If you follow my blog, you know that a big part of my life revolves around all kinds of music, but country, folk, and Americana music in particular. Why? Because most of the songs in these genres are story-driven. As a writer, that is what I gravitate to. That is not to say that I don’t enjoy classic rock and blues, because I love them. But, ultimately it’s the stories that draw me.
There are certain songs that invoke the desire to expand and tell the story in greater detail than what you get in three minutes. That is the case with “Mountain Laurel.”
“Rocky Mountain Music” by Eddie Rabbitt is the inspiration. I hope you enjoy the story and here’s a link to the song, if you want to give it a listen. The storyline does not follow the song a hundred percent but does take bits and pieces of it to weave into this tale.
“Tell me, Mr. Roberts. What’s it like bein’ a big singin’ star?”
The afternoon sun reflected off the lone front window of the Nashville bar. I turned my attention from the shot glass nestled comfortably in my hand to the watery blue eyes of an overweight fellow in a cheap leisure suit. “I reckon it’s okay.”
The heavyset man eased his rear up on the bar stool next to me and motioned to the bartender. “I hate to intrude, but I’m tryin’ real hard to get established as a reporter in the music industry and I need a story bad. What was it like for you growing up?”
Shifting away from the obtrusive interviewer, I stared past him at a memory as vivid as if it were yesterday.
Wide-eyed, I watched as my mama sank into the nearest threadbare chair and crumpled into a heap of sobs.
I could hear the words that fell out of the foreman’s mouth as he laid a clumsy hand on Mama’s shoulder, but it took a while for them to register in my twelve-year-old brain.
“Miz Anderson, I’m sure sorry. We tried everything to get Robert out, but when the back section of the mine gave away, it was awful bad.” The miner sighed and shoved a hand covered with coal dust in his pocket. “I’ll have the missus come around and check on you if that’s okay.”
Mama didn’t answer. The kind of grief a person only feels when everything they love is snatched away wracked her body causing her frail shoulders to heave. Guttural cries sprang from her throat making the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
Thank heavens my older sister had the good sense to see the man to the door. After all, April was the strong one. Barely fifteen, she had long dark ringlets that hung down her back and violet eyes that Papa often said could turn any man’s head. She looked more like Papa than the rest of us.
I spared Mama a glance. She was broken. Deep down that day, I knew I no longer had a mama or a papa.
“Mr. Roberts, sir. I really would like to ask some questions if you can spare me five minutes.” The reporter fished out a pencil and tablet while he sipped on a foamy draft beer.
It wasn’t that I minded being interviewed; it was just the memories his questions stirred. No matter how much I drank, how many women I slept with or how many shows I sold out, the guilt was always there.
Papa was my best friend. I admired everything about him; the easy way he moved through life, always smiling and tipping his hat to the ladies, but most of all the ease that music flowed through him. He could play damn near any instrument.
That was the gift he’d passed on to me. From my barstool, I could picture him in his favorite rocker on the front porch blowing smoke rings from his pipe, plucking on his banjo and nodding at me when it was my turn to play my old beat-up Harmony guitar.
TO BE CONTINUED NEXT SUNDAY…