SOME YEARS ago, I wrote a column about how much I loved country music, which was a bunch of hooey, but it got in the newspaper anyway.
I only wrote the thing because there was nothing else to write. What happened was, my deadline was two hours away and this one editor, who was a royal pain in the behind and had the shoe-banging temper of Nikita Khrushchev, kept calling out: "YOU GOT SOMETHING FOR ME?! HUH?! YOU GOT SOMETHING FOR ME?!"
God, he was making me nervous. Finally, with the clock tick-tick-ticking, I threw up my hands and said: " Country music."
Then I --ed off 700 mostly forgettable words about my love for the genre, how the music had comforted me in times of stress, inspired me in times of despair, and so on and so forth.
Anyway, the whole thing was a lie. I hated country music back then and I'm not too crazy about it now. Bunch of hillbillies and rednecks whining, if you ask me. I don't see how you can listen to that stuff for more than 10 minutes without wanting to stick your head in the oven and jack that sucker up to 450 degrees.
Of course, that country music column haunted me for some time, beginning with a disturbing episode at the state fair.
Let's face it, you run into a lot of weird people at the state fair. These are not exactly Yale Law Review staffers manning the game booths and rides. Plus the fair-goers themselves tend to look like the Appalachia chapter of Hell's Angels.
Anyway, I was walking past the "Pay $2 -- See The World's Largest Rat!" tent when this guy with long, stringy blond hair and a cowboy hat started eyeballing me.
Finally, he said: "You the feller wrote 'bout country music in the paper?"
"That's right, Tex," I said, edging away in case he was armed.
For a moment, he just stood there frowning and I thought: This is it. This yahoo is gonna pull out a pitchfork and turn me into a pin cushion. And the crowd will simply step over my cold, lifeless body to get to the World's Largest Rat.
Instead, a big smile suddenly creased the man's features and he said: "Mister, I jes' want to shake your hand! That was one fine article you wrote!"
I wonder if that kind of stuff ever happens to, say, Russell Baker.
Does Russell Baker ever have a dangerous-looking stranger suddenly detach himself from a crowd at the state fair and quiz him about a column? I think not. Russell Baker has more sense than to stroll near the World's Largest Rat tent.
The problem I have with country music is this: So many of the songs revolve around the same depressing themes. Drinkin'. Cheatin'. Lyin'. Fightin'. Hittin' the open road to get away from it all. Even the newer country stars, such as Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire, can make you want to swallow a fistful of Prozac and go for a long walk in the woods.
You know that old saying: If you can't say something nice about a person, don't say anything at all? I thought of that the other night after listening to this old Nashville girl wail about how her two-timing, snake-in-the-grass drunken husband left her (with three kids to raise, no less) for this sweet young barmaid.
OK. If your husband just dumped you for some little tramp, sure, you're a little steamed. But how about saying a word or two about his good qualities?
Did he make the bed in the morning? Was he thoughtful about placing his socks and underwear in the hamper? Did he treat his mom well? Why does the whole song have to be so negative?
But that's all you hear in country music: complain, complain, complain. Which brings to mind the words to an old David Allen Coe song, the title of which escapes me at the moment:
I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison
I couldn't leave her standing in the rain,
but before I could get to the station in my pickup truck,
she got runned (yep, runned) over by a damned ol' train.
Boy, you talk about a guy with problems.
Let's go over that again. He's working on a monstrous hangover. His mom's just out of the slammer. It's raining and gloomy. And just when you figure it can't get any worse than that, the 10:33 Amtrak comes along and flattens ol' mom like a 25-cent biscuit.
I bet when he got back to his pickup truck, the battery was dead, too.