The news today of the death of Charley Pride, though awfully sad, also timed itself with a Saturday night and another Grand Ole Opry radio show. That may seem an odd way to write the opening to this post, but if you know the Opry family and the institution that it has remained for almost 100 years you too will grasp why it is fitting. Pride would understand.
The 86-year-old country music legend was being played on our home’s turntable as recently as two weeks ago. His rich baritone has never stopped being an essential part of my musical collection.
The first Black member of the Grand Ole Opry and the first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame died from complications from the coronavirus. The singer had three Grammy Awards, more than 30 No. 1 hits between 1969 and 1984, won the Country Music Association’s Top Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year awards in 1972, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.
Yes, the man was most talented and loved by millions worldwide. The Smithsonian in Washington acquired memorabilia from Pride, including a pair of boots and one of his guitars, for the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
In 2010 Pride played the White House with President Obama and First Lady Michelle knowing, they too, were seeing a legend.
Tonight the big red curtain at the Opry will lift up, and another show will be presented in a safe manner given the pandemic. There will be kind words about Pride and likely a tribute song or two. We will know the larger Opry family ‘up there’ has a new voice.
Our home on the Madison isthmus looks like a serious-minded painter stayed up all night to ensure that every branch, inch of roof-tops, covers to bird-feeders, and fence posts were perfectly covered with snow. Then the birds were told to stay muted, the squirrels asked to hunker down and not mess the smoothness so that the end result could just be taken in and thoroughly enjoyed.
Six inches of fresh snow is on the ground but the way the snow dotted a blue door in an understated way makes that my favorite photo today. But the other images from every window of our home brought pure delight. It is the snow scenes today that takes me back to childhood, as recounted in Walking Up The Ramp.
Mom had her own snow day traditions. The soup pot would come out, a ham bone from the freezer would follow, and bean soup would then simmer for most of the afternoon. It would be ready to be served when Dad was able to come home for a meal. The windows in the kitchen would steam up, and the comforting aroma of home cooking would greet Dad as he entered the house. While Mom carried the soup to the table, Dad regaled us with stories from his day’s work.
Dad would only come home for supper when he thought he could take a break from the plowing. While eating, he would talk of how bad the roads were from the storm. I loved to hear him tell us how the ramps on the highway were icy and slick, or ‘they can’t get through up on ’73′, but my Mom never seemed to find the adventure in a snowstorm that I did.
Many times I recall my Dad saying they would need to ‘bring in the Oshkosh’. Those were magic words to me as a young boy. I knew then that the storm was a real nasty one since the Oshkosh was a double-bladed snow truck that would not only push the snow off the roads, but also mound it far off on the shoulders. I suspected that to ride in one was a bit like taking a mini spaceship ride, extra loud and bumpy.
Indeed, a ride in the Oshkosh would have been tremendous fun. Just the same, there was nothing better for really pushing the snow into high banks then when Mom’s brother would pass on our roads driving the motor grader with a huge wing plow attached to it. After he made his trip down the roads, the piles of snow could be over half way up a telephone pole.
I rode a few times in my Dad’s snowplow while he raised heck with the drifts and ice on the highway. Sitting up so high and seeing the snow plume off the wide blade was perfect fun. I still get goosebumps thinking about those rides all these years later. After one school event, Dad was to pick me up and drive home. The weather forced him to change plans rather dramatically. Instead of pulling up in the Buick, Dad pulled along the school in the large, beefy county truck outfitted with a snowplow. I climbed up in to the truck, gave a bit of a wave to my friends still waiting, and Dad put the vehicle in to gear. No kid could ever have felt more proud to have a parent pick him from school.
Last night James and I went for a walk in our neighborhood as the snow fell. I had told an older woman (on-line) about my planned walk and she asked how cold it would be, and then having seen pictures of our balcony over the months wondered if it would not be better for James if I just sat out there in the snow until I got cold and then could come inside. Some folks just do not understand winter!