Sunday, November 16, 2008

A patchwork quilt of a post

If you keep up with our travel adventures and heard about our latest trial, you should know that the drive home was only slightly better than the drive out of town. We adjusted our plans and left for home at about 2:30 p.m., so it wasn't dark and boy wasn't worn out, two major factors (we surmise) from the debacle of our trip on the way out. This time around, boy slept for a wonderful, magical, sweet 35 minutes, and spent most of the balance of the car ride in tears. We were better equipped to deal with the crying this time, and handed him an entire assortment of strange playthings, one by one, to distract him, thus minimizing the shrieks as much as possible. At one point, he had played with and cast off the following:
  • An empty Cheetos bag
  • An Ozarka water bottle
  • My Hallmark Gold Crown card
  • A random piece of paper from the glove compartment, which I'm pretty sure was part of my car's original retail sticker
  • An unused, fresh diaper (hey, it bought us almost 20 minutes -- don't judge me)
When we finally got him home and into the house, he plopped down in his play area and crawled so eagerly to his toy box to play, his cheeks still tear-stained and wet from the car ride. And we realized that three-plus hours in the car is a lot to ask of a nine-and-a-half month old. Heck, *I* look forward to stopping to stretch my legs, and I'm not strapped into one position and facing the rear of the car. Poor kid. I think we'll be keeping road trips to a minimum at least until we can get him into a forward-facing car seat. 

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The LAST time we went to see my in-laws, we stopped for lunch at a Cracker Barrel, that safe haven of Americana and country crafts. I'd actually never been to one (good Lord, I'm pretty sure I just heard your collective gasp, Internets), so when we saw the sign up ahead, and simultaneously developed a craving for chicken-fried steak, we shrugged and figured, why not

Our meal was fine, nothing special really -- I had some kind of chicken salad/tuna salad combo, having resisted the Fried Brown Plate of Cardiac Doom -- but what remains in my mind is our stop to pay at the register on the way out. Lurking innocently near the cash register (and looking, I might add, a little worse for all the plastic surgery) was the face of none other than Kenny Rogers on some compilation album. 

Now, you may remember me saying some time ago that I knew all the words to "Coward of the County" and "The Gambler" as a kid. But it had been forever since I'd heard them. Husband's parents were also fans of Kenny Rogers in husband's youth, so we topped off our apple-pie of a restaurant experience with the purchase of Kenny Rogers' biggest chart-toppers, "plus three new tracks that are destined to become your favorites." (Not so much, really.) We trundled ourselves out to the car, broke into the plastic wrap on the CD (a CD!! Really! A physical, shiny CD! That was a throwback experience in and of itself in our new iTunes-centric world.) and popped that sucker in, ready to introduce boy to the magic country stylings of Mr. Kenny Rogers himself.

"Coward of the County" started up, and I jumped right into the song with gusto, chiming in with husband as we drove around. And you know what I realized? It freaking creeps me out that I knew the words to that violent, disturbing song at such a young age (I remember singing it as young as eight or nine years old). Have you ever really listened to the words of that song? So, Tommy's the coward of the county, his daddy died in prison (of COURSE) and told Tommy on his deathbed that he didn't have to fight to be a man. And Tommy never does, so he's never proven the county wrong. The stage is set.
There's someone for everyone,
And Tommy's love was Becky
In her arms, he didn't have to prove he was a man
One day while he was working
The Gatlin boys came callin'
They took turns at Becky ... and there was three of them.
Just like that -- in the space of one stanza, we've met Tommy's love, learned her name, and witnessed her attack. The fact that Kenny Rogers doesn't sing that last phrase, but speaks it in a quietly emphatic way makes it even more chilling. I'm completely serious when I say -- tongue is not in cheek here -- that stanza gives me goosebumps. And I sang this as a nine-year-old?!

And it doesn't end there. Tommy finds out what happened, and seeks out Becky's attackers.
The Gatlin boys all laughed at him when he walked into the barroom
One of them got up and met him halfway across the floor
When he turned around they said, "Hey look, old Yeller's leavin'!"
But you could have heard a pin drop when Tommy stopped and locked the door.
Twenty years of crawlin' was bottled up inside him
He wasn't holding nothing back -- he let 'em have it all
When Tommy left the barroom, not a Gatlin boy was standin'
He said, "This one's for Becky," as he watched the last one fall.
More goosebumps. And then we got into a long debate about whether or not Tommy had killed those dastardly Gatlin boys. I'd always assumed that he beat them up -- the song just says they weren't "standin' ", that he watched them fall. I figured they were knocked out cold. But husband claims Tommy killed them (which, if this were the case, the editor in me thinks the line should have been, "When Tommy left the barroom, not a Gatlin heart was beatin' " or "not a Gatlin boy was breathin' " maybe, or something similar). 

Anyway, the song's been haunting me ever since we bought that damn CD. I gotta admit, that Kenny Rogers sure knows how to get in your dome.

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Hey, final random thought -- I'm getting better as a photographer. And clearly, my favorite subjects? Husband and boy.

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