Grandpa and Haggard

This past Thursday evening I made a quick trip to Brenham, TX to meet my family for Marty Haggard’s show, A Tribute to My Dad, Merle Haggard….and what a great show it was! He sang many of his Dad’s hits, a few lesser known classics, and told stories about his dad and the songs he wrote. He prefaced the show by noting he hoped the show was as much of a trip down memory lane for the crowd as it was for him. Judging by the joy on the audiences’ faces, the singing, clapping, and occasional one-off conversation between Marty and members of the crowd, I believe he accomplished his goal. For me personally, I know for a fact his show was the ultimate trip down memory lane for my grandmother, mother and even myself, regardless of the nearly six decade age difference.

Allow me to back up. Mom grew up in southern Michigan in the household of a guitar playing, Johnny and Merle singing, hardworking, car salesman. Mom and her brothers often talk about hearing their dad and his friends strumming guitars and singing tunes in the basement through the air ducts from upstairs. Bo, her brother was once asked “How do you know the words to all these old country songs?” His reply: “When you go to sleep hearing them every night you don’t have much choice.”

As they moved around Michigan and across the US Grandpa’s love for music traveled with him from place to place. He always had a guitar nearby and greeted any opportunity to play and sing with and for friends with open arms; entertaining and having fun were two of his greatest joys. One of Mom’s high school friends, Becky, once remarked, “The Schultz house was just a place you wanted to be, the love there was palpable; there was always a camera close by, music and Mr. Schultz playing the guitar.”

Fast-forward some years later and I entered the world. My memories of Grandpa aren’t much different from those above. His Martin D-35 was always nearby, whether at his car lot in Houston or at his home in Weimar. He would sing and play just about every classic country song produced, on three chords, and if he forgot the lyrics he’d carry right on with his own version.

His CD collection was larger than most record shops and he would shuffle through six discs at a time on his stereo in the barn…anything from Bob Wills, to Merle Haggard, to Johnny Cash. Just like Mom and her brothers it was inevitable that I would know all the lyrics to music produced 20 to 35 years before I entered the world while riding my bike or shooting guns near the barn.

In addition to his CD collection I often remember sorting through the hundreds of albums stored under their record player and contemplating which one to play next. Sometimes it was a game and Grandpa would rattle off a song and I’d see how fast I could locate the artist and album. Needless to say I got pretty speedy over the time…and thanks to this game I often associate album covers with songs when I listen to old country music today.  

Occasionally Grandpa would pick my brother and I up from school and the cassette player in his ‘97 Chevy was humming some flavor of what I would call classic country, but what he would say is good music. Either way, at ages 68, 10, and 8, we’d all sing along to light-hearted tunes such as Roly Poly or deeper songs like Sing Me Back Home as we headed down CR 222 to their house.

Music and guitars were so near and dear to Grandpa that about 10 or 12 years ago my mom surprised Grandpa one weekend by showing him that she could sing and play right along with him after taking guitar lessons for the past several months. At 45 she not only learned to play the guitar, but learned to play the songs she grew up on and the songs Grandpa sang.

It’s my belief that the reason Grandpa enjoyed music so much is because he was a creative. He constantly encouraged us grandchildren to find what sparks our creativity. While I didn’t take the music route as I have no musical ambition and can’t carry a tune in a bucket I do appreciate good music…and that is just the world Grandpa Jim introduced me to. My fondest memories of Grandpa will always be him playing the guitar and singing songs.

Today, most call me an old soul, and I’ll admit I LOVE classic country. There are certain songs and especially certain artists that will always remind of Grandpa, Merle Haggard being one of them.

So thanks Marty, for taking my family for a trip down memory lane. It’s amazing to me how one genre of music and a handful of artists can have such a lasting impact through the generations. Music for me provides wonderful memories of those who are no longer with us – I know two gentlemen that were smiling down extra big that night, Grandpa and Merle.

Here are a few pictures of Grandpa Jim over the years doing what he loved!

 

Myself, Marty, Grandma, and Mom after the show. Marty asked me “How old are you?” I replied “23”. He said, “….and you really like this music”. Absolutely Marty, absolutely.

Summer Camp that Lasted ALL Year

Rancho Delores- Weimar, TX

Summer is upon us and many kids are heading off to summer camp. They are ready to brave the hot weather, connect with new and old friends and learn new skills. Watching these kids head off to camp brought back many fond memories of my time as a camper at various camps. While I enjoyed each one, it’s hard to beat the one that was located just 15 miles from my house. After a quick drive down a farm-to-market road and a few curves down a county road you arrived at “camp”. As you drove along the white fence, you noticed the huge American and Texas flags waving proudly out by the road. When you turned in you were greeted by two of the nicest individuals and you couldn’t wait to jump out of the car and begin your adventure! So after a quick hug goodbye to Mom and Dad…..it was HELLO Camp Grandma and Grandpa!!!

What an awesome place to spend just about every weekend and many summer days…..it was literally a summer camp that lasted ALL year! It was a place for creativity, skill building, fellowship, adventure and FUN. Not to mention we (my brother, cousin and I) could do just about anything we wanted…..and we did!

There is no telling how many bike ramps we built, go-carts, 4-wheelers, or dirt bikes we rode, clay pigeons we shot, fish we caught, guitars we played, trails we trimmed, Blue Bell ice we devoured or bacon sandwiches we ate. The possibilities were endless and if for some reason you were bored, someone was quick to dream up the next adventure!

One of my favorite memories is Grandpa sitting at the only spot he ever sat at, at the picnic table, smoking a cigarette and giving us grandkids a challenge….something he LOVED to do! The challenge entailed each grand kid riding the go-cart, 4-wheeler or dirt bike around the property for 15 minutes in which we were to return with an exciting, fictional story of what occurred during our ride. Needless to say we came back with some pretty creative stories- from the bear that chased us to the bubble gum weapon we used to defend the bear.

He was also excellent at mental math and loved to give us math equations at the dinner table that weren’t overly difficult, but certainly made you think. After all, unless you used your carrots as a calculator you had to really exercise your brain power to find a solution to his questions.

On the other hand, when we got the bright idea to build or create something Grandma was always there to help out. I don’t know how many pools, rafts or boats she repaired so that the fun would never end. She always seemed to be the one picking up a lot of the tree limbs as we cut new trails through the woods for mountain bikes and 4-wheelers.

I also spent many hours with her learning to sew and created what I thought were works of art at the time, but looking back would be considered a good effort. And of course like any good Grandma we spent a lot of time in the kitchen baking and cooking…not to mention she made sure we wore plenty of sunscreen, stayed hydrated and took lots of breaks! 😉

It’s fair to say, Grandma and Grandpa’s house was the place to be! From swimming in the lake, jumping on the water trampoline, paddling around in the paddle boats, fishing for catfish, racing RC boats, building and creating things and everything in between, Rancho Delores will always hold a special place in my heart. Creativity was abundant, skill building was endless and living quarters were above a bunk bed in a cabin of 20. I’m thankful that it wasn’t a place to be visited just one time a year, but year round…..it was summer camp that lasted ALL year!