We were living on the farm near Cascade, Iowa. There was nothing about us which remotely resembled farmers. Just a decent rental house, one of many during our decades of drifting. We moved there when Joshua was almost one, so it was spring, 1976. The house was empty except for a very dead Christmas tree with a few sparse, dull green needles still clinging to its branches. The rest were hard as steel and just as deadly, strewn all over the carpet.
Farm living wasn’t easy for this life-long townie. We were miles from anywhere and our one car was driven to Cedar Rapids (45 miles-one way) daily by Hubs for his job. I was 26, mother of 2 and stuck in the boonies. On the positive note, I learned how to cook pretty good, and discovered I loved baking. We didn’t buy a loaf of bread for 2 years because I made my own every couple days. Along with cinnamon rolls and pies. Once I mastered pie crusts I simply could not stop making (and eating) pies. All kinds, but the farm’s orchard supplied the best green apples I’ve ever made a pie with-to this day. Yep, we each gained about 20 pounds on farm living.
It was a lonely life though. Days slid by without seeing anyone beside John and the kids. Shannon was in kindergarten so for most days it was just toddler Josh and me. We walked the long driveway at least twice a day (I pushed Josh in a cheap stroller. We literally wore the wheels off, the driveway was nothing but rocks) to get Shannon to and from the bus and fetch my priceless mail. The mail was my lifeline. I wrote and received letters daily from Mom and my friends.
I think it was spring, 1977. One night when Hubs got home from work, he coyly said he had a surprise for me. Tickets. For a concert. Our very first concert since we’d gotten married (we were 8 years in and thought it might last by then). I don’t know where he got the tickets or if he paid for them. We were pritnear destitute and our discretionary fund sat at a constant zero. Zip. Nada. I think someone from work had a conflict and couldn’t go so John snatched them up.
I was beyond excited. Oh happy day. But the next issue was what to do with six year old Shannon and Joshua 2, while we were out for a long overdue date night. The thought of leaving our 2 kiddos with a teenage babysitter out in the sticks gave me the willies. The number of people on the eastern side of Iowa I trusted implicitly could be narrowed down to my ring finger and pinkie. On one hand. Both were married and had kids of their own. One was a former neighbor in New Vienna about 20 miles away, (the wrong way from Cedar Rapids) the other couple lived in Cedar Rapids. The husband worked with John and we knew them well. They had one kid Joshua’s age, so it would be much easier to drop off and pickup after our concert. Yay, I was going to a concert.
You painted up your lips an rolled and curled your tinted hair.
Ruby are you contemplating going out somewhere?
The shadow on the wall tells me the sun is going down,
Oh Ruby, don’t take your love to town.
Poor Hubs. He had to drive 45 miles to work, drive home to pick up his little family, turn around and go back to Cedar Rapids, drop off the kids at the Thomas’ home while dealing with a giddy wife who had not been in the presence of any adults besides him in weeks. Then try and make the concert on time, drive back to the Thomas house to bring everyone home for a very short night. No wonder our 1969 Chevy Nova was in the shop constantly. And by shop I mean Hubs had to work on it himself-nightly (outside) just to keep the beast running. But that one special night, all the miles just didn’t matter. A real date and a live concert. Goosebumps.
You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille. Four hungry children and a crop in the field.
I’ve had some bad times, lived through some sad times, but this time your hurting won’t heal.
You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille.
Kenny Rogers was on tour with a stop in Cedar Rapids. He had recently broken up with The First Edition and was going solo. I was kinda stuck on Rogers, Glen Campbell and Neil Diamond for awhile after the Beatles broke up and The Doors’ Jim Morrison died. Different music that what I was used to but I enjoyed all 3 and none were too twangy for me. But Neil’s always been my favorite. FYI: remember the television series, Fantasy Island with Mr. Roarke and Tattoo? I was insistent with anyone who would listen that if I was ever flown on “Ze Plane, Ze Plane,” my fantasy was a Neil Diamond concert- with one fan in attendance-me.
You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away,
know when to run. You never count your money, when you’re sittin’ at the table, there’ll be time
enough for countin’, when the dealings done.
Opening act for Kenny was-unusual. Anyone remember Gallagher? He was a comedian but relied on props for his humor. He did this spiel, including corny jokes which spoofed some cheesy commercials featuring products made by ‘Ronco’ called the Veg-O-Matic which was a legitimate non-electric vegetable slicer. Only Gallagher called his (sledgehammer type tool) the Sledge-O-Matic. He’d start with small items like apples but by the time he was in the heat of the moment, the people in the first 6 rows were covered with watermelon slush/seeds/juice. What a freaking mess. Probably the only time I was thrilled not to have front row seats. But he was pretty funny.
She Believes in me…
And she believes in me, I’ll never know just what she sees in me.
I told her someday, if she was my girl, I could change the world with my little songs, I was wrong
But she has faith in me and so I go on trying faithfully, and who knows, maybe on some special
night, if my song is right, I can find a way, while she waits, while she waits-for me.
The Kenny Rogers’ concert was fantastic. With his endearing down home charm, warm voice and fabulous storytelling songs I was drawn in, hook, line and sinker. He sang several songs with a female singer that night but I don’t remember who she was. Just who she wasn’t. My concert didn’t include Dolly Parton.
Lady, I’m your knight in shining armor and I love you
You have made me what I am and I am yours.
My love, there’s so many ways I want to say I love you
Let me hold you in my arms forever more.
Kenny grew in popularity over the years. He starred in several made for TV movies based on one of his more popular songs called, The Gambler. No matter what Kenny dabbled in, people were drawn to him, including me. About the last time I can drum up anything on Kenny it was a magazine article when he got married for the I-lost-count-how-many-times and his wife just had twin boys.
You still walk the furrowed fields of my mind, faded shirt, your weathered brow,
Your calloused hands upon the plow, I loved you then and I love you now-Reuben James.
I’m saddened by his death and sorry I hadn’t given Kenny Rogers much thought lately. Grateful I saw him in concert and appreciate his legacy of great music. I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t have any of his songs in my iTunes library, but that’s about to change. Kenny, in your own unique way, “you decorated my life.”…