February 24, 2015

Hi Gang:

When my agent contacted me back in the fall and told me he had booked me for a February show in Minnesota I remember thinking, “Well, that’s a disaster waiting to happen!”

I mean, I had been to Minnesota in the middle of winter on more than one occasion, and it was always the same….cold, colder, and coldest. I had seen snow piled several feet deep alongside the highways, seen cars and trucks sliding across frozen, snow-covered lakes attempting to take the occupants ice fishing, and had once been forced to cancel a scheduled performance in Duluth because I refused to climb aboard a small single-engine airplane in a blinding snowstorm. I was mentally prepared for the worst.

And that’s exactly what we got….ice, snow, high winds, and below zero temperatures….but not in Minnesota. That’s what we got before we ever left Nashville! 

I live at the bottom of a long, steep hill, and I couldn’t get out of my driveway for four days, from late Sunday until late Thursday. We only had two to three inches of snow, but there was at least two inches of solid ice beneath it, and driving was next to impossible. I had to cancel my scheduled appearance on the Tuesday Night Opry.

The people who operate the plows and salt trucks on my side of town just laugh when one of us asks, “When are you coming out to our neighborhood?” More than once I’ve heard them say, “July.”

But thanks to all-wheel drive and a measure of good luck, I managed to escape to a motel near the airport Thursday night. We flew out before daylight on Friday, worked a show in Medina, Minnesota, that night and another in Onamia on Saturday night. The roads were fine, the temperatures were tolerable, and the audiences were absolutely some of the best we’ve ever played for. To all of you who came out, thank you for your genuinely warm welcome.

We flew back to Nashville on Sunday, and that’s when the real fun started. I got home about 9:30 only to find that, despite my having left a faucet open and water trickling, a pipe just off my garage had burst while I was away, and water was spewing everywhere. Two trees in my yard had fallen victim to the ice and had crashed across my split rail fence. And my pond, which has made it through a dozen or so frigid winters without ever freezing, was a solid block of ice. I stood ankle deep in the rushing water, not knowing whether to wind my watch or pick the “Wildwood Flower.” (Come to think of it, nobody winds their watch anymore. I’m showing my age!)

Anyhow, picture me down on my knees in the still-frozen front yard, holding a flashlight between my chattering teeth, a wrench in one hand and a pair of pliers in the other, trying to coax a frozen valve into closing just enough to stop the flow of water into my house. And then, when the valve finally did shut off, kneeling and clutching my cell phone and trying to figure out who I should call for help with the repair and clean-up. Sunday night and the Oscars were on TV. Are you going to go out into the elements to rescue someone who didn’t have enough sense to keep a small heater close to his water pipes? I didn’t think so.

So I did what any chilly hillbilly would do. I found a small unopened bottle of water, went upstairs and brushed my teeth. I had enough left over to wash down a Tylenol and to fill my coffee maker for the next morning. Everything else, I figured, could wait until daylight.

I’m happy to say that it all eventually turned out all right. I was finally able to shave, take a long, hot shower, and put on some clean clothes. I also learned a valuable lesson in the process:

The destination is not always something to fear or dread. It’s often that journey away from home and back that we need to be concerned about.