Monday, January 5, 2009

Country Culture


People who know me well are now gasping over the title of this blog. =D No worries, as you read on, you will see that I haven't succumbed to the "dark side," as I call it. Yes, this particular blog may cause a bit of controversy, not to mention lifted eyebrows, but since part of my job is to blog about culture, I figured I'd best at least touch on this aspect of our society.

I will begin by freely admitting I'm a throwback to the rock and roll era of the '70's. For those of you who hit teenhood about that same time, you may recall that country music was considered way uncool. Country music was that twangy stuff the older generation listened to, mostly to annoy us. A lot of it went like this:

"There was . . . bl-ooood on the saddle . . .
And . . . bl-ooood on the ground,
And a big . . . big pu--uuddle of bl-oood all around."

Through the years, a strange metamorphosis took place. Country music began sounding suspiciously like easy listening. In fact, there have been several top 40 hits that originated in the country realm. Very sneaky.

It was a sad day for me when I caught on that several of my friends had caved and crossed to the fanship of country western music. These were people who had vowed years ago that they would never be caught listening to this plague on society. Now they were embracing it with open arms.

"Cheri, it's changed," they exclaimed, doing their best to have a bad influence on me. "Listen to this song---isn't it wonderful?!!!" I dutifully listened, gagged, and left the room disenchanted.

During another attempt to convert me, a couple of "friends" shanghaied me during a Primary parade. I found myself tied to a sawhorse in the back of someone's truck, a cowboy hat was placed on my head, and a paper sash was placed around me that said: "Country Nel." (Nel is my middle name---I'm named after my maternal grandmother. Don't make fun.)

These creative friends of mine had also plastered paper banners on both sides of the truck that said the same thing: "Country Nel." Country music blared loud from the inside of the truck as I was driven through the Bennington Primary Parade.

Making the best of this terrible situation, I smiled bravely, unable to wave at the crowd that had gathered to watch that day, since my hands were tied firmly to the sawhorse. (My friends knew I would try to escape, and they were right on that one.) As we passed by a small group of older women from our ward, I heard one say in a loud manner to one of the others, "IS SHE RUNNING FOR MRS. BENNINGTON?"

I have a picture of this travesty, but I can't seem to find it at the moment. I'll keep looking, and perhaps add it later to this blog, so you can appreciate my humiliation. =)

Their ploy didn't work---I still don't get warm fuzzies from listening to country music. In my defense, understand that I grew up in a clan who embraced classical music, not to mention show tunes. I have never acquired a taste for countrified ditties, and I seriously doubt that will ever change---despite inlaws and friends who think they can change my mind.

My step-father-in-law used to give me a bad time about my dislike for this kind of music. He teased me a lot, informing me that I would be singing a country ditty at his funeral. I let him know what I thought about that idea on a frequent basis. Then behold, he had the audacity to pass away, and I was stuck. He had left instructions with his offspring that I was to perform, "I Hope There'll Be Pine Trees in Heaven," at his funeral. Most uncool, and if I hadn't loved this man like a father, I would have said: "NO!!!" My m-i-l insisted that I 'play nice;' I had to sing it in my regular voice, not the countrified version I was tempted to render, complete with nasal twang and appropriate cracks in my voice.

So I got up there and sang my little heart out as a tribute to Vern. Then I was given the opportunity to sing this same song at two more funerals. I'm sure Vern was snickering through all three performances and someday, we'll have a little chat about that, but I digress.

In recent years, country music has had a terrible influence on yet another art-form that I love, poetry. Cowboy poetry has become a huge hit here in the West. There are entire programs dedicated to this phenomenon. I have yet to attend such a thing, but I understand they're very popular. You can find books dedicated to this trend, and it is often shared over the radio.

I think it's great for those who love all things country. It does seem to capture the essence of country living, being a cowboy, "Home on the Range," and all that jazz . . . or should I say: country?! ;)

To show there are no hard feelings, I will share my one attempt at writing cowboy poetry. It pretty well sums things up for me:

Cow-Times on the Open Plains
(Or the Origins of Country Twang)

Cowboy George sat pondering upon his faithful steed—
Blissfully he was aware, cow-herding fulfilled his every need.
He’d named them all, it was his way, each cow was precious to his sight,
He ever strived to please them, morning, noon, and night.

He wrote a poem, the cows were bored, he tried to paint instead—
The cows, they merely turned their backs, the cowboy hung his head.
He read them books, they turned away; he danced--they scoffed and smirked,
No matter what our hero tried, nothing seemed to work.

“Oh, woe is me,” he sadly cried, “Oh, woe and woe again!”
The cows’ ears perked, they were impressed, by sounds of nasal twang.
They gathered enraptured at his feet, imploring him to sing,
He beamed at his discovery; he’d invented a wondrous thing.

And so at night, and oft times day, he strummed his wood guitar—
Adding, of course, his nasal voice, to thrill cows near and far.
His fame soon spread, the passion grew, his style was copied and often shared,
Country music had been born, cow relationships were repaired.

The years have passed, changes have come, new styles of music persist—
But bestill our hearts, no need to fear, country twang still lies within our midst.
And so we say, upon reflection, our hearts with great sincerity ring,
“Why didn’t the cows trample George before he thought to sing?!”

Cheri J. Crane
(1990)

P.S. The illustration I used above was drawn by my talented sister, Heather Littell. She illustrated my first collection of poetry.

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9 comments:

Jennie said...

Country music isn't as much fun as it used to be. It has taken on too many rock overtones. You do okay usually with your poetry, but a cowboy poet, you're not.

Cheri J. Crane said...

I'll take that as a compliment, Jennie. =D

Cindy Beck said...

Cheri,
I thought your cowboy poem was quite cute ... at least worthy of making you an honorary country gal! Ha ha:)

Primarymary said...

It was truely a sad day when Country music even invaded the previously cool rock stations of New England.
When I lived in Logan, I had roommates who thought a steady stream of Waylon & Willie was a good option. YUCK!!!!
I have to admit I don't mind modern country nearly as much as I did the old Twang.

Cheri J. Crane said...

Hi Cindy, thanks for the encouragement. ;)I think I'll pass on being a honorary country gal. =D

Mary, you have my full sympathies. ;) Thanks for stopping by. =)

Anne Bradshaw. said...

I used to love Country music. Thanks for the interesting post, Cheri.

Also, just letting you know I have another book contest on my blog today if you're interested. It's a good one :-)

Dannyel Crane said...

Your blog made me laugh! I can still picture Vern's grin when he would turn on the country music! What a memory.

Talzium's Rudimentary Substance said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheri J. Crane said...

Hi Anne. Thanks for stopping by and for the info on the contest. I'll have to check it out. =)

Dannyel, I'm glad this blog made you laugh. That was intent. =)Laughter is good for the soul. Maybe not country music, but laughter is. =D