06 February 2012

I Told You Once, You Son of a Bitch...

As a little girl, my music influences were...eclectic. We had church music, of course. And then the record player at home...my dad was 43 when I was born, and his musical tastes were a whole generation behind my friends' parents. Which was awesome, really. We listened to a lot of Burl Ives, some Hank Williams, Sr.; The Louvin Brothers; Patsy Cline and other old coutry groups. Once a month or so, in music class, we got to bring a record from home and we'd all listen to each others' favorite songs. I don't even remember the music other kids brought, but I loved listening to Country Death Ballads with all my classmates. (Now that I've typed that sentence, I'm not sure why child services never showed up at our house).

The other music I listened to was "new" country, on the radio at our babysitter's. She had a transistor on top of her fridge, and the only thing better than a country death ballad was a little "Rhinestone Cowboy," Eddie Rabbit, or any Crystal Gayle. The edgiest song on country radio in the late 70s/early 80s was, at least in my experience, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." Oh, I loved that song.  Though Johnny was a little overconfident when he dismissed the devil, I wanted to own the record more than anything in the world.

I didn't even realize, then, that one could purchase new record albums. I thought you either listened to your dad's records, or lucked out a garage sale. (We were simple people).  The day I saw the album, in a milk crate jn a driveway in North Moorhead, I almost wet my pants. It was probably 1981 or 82, and there was hardly any wear on cover. It was, as I recall, marked 50 cents.

My dad didn't even argue or tease me, make me think I wasn't going to get this. He knew how much I loved this song. We brought it home, and I bounced in the backseat all 28 miles. I stared at the cover, I read the titles of every other song...I slid the record out just to look at how long my song would play. It was my first record just for me, that I had picked out. Oh, music class, I was going to impress everyone next month!

We had to unload the car, and take out the dog, and finally, after Mom had started supper, Dad put the record on the player. The familiar fiddle music, the talk-song lyrics....I was dancing in the living room. I was so happy I even let my sister dance, too. And then came the best line of the song..."I told you once, you son of gun..." only he didn't say "gun." This was not the radio version Charlie Daniels, the G-rated, FCC approved Charlie Daniels. As my dad reached for the power switch, I started making my case. "I know what that word means, dad, and I will never, ever, ever say it. I'll sing 'gun' really loud every time it's on. I swear." But it was too late. He slid the record back into the barely worn sleeve, and took it down to the basement, where there were the best hiding places. For months I begged for that record, and though Dad was sympathetic, he would not be moved. When I'd given up begging, I tried to find it myself when my parents weren't home. I spent hours in that damn basement.

In 1986, after Dad's stroke, I knew I was running out of time. Aphasia or no aphasia, I was going to have that record. After he moved home from the rehab hospital, I asked him where he'd hidden it. He grinned at me.
"Is it in the basement?" I asked. He shrugged his shoulders. "Is it in the garage?" Still grinning, still shrugging. "Did you forget where you hid it?"
"Ah, nope." He couldn't say much, but he could say that.
"You're still not gonna tell me, are you?"
"Ah, no. No, no, no." And he grinned.

I've learned many more curse words since then, but I still haven't found that record. Wherever he put it kept it safe from my tender ears.  I reckon he's still proud of himself for that. 

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