It’s odd because I really didn’t like country music. Me, I was too hip for that old stuff. I used to fight with my father about the radio station. I’d press some rock station button, maybe the Big Ape out of Jacksonville and he’d push another button and get a country station. I always lost but not because I didn’t try.
Now if I think of those long ago days I always hear a little twang and heartbreak in the background.
Sometimes I hear my grandfather playing the harmonica. I don’t think he knew many songs but he loved “Little Redwing,” a sad story about love cut short.
“Now, the moon shines tonight on pretty Red Wing
The breeze is sighing, the night bird's crying,
For afar 'neath his star her brave is sleeping,
While Red Wing's weeping her heart away.”
It breaks my heart that I didn’t think to make a cassette tape of Poppa in his work clothes standing in the yard and singing “Little Redwing” in his unexpectedly high and scratchy voice.
Once when friends who had a band visited they actually knew the song and pulled out a fiddle and did an impromptu version for him. Could be the best gift I ever gave him. Certainly better than the pipe I gave him for Christmas after he quit smoking but not much better than the styling pork pie hat from New York that I bought for him in a West Village shop. He wore it for years in the dusty rural south.