“Dolly Ain’t Been The Same Since She Left Ol Porter”
The first piece of wisdom I picked up from my grandfather. A wiry little man from the Ozark hills, his radio always seemed to be playing Conway Twitty, George Jones, Dolly and Porter, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Little Jimmy Dickens, Marty Robbins, Merle Haggard, etc. Saturday nights were reserved for “Hee Haw” and Buck and Roy pickin and grinnin. I used to think that my interest in country music began at the age of 16 when I worked at McDonalds and heard the cool older guys playing the Eagles. That led a curious kid to start listening to Poco, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Byrds, Pure Prairie League and everything twangy I could get ahold of. As I grew older I started listening to Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker, Dwight Yoakum, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt and on and on. I thought I received some sort of ephiphany at a teenager after a couple of beers in the parking lot of McDonalds. I listen to George Jones sing “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and my thoughts go back to a scrawny, soft spoken, hillbilly dump truck driver. He taught me about baseball, western movies, the downfall of Dolly when she went out on her own and the wisdom of “No Show” Jones. They were songs he could relate to and his life set to music. He passed away here in Missouri while I was married and living in New England. My last conversation with him was on the phone. I told him I heard he was going to get out of the hospital soon. He had emphysema from a life of rock dust from hauling gravel. He told me he didn’t think he was going to get better. He was on oxygen all the time and couldn’t smoke his cigarettes, drink coffee and play bingo like he wanted to. He figured it was time to move on. I tried very hard not to cry and make up for the years I’d lived so far away from him. I told him I loved him and I was sorry for not being around. To my surprise, he said “I love you too” and “Don’t worry about it none, son”. He wasn’t much for sentiment and a lot of small talk, We talked about music for a little bit until he seemed to get too tired. Instead of goodbye, all I could think to say was “Dolly ain’t been the same since she left ol Porter”. We laughed and I made myself hang up the phone. He passed away a few days later. I wonder what he’d think about Dolly’s bluegrass albums. I love you Pa and I miss you still.