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IMG_5337Spring Break should be a special time of adventure and relaxation for two hard-working teachers. But, this year my bride is burdened with the preparation of her state certification exam and I was in middle of preparing our federal tax returns.  At least I had an ace in the whole.

For the first time since moving to Houston we were going to the Rodeo.  It is billed as the Largest Rodeo in the world.  This claim is one that I have means or interest in validating.

I just reserved our tickets and looked forward to attending.  My time on the internet got us ready with transportation plans via the shuttle system, free parking and discounts on food.  What I could not plan was the weather.

Rain was the forecast for the day we had tickets to the Rodeo.  The precision of this forecast was amazingly accurate.  It poured on this gathering of folks.

Getting into the stadium was a relief just to get out of the rain and dry off.  We were soaked to the bone and thought that a repeated venture was not too favorably received.  But, the show began and our interest was piqued.

The announcer was in fine form.  He was clearly connecting with people who knew about rodeo.  At the same time, he also formed a bond with all of us newbies.

He introduced a rodeo tradition.  It was the Grand Entry.  All of the participants rode out into the stadium and received a rousing ovation from the crowd.  70,000 people were beginning to fill the seats.

Leading the way into the stadium was a trio of riders.  One queen carried the American flag.  Another the flag of Texas.  Yet a third the Houston Rodeo flag.

Once the great cast of riders reached their spots amid great music and fanfare, the announcer introduced the Invocation.  One of the participants prayed for God’s blessing, His protection and presence and with gratitude thanked God for His wonderful blessings.  He prayed this all in Jesus’ name.

There was no apology, no hesitation, no explanation, no equal time for false religions or any protests.  It was all done in stride.  Faith in the Almighty God was a part of the lives of people at a rodeo.

Then the National Anthem was sung.  Everyone stood.  All of the men removed their hats and caps.  People sang with their hands over their hearts.  There were no protests, complaints or apologies.

God, Country and Family.  These three values are embraced and proudly promoted by the Rodeo constituency.  I like Rodeo!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

I was set up with my computer while the TV was on.  Whatever show was airing at the time I don’t even remember.  What did capture my attention was the  commercial.

Sure, I’m a Country & Western fan so Brad Paisley is an attention grabber.  He has a down-to-earth demeanor and a dry sense of humor.  Seeing him with the Jack-in-the-box mascot was sure to be a curiosity at the very least.

Jack is explaining to Brad that they want him to endorse their new Country Meal.  With a bit of flattery Jack tells Brad, “What’s more country than Brad Paisley!”   Brad wasn’t impressed.

Instead, he thoughtfully responded, “Oh, I don’t know…maybe …” Then, he offered some early reasonable options.  But, that list kept going to move into goofy options that reflected more Brad’s humble spirit than good advertising options for Jack to consider.

As Brad went down his off-the-cuff options of what is more country than him, Jack’s countenance changed.  When the ad cut-away to the mascot he had a silly surprised disbelief look on his mask.  It was hilarious.

To be fair, I had been a very consistent customer of Jack-in-the-box for many years.  In fact it is what got me fed during my Seminary years in Texas.  It was my highlight during a week of scrimping and scraping for meals on a very tight budget.

Sunday nights was my treat night.  I would leave the dorm and walk a block and order my “big” meal of the week.  Counting coins was my habit of life.

It was a simple time in my life.  I never told anyone how tight my funds were.  But, I remember the reluctance each time I would have to break a $20 and then judiciously watch over all of the change during the subsequent week. 

Maybe the best in country is not  only Brad Paisley, Country Music but also the struggling lives of Americans who work hard, carefully watch their spending, deny themselves wants to make their precious few dollars spread out and eventually, land a better paying job once their education is done and their tuition obligation is completed.  America is Country.  Whatever is American is the best that we and our fellow countrymen represent to keep on making this country great.

Come on, fellow Americans!  Let’s keep on working, learning and sharing.   Live in liberty and be in pursuit of happiness.  Now, that’s country!

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

Everyone has their personal taste for music.  The genres are as varied as human tastes.  Some are purists and others are eclectic.

I have tried so many kinds of music.  Over my growing many years on this earth, I have tasted pop, rock, classical, easy listening, jazz and broadway.  Nothing really sticks for any length of time.

But, years ago I suddenly realized that I could understand what Country artists were singing.  It made me think about the story as well as enjoy the melody lines.  Before I knew it, Country was always playing on my radio and iPod.

Then, I moved to California.  Here in San Francisco new acquaintances told me about the local Country radio station.  I tuned in and enjoyed several months of my favorite kind of tunes and artists.

But sadly, the radio station turned its genre from Country music to sports talk.  I was bewildered.  Did we really need another sports talk radio station in the Bay Area?

For the next few months I tried to connect with my iPod.  But my limited song selections eventually left me frustrated.  I resorted to searching for secondary genres on my radio.

Sometimes jazz kept me interested.  Once in a while classical attracted me.  Light rock sometimes occupied my attention.

Then, someone suggested that I try internet radio.  That was a challenge.  I’m not too tech savvy.

Promptly I forgot about the suggestion.  My busy life pushed that passing idea off to the perimeter of my mind.

But, then months later the idea reemerged for no particular reason.  I did a brief search and was surprised how easily it was find a website for free radio.  Quickly my eyes raced down the list of genre options.

Presto! There it was in its proper place in the alphabetical listing: Country.  I clicked on the label and up popped the Country panel.  It invited me to click the arrow to listen.

I moved my cursor to the right place.  Then a swift click with my index finger and the familiar tunes, lyrics that were easy to understand, stories of real life, tunes that made me smile emerged clearly from my computer.  I was happy, elated, joyful again!

What a discovery!  It’s playing now as I write.  All day it was on during my work day in my office.  Old friends from Brad Paisley, Reba, Kenny Chesney, Taylor Swift and so many others are getting acquainted with my routine again.  Welcome back, Country!

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