Thursday, February 04, 2010

Eight years ago

Mom called me just after 1 o'clock. What she had to say took me back to those halcyon days after high school, back when making music and making memories led off just about every night.

Two or three summers during college, I worked at the telephone company in Powell. The majority of time, I hung out in the CO with Steve, Darrell and Jerry. They were kind enough to put up with a glorified intern, there on a scholarship, and I tried not to get in the way.

I liked 'em all, but Jerry was my favorite. Cause he liked Merle. And George. And Tammy. And all kinds of good ol' country music.

One day we snuck up to Rutledge. I remember we were stopped at the red light at Emory Road and Maynardville Highway, waiting for it to change, when some idiot came flying up and nearly hit us.

I heard the screeching just as Jerry said, "Somebody needs to get some brakes."

He took me by the courthouse. We chatted with the girls awhile, then Jerry took us over to the phone company's Grainger County office. He did whatever business he had to do, then we headed for the Down Home for lunch.

I thought about it, and him, last month when they interviewed several of UT men's basketball player Skylar McBee's fans in the eatery following Skylar's big shot against Kansas. I remember that Jerry was going to see Doyle Lawson at a bluegrass festival later that month. He was excited.

But Merle was his guy. He would bring in tapes of rare live recordings. (I'd still like to find that concert he had in which Merle sang a rare live version of the Vietnam POW song "Do They Ever Think of Me.") One day he brought in a tape that had Johnny Paycheck singing a cover of Merle's song "Carolyn." It wasn't bad.

Jerry died eight years ago today. When mom reminded me of it, I remembered stopping at the funeral home before hopping a flight to New York that afternoon. Jerry had fought a brave fight with cancer. He'd lost weight. He didn't look like the same guy.

I thought about Merle, and the Down Home and those summer days in the CO. I thought about how much I miss a good friend.

And I hummed a few lines from one of Hag's best, about wearing his own kind of hat.

Because Jerry always did, too.


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