GENTLE ON MY MIND

He was born about an hour from where I was. A little southwest of Little Rock, down Interstate 30 in Arkansas. I was five years old when his first hit, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”, hit the airwaves. Long before he or I actually lived there. He doesn’t live here anymore… Glen Campbell died this last week. And it’s been Gentle On My Mind.

Living life in the spot light has to be difficult. Fame has its price with plenty of trappings along the way. I appreciate the price Campbell paid, ’cause I appreciate his music.

Gentle On My Mind came out that same year as By The Time I Get To Phoenix did in 1967. Wichita Lineman followed in ’68 and Galveston in ’69. His mid-seventies hits, like Southern Nights, Country Boy You Got Your Feet In LA, and Rhinestone Cowboy were pretty good, but those first hits are so memorable for me I even have them on my I-Pod.

glencampbell.com

What most people don’t know about Glenn Campbell is that he was considered to be one of the top five guitar players in the world – country or rock. Eddy Van Halen tried to get lessons from him.

Before he was a household name, Campbell played guitar for lots of other folks. People like The Righteous Brothers, Merle Haggard, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Roger Miller, The Monkees, and The Beach Boys. He even toured with The Beach Boys for a short time after having played on the albums that made them famous.

Campbell had his demons to fight. And he did most of it in the spotlight. Drugs, alcohol, a weakness for women were his demons, but in time, and with the help of God, he beat them. His unlikely local pal Alice Cooper vouches for him.

Deep into his battle with Alzheimer’s, his family supported and guided him. He toured right up till the end and released his last album, a farewell record titled “Adios”, on June 9th of this year.

Even with his mind slipping, a guitar in Campbell’s hands was like breathing. His fingers did what they’d always done; use his God given gift of music and playing guitar.

A lot of people speculate about which musicians we’ll get to hear again in heaven. Glen Campbell will definitely be one of them.

Glen Campbell is a good reminder for all of us. Despite his flaws and shortcomings, he grasped God’s amazing grace.

Those famous lyrics are now for the Father,

That YOU’RE waitin’ from the back roads
By the rivers of my memories
Ever smilin’ ever Gentle On My Mind

ON A DRUNK

They said he cried. It was hard to believe, but I chalked it up to him being on a drunk. He’d been living with his youngest daughter and her husband. I was glad he wasn’t living with us.

My aunt didn’t have any kids, which made her home suit my grandpa a whole lot better. Not to mention, alcohol wasn’t allowed in our, my mom and dad’s, house. I didn’t know it at the time, but that ruled our grandpa staying with us, after my grandma passed, out of the question.

Grandpa bounced around a bit. He stayed with a select few of his nine kids, on and off, daughters only. His drinkin’ and lifestyle would eventually wear on his daughters patience, even the drinkin’ one.

Retirement didn’t suit grandpa. So, eventually, he drifted back to the place he’d cussed and cursed all his life. Back to the place he’d blamed all of his ills on; the cotton field.

Sometime toward the end of his golden years he did his last stint with his youngest daughter; my aunt Sharon. The family figured that if anyone could handle Troy, it would be Sharon. She was tough as nails and twice as sharp. Sharon was the type of woman who could make a seasoned sailor blush. Her scowl was scarier than a rattlesnake.

on a drunk

my brother, grandpa holding my brother’s oldest, and my dad… 4 generations.

Troy didn’t like people and tolerated family. His Cherokee brown eyes burned at the edges in golden flames when he was on a cuss laced rant about the numerous subjects that didn’t square with his world. That’s where Sharon learned it… I thought.

Troy wasn’t a gentle man. he was hard to the core. He didn’t show emotion often and when he did it was after he’d been drinkin’. That’s how we knew he loved music. Music and booze. That’s what he loved for sure.

I didn’t mind hearing Troy blow a hurricane through his harmonica as he stomped the earth in time. But I never knew my dad’s dad was a writer until I found out about the night he cried.

My hot-headed aunt, who was a chip off the ole block, was fed up with her dad’s drinkin’ and coming home late. She threw Troy’s belongings, that fit into an old suitcase and a couple of garbage bags, out into the front yard.

It was a rare Southwest desert night with the type of winds that made tumbleweeds famous and a rain that rivaled Noah’s. The wind and rain stole and or destroyed Troy’s writings. He slumped in my aunt’s front yard and cried. Someone told me some of his songs were ones he’d written for my grandma.

That was one of those rare moments to glimpse the soft side of a hard man.

Funny how people choose to see in themselves what they want…

Even when I was violent, impatient, angry and mad dog mean, I never considered my grandpa’s genes. They skipped a generation, you can ask my brothers and sister. I guess that’s one of the reasons we can be blinded to our own shortcomings. That, and not seeking wisdom from God.

A loved one destroyed a piece of Troy, even if he was on a drunk, maybe the best part of him. I get why he cried… now.

THE RIGHT THING

The Right Thing is a Repost from the summer of 2011. I’d forgotten all about it till my dear friend Hazel reminded me of it. Thanks, Hazel.

“Go ahead, Bobby… Do it! Hurry up he’s suffering… SHOOT!!!” He urged his little brother. The little brother stood there with their grandpa’s shotgun in his shaking hands, the barrels with a dead bead on the villain; the hole diggin’ ground hog.

The groundhog was wounded in the trap, but not dead yet. “I can’t do it,” Bobby finally said with a hint of water in his eyes. He pushed the gun into his big brother’s arms.

“That’s okay, I’ll do it,” Dean pointed toward the suffering rodent and squeezed the trigger. “Well, he’s done diggin’ holes in the cow’s pasture I guess,” Dean mumbled.

the right thing

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As they walked back to the house to show their grandpa the cattle leg breaking villain, a somber older brother asked his little brother, who had volunteered for the job of executioner, why he didn’t pull the trigger.

“I just couldn’t,” Bobby explained, ”He was lookin’ at me with those eyes and I just couldn’t kill em’.”

Dean chose that setting to offer his little brother, 2 1/2 years his junior, a life lesson he was still learning himself as little more than a child. “Sometimes it’s not easy to do the right thing. Hard to know what’s right,” he said.

Bobby just nodded with a straight ahead sullen face. The laughing, joking, and planning about how he was going to be the trigger man to that cow killing varmint were completely done.

There was no joy in killing. It was only for necessity and as a last resort. Fighting had the same ground rules in our household as kids, but that rule was broken more than once.

The discipline of principles and character while difficult, define a person. The opposite of the principled person is the one who allows strictly emotions to guide their life. How we feel about certain issues should not always determine the decisions we make. The principles that guide our life should be the determining factors of a decision and action.

We see a society now that bases all their decisions on how they “feel,” without the foundation of principles as defined from a Biblical perspective. We have a society of soft individuals wishing to live in peace and harmony… A great idea within the confines of human nature, an impossibility in a fallen world.

I can’t remember seeing my oldest brother Dean over the last fifteen years more than 3 or 4 times without his dog Teddy, whom he called Ted. When Teddy was at the end of his life and the cancer had all but finished him, Dean had a decision to make. Would he take Ted to a hospital, which was the only thing that heeler feared, or would he take one more trip to the desert?

I’d love to be able to say that Dean took Ted for one more ride to their desert retreat. That he sniffed the creosote bush against a clean, clear, dry desert night air. I’d like to think Dean would let the dust settle after pulling to a stop. He would look over at his old faithful companion with sorrow only known to a man and a dog that spent virtually every waking hour together over a decade and a half.

Dean would get out of the truck and go to the passenger seat where his best friend usually rode.

“C-mon Ted!” I can hear him say. He’d pet Ted one more time…

“Good boy Ted,” he’d whisper one more time… As he was patting Ted’s side, I can picture Dean reach into his back pocket, take out his pistol with Ted looking out at the desert night air and end his suffering.

If my brother would have been on his farm in Texas, that’s how it would have gone down. Or if Ted could have walked… My brother told me it was harder to have Ted in his lap with his arms holding his old friend while sitting in their pickup truck, as the doctor gave Ted a shot…

I can almost hear my big brother say, “Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing… Hard to know what’s right”…

I knew my brother would do the hardest thing…

That’s almost always the right answer…

GIVE ‘EM THREE FEET

My good friend Bill, The Cycle Guy, was hit on his bicycle by a hit and run driver and is taking a break from posting this week as he’s recuperating from a back surgery, at least in part, caused by the bike accident.

Bill asked me to share some of my personal experiences with bicycles and tragic accidents in hopes of raising awareness of drivers to be on the lookout for bicyclists.

I’d appreciate if you’d head over to Bill’s place here, as we remember what it was like to ride a bicycle with the wind in your hair and your senses full of life.

my friend

TAKE IT FOR GRANTED

We were inches away from some of the most beautiful landscape in the country. Only a thin layer of steel and aluminum separating us, but no one seemed to care. The repetition and grind had caused everyone to take it for granted.

It was dark, but is was morning. Everyone of us were either engrossed in our smart phones, thumbs flailing, or had our heads leaned back, eyes closed. Some praying for sleep.

I’ve been in those seats so often that I too wandered in to be herded like cattle onto the commercial jet. Inevitably, someone, usually a kid, will push up the plastic window blind to take a peek at the world.

I closed my eyes and rested my head against the seat like the rest of the zombies.

As we taxied toward the runway not a single window blind was lifted. Including mine. Even when we blasted down the runway the vampires still rested their eyes. Until the teenage girl with pink nail polish in the seat in front of me cracked her blind.

take it for granted

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

The light brought my eyelids to attention… my mind too. There we were; a hop, skip, and a jump from the Pacific and the perfect view of it, and all of us had made that trip so often that none of us paid attention to it.

We take our gifts and privileges for granted; including the girl in front of me. Before we got half way down the runway, she closed her blind. That’s when I opened mine.

I’ve made that trip so may times in my life there’s no way I could count the number, but that doesn’t mean I should take it for granted.

This freewill can lull us to sleep, literally, physically, and spiritually. We get used to discarding gifts like little kids. The things we once longed for sit collecting dust or end up in the give-away bag.

We tend to do the same things with the gifts of our senses. We get so used to seeing, smelling, tasting, and hearing our gifts that they lose the appeal and awe they once had.

I hoisted the shade and looked at the massive ocean. I studied it like I hadn’t in decades. It was amazing. I sat in awe of the water and the clouds that hung like angelic pillows in the blue heavens. I marveled at the city and the organized society that has spread eastward up the expansive mountains.

We take so much for granted; the majestic mountains and expansive seas. The seasons that bring snow and rain to the earth that help sustain life. The sunrise and the sunset… and each and every breath.

We turn out backs and eyes to a device that has pictures of what we’re passing through… “-Foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see-“.

Look around. Count every blessing and don’t take it for granted.