Written by Bob Briggs—1994
Fear is a terrible thing, pure unadulterated fear is a mind numbing, limb freezing, feeling that turns your insides to water.
I wonder what kind of fear Scott Donner felt in San Antonio, Texas that day in 1993 when he let fear take control, and clambered back down the 10 meter platform from where he was to take his final dive. It was a moot point dive as he already had first place sewed up.
But Donner didn’t take the dive, he went into his pre-dive routine and performed a handstand prior to taking th plunge. The dive shouldn’t have taken over ten seconds, but Donner continued to remain there balanced on his hands 20 seconds, 30 seconds, like a statue.
Finally after about forty seconds, his legs wavered twice and Donner lowered his legs until he was standing straight upright on the platform. He then climbed slowly down to where his friends and family waited and wondered.
Donner said he suffered from post-traumatic-stress, a Vietnam-veteran disorder, but what he was really suffering from was not making it big on the endorsement trail. Donner said that he felt an immense feeling of relief when he walked off the platform. He didn’t need this. Donner had a fear that he would change his mind in the middle of a dive and hurt himself. He dove beautifully in the 1992 Olympics, he dove well enough to win a Silver Medal in the 10 meter platform. A 10 meter dive is like diving off the eaves of a two story house, or out the window of a three story apartment. You also have to cup your hands over your head, pushing a hole in the water with your hands before your head hits the water.
Donner says that he has seen many people get hurt in the platform dive. You are entering the water at 35 mph and to hit anything but a near perfect dive could be disastrous. So Donner came home from the Olympics with his Silver medal all ready to take on the corporate world. He admits he made mistakes when he didn’t hire an agent to make deals for him. He thought he could do it on his own. He didn’t realize that an Olympic Champion’s light burns hot and quick. If you don’t have some one out there in front singing your praises, you’re not going to do any selling on the market today.
So Donner started to eat an atrocious diet, he started to drink and smoke cigarettes, he started to drive fast on empty streets with no thought in mind except not getting arrested, in short he had turned into someone that I would have liked.
Donner wrecked his car on a rainslick Florida highway last spring, if you expect me to tell you that he was crippled in an accident, he wasn’t. He says that he may be back for the ’96 Olympics if he makes the team, but this time he won’t be fighting an unknown fear in his mind. So much for the story. I don’t know if I believe it or not, I do know some ‘Nam vets that should be kept in a box, but that’s another story.
Speaking of vets, I had a chance to hear Randy Crouch play the other night at a gathering of veterans and friends at the river for the annual Blue Note Festival.
Randy is the heart and soul of the band, the Flying Horse, a 3, 4, or five man combo that belts out rock, country or reggae at warp speed or whatever else that your ears can stand.
Randy’s main guitar player, Sparky Fisher, passed away this past summer and so whatever guitar player that’s available now can sit in with the band.
Randy is a fiddle player of par excellence, and when he drags that bow across those strings for a rendition of The Star Spangled it is worth traveling more than a few miles to hear.
I arrived at the campground where they were holding the Blue Note Festival at just about sundown and a lady cold jumped me at the gate for a buck’s donation to “cover expenses” of which I’m all for, I just don’t like surprises. Because most time when I go to the river, I don’t carry money with me, but this night knowing that I’d probably be seeing my brother among others, and not knowing what would transpire, I had a few extra dollars.
So paying my buck stipend I drove on into the party. I arrived just in time to see my brother playing a splendid rendition of Dan Garber’s or Doc Davis’ “Adair County”— and doing the song some decency.
You have to do some pretty deep research to find out the author of most of these original Green country songs, and the passage of years and the combination of many factors have dulled the senses of many of my friends and so their arguments continue.
Brother Goose did another song or two and then came down from the bandstand to howdy and shake with the many folks gathered there under the trees.
He likes to get his commitments over with as soon as possible so that he can say “yeah, I was at so and so’s party, and yeah I played.”
When in reality all he wants to do is get away from the office and toast a few with his friends. He figures the best way to accomplish that is to get his musical talents out of the way so that he can hang at the fringe of the crowd and check out all the new swim suit styles.
But back to The Flying Horse Band, there were some nights when the band could walk with the king, or anybody else for that matter. There were times when the band was the absolute best that you’d ever heard.
When Randy would stand there with fiddle in hand and an electic guitar slung around his neck fiddling with the volume and bass controls with his bare feet, while all the crowd got down with him on one of his patented songs.
Then some nights Randy gets just as rowdy and noisy as the others and always plays as smooth as unblemished silk.
But every now and then he gets it in his head to go out and dance with the big boys, and on those nights Randy Crouch is special and can make music with anybody. Go on, get one of his tapes that one of his friends have boot-legged, crank it up and stand back among the mainbeams and you’ll know what is was to hear some real men play some real rock and roll.
My husband, J-Dub, is a music nut. He can tell you a song after hearing 2 notes played. He knows the lyrics, the artists, the name of the album, and the year it was released.
I, on the other hand, am a music flunkee. I make up lyrics. Whatever sounds close, that will work for me. I mistake the sound of a fiddle for an electric guitar. I think a woman’s singing when it’s actually a man. I think The Beatles are The Monkees, I think Robert Palmer is Ronald Palmer. Big deal. I’m laughed at regularly, but I’m used to it by now.
Today J-Dub is trying to win a radio contest. It’s a big one. Five hundred dollars to be given away to the ninth caller who can correctly identify a song by its first 3 notes that was played earlier. And guess what? J-Dub knows it. He’s 100% positive. He and his buddy had the cassett tape and rewound it over and over and over. He’s appalled at the guesses of the people who have actually been caller #9. All day he’s been trying to win this contest. He only receives a busy signal, and the one time he did get through, he was caller #7. It’s not as far-fetched as you might think. He’s won several radio contests. Maybe a free CD, maybe a couple of tickets to a show, but never anything as win-worthy as $500.
He’s been hauling hay all day, so a radio and a cell phone have been right handy for him. Since he’s been home, we’ve been listening to the radio, ever attentively listening for the little jingle that signals the time to try to be caller #9.
But now, he’s gone outside to do the chores, and I’ve been left in charge of winning this contest. Me. He has left me, the musical flunkee, in charge of remembering the name of a song I’ve never heard before. Oh the pressure.
However he knows me oh-so-well, so before he walked out the door, he programmed the radio station number in my phone, and handed me a yellow sticky note on which he has written the name of the song, the artist, the phone number to the radio station, and which caller I’m supposed to be. Just in case I need to know all that stuff. And just so I won’t act like an idiot if I actually do win, he’s even written down what I’m supposed to say when they ask me, “What station makes you a winner?”
Knowing my luck, I’d have to stammer and stutter….”uh…..uh……100.3? 93.1? 87.9, The Car? The Cat?”
I wonder if they’d still give me the money if I was unable to identify their radio station? Would they know I was a fraud? Someone who never listens to their station, only when I’m forced to by my beloved?
So here I sit, needing to go to the bathroom. But instead I’m frozen into place, ear turned to the speaker, white fisting my sticky note in one hand and my cell phone in the other while blogging with my tongue. The ink on my sticky note smearing from my sweaty palm to a blue smudge by the time I make it to caller #9.
The stress is too much for me.
J-Dub, where are you?????
I awoke this morning and for some reason a song was in my head “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma.” I sang it to myself and then I pulled it up on YouTube and had a listen. And of course I cried. I have a very strong memory of lying on the bed in my parents’ red bedroom next to my dad as he played that song. I loved it then and I love it still. This morning I listened to that song probably 13 times repeatedly.
It began to wash over me how much I love duets. Two beautiful voices singing together, at the same time relying on one another. Here’s a list of my favorites. I was going to list 10, but I could only think of nine.
9. Loretta Lynn & Johnny Cash—-Jackson
8. Seven Spanish Angels—Willie Nelson & Ray Charles
7. Whiskey Lullaby—Allison Kraus & Brad Paisley
6. Meet Me In Montana—-Marie Osmond & Dan Seals
5. Close My Eyes Forever—-Lita Ford & Ozzy Osbourne
4. I Got You Babe—Sonny & Cher
3. You’re the Reason Our Kids are Ugly—Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn
2. Picture—Kid Rock & Sheryl Crow
1. You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma—David Frizzell & Shelly West
What would you add?
I woke up this morning with a song in my head.
It went something like this: I get knocked down, bum ,bum, bumbumbum, bum, bum, bumbumbumbumbumbum bum bum.
As you can see, the lyrics escape me. As do most lyrics.
For years, I thought Van Halen was saying “Animal” instead of “Panama”.
When you’re married to a music person like I am, they don’t let you get by with it. They correct you at every opportunity. I argued with J-Dub to no avail on that Van Halen one.
But they’re also good for when all you have to work with is bumbumbumbum.
As I pondered the song, I thought it was on oldie from my childhood. That said, “I’m a yuckmouth, cause I don’t brush.” It was a commercial from my Saturday Morning Cartoon era of the 1980’s.
But that was not the song. Even though it’s pretty catchy too.
So I say to my husband, “Hey, I got this song in my head.”
It goes like this, I get knocked down, bum ,bum, bumbumbum, bum, bum, bumbumbumbumbumbum bum bum.”
And of course, J-Dub recognized it immediately, and breaks out in song: I get knocked down, but I get up again, cause you’re never gonna keep me down.
He knew the name of the band, the song, the name of the album, from what country the band hailed, the trumpets that play in the middle and female voices that start singing “Danny Boy.”
Me? I didn’t know any of that. I don’t even know the song, but obviously I’ve heard it somewhere in the background of a movie or department store or somewhere for it to permeate my subconscious.
I like the lyrics.
The ones about getting up after being knocked down. And then there’s the ones about drinking a whiskey drink, vodka drink, and pissing the night away. Come to think of it, after I read the lyrics, maybe he’s been knocked down after drinking a whiskey drink, a vodka drink, a lager drink. It’s just a wild guess.
I don’t know what’s going on in your world today.
Maybe you’ve been knocked down.
But get up, okay?
I took pie-an-er lessons when I was just a girl.
I don’t know how many years I took, or what level I made it to. Let’s just say I ain’t no Chopin.
Or Elton John.
Or even Schroeder.
My first teacher was a sweet, soft-spoken Baptist whose home smelled of freshly brewed coffee, who smiled sweetly and encouraged gently.
After a couple of years with her, my mom decided to move me to a different teacher. One who might push me a little harder.
My second teacher was an old man, who worked from a studio that smelled of old men, who harshly rapped a baton on the piano to force me to keep time, and corrected harshly.
I left my piano lessons crying and begged my mother to allow me to quit.
Finally she conceded, but made me promise that I would take lessons again someday.
At nine years of age, with tears streaming, I promised.
I crossed my heart and hoped to die.
Stuck a needle in my eye.
And I never kept it.
I’ve lived with the guilt.
So about 2 or 3 years ago, just 24 years after my promise to my mother, I decided to take lessons again.
Only a child from my womb could make my mother any happier.
My third piano teacher is another sweet, soft-spoken Baptist whom I visit on Friday’s at 3:30. Most of my lesson is spent gabbing away with one another, since we just love to visit and catch up. That’s what makes it so special. It’s not just piano lessons, but a friendship.
But now I’ve quit again. When we bought our Little Trailer House on the Prairie, and started yanking up carpet, texturing walls, painting, laying floor, my time was swallowed up, and my piano practicing no longer fit in my day. I would show up on Friday’s to my lesson, hang my head in shame, tell her I’d do better next week, only to realize it had taken second fiddle and practicing piano just wasn’t happening.
So I told her I needed a hiatus. It felt like a break-up. I cried. She remained strong. I promised her I’d be back at the first of the year. I crossed my heart and hoped to die, stuck a needle in my eye. We made a pinky swear, then cut our hands and became blood sisters. Nothing would stop me from returning to piano lessons. As soon as we got the place finished, moved, and settled in, I would be back .
Now it’s the first of February, and we still haven’t gotten the place finished, much less moved or settled in.
I miss my piano lessons.
I miss my teacher Suzie.
I pulled out some music the other day, sat down to play
Row, Row, Row Your Boat a beautiful concerto and couldn’t remember where middle C was.
Please don’t tell my mother.