critics had more specific advice. "Some of it is a little too forced for country," he said. "It has to sound pretty natural, not a forced rhyme." He suggested I study Hank Williams, Sr. "Now that's songwriting."

Now I admit I don't know much about country music. But I did see a documentary once, with an black and white filmed interview of a surviving member of Hank's original band. The old guy dressed up for the occasion. I recall khakis, and a white shirt with pearl snap buttons, fastened up to the neck. He said he couldn't help noticing, back then, that Hank always had a big pile of cheap comic books on the seat of the car beside him. He kept thumbing through them.

You know, the sort of publication printed with ink that rubs off on your fingers. Titles like "Modern Romance", and "True Love".

Finally he just had to ask him:

"Whatcha lookin' at them silly things for, Boss?"

"Just studyin'..."

He got hold of some of them. The scene he remembers best was of two women sitting at a kitchen table with coffee cups. One of them had these huge tears running down her cheeks.

"I don't know what to do," she said, in that little bubble by her head. "I've been walking the floor all night. I didn't sleep a wink."

The old codger on the TV grinned up at the interviewer, nodding. "Y'know," he said, "Ya got to tip yer hat to old Hank."

So that's it. And I didn't bring any comic books with me. Durn.

But even if I had, the sad fact is that country music may be over my head. I'll have to ask old Hank about it when I'm dead.

Until then, I'm travelin' on.


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