Herald Journal Columns
May 30, 2005, Herald Journal

Special memories this year


It’s that time of the year again – graduations, Memorial Day observances, and of course, one of the biggest events of the summer for me, the Winstock Country Music Festival in Winsted.

Each year I am privileged to be able to attend Winstock in the capacity I do, taking photos and speaking with the singers, meeting new people each year, reacquainting with old friends, and in the end, knowing that it is benefiting a good thing.

The singer coming to Winstock this year I can honestly say I have been the most impressed by is Joe Nichols.

Sure, many of the other artists have hit songs, and all of them are exceptional entertainers, but this year, Nichols has stood out in my book.

In March, I had a very close friend of mine from Canada, Lauren Dean, pass away after battling her entire life with cystic fibrosis.

It’s a long story how we met (sort of a friend-of-a-friend type deal), but the long story short, it broke my heart to see this beautiful, athletic, smart girl taken away at the age of 21. She had so much to offer, so much to give, and so much to see and do yet, and that was all taken from her.

A little more than a month later, my grandfather, Joe Gueningsman, also passed away. Grandpa Joe and I were pretty close. We went on road trips together, ate dinner together, and when I turned 21 in January, I shared my first and only beer of the day with him.

Because I was the grandchild that lived closest to him, and the one with the most flexibility in my schedule, most of the time I would be the one getting the “Hey Ryan, why don’t you come up and help me with . . . ” calls.

And after we’d do whatever chore it was he wanted done at the time, we’d sit down in our same familiar chairs at the kitchen table, play some cards, and talk about whatever was going on in our lives.

Now that he is gone, I wish I had stopped in more often for those card games or, in the summer months, sat outside with him and watch the traffic go by, waving at people we know, and every once in a while making a comment to an unsuspecting passerby walking down the street.

Anyways, back to Nichols, before you think I am just rambling on. On his latest album, “Revelation,” Nichols has a few songs that pretty much put the good and true things in life into perspective.

One of the songs, “It Wasn’t All,” has a few lines in it that hit me pretty hard when I heard them:

“Like the way I felt that June when Dad called me with the news.

Through the tears he told me my granddad was gone.

He lived til’ he was 95, I know that was a good long life.

Still I wish, Lord, I wish that wasn’t all.

Ain’t it funny how sometimes we can be unsatisfied with things we should be thankful for?

Like the time we get to spend with the ones we love, family, and friends.

Some things just leave you wantin’ more.”

Maybe it’s just the point in my life that I am at, having recently lost several people that were very close to me, that made this song, and the entire album, jump out at me as something you don’t normally find out there on the shelves today.

Grandpa didn’t quite make 95, but he was only 12 years away, and it wasn’t June, it was April. But, the point is, grandpa had a good, long life, just like the song says, but that doesn’t mean those of us that are still here “wish that it wasn’t all,” that it wasn’t over yet, that we could get in that one last game of cards, or that last car ride together.

It feels awful weird to take my spot at the kitchen table, knowing that he won’t be joining me.

Back to Nichols again – the songs he picked for “Revelation” are nothing short of outstanding. His song “If Nobody Believed in You” talks about a little boy taking the third strike without swinging while at bat in a little league baseball game, and the boy’s father stearnly telling him “You won’t amount to anything.”

“That little boy quit trying.

He just walked away.

There were teardrops on his face.

Tell me how would you feel. You’d probably give up too, if nobody believed in you.”

The final verse of the song takes things one step deeper, asking how much God will take from this world, from modern-day civilization.

“We take His name out of the schools – the lawyers say it breaks the rules.

Pledge of Allegiance can’t be read, and ‘under God’ should not be said.

I wonder how much He will take – I just pray it’s not too late.

What if God quit trying, and He just turned away, and there were teardrops on His face.

Tell me how would you feel. You’d probably give up too, if nobody believed in you.”

Everyone needs someone in their lives they can lean on, that they know is always going to be there and encourage them in whatever it is they may want to do.

Don’t be afraid to take a little time out of your busy schedules for another game of cards, or to make that phone call to that special someone you haven’t talked to in some time. And while you’re at it, throw in a few words of encouragement along the way.

On a lighter note, another of Nichols’ songs on “Revelation,” “What’s a Guy Gotta Do (to Get a Girl in This Town),” pretty much sums up my love life right about now as well.

One of the main lines in another of Nichols’ songs called “The Shade,” is “The shade comes free with a tree.”

Take some time to pick up a copy of “Revelation,” find yourself a tree, and try to enjoy some time relaxing in the shade and enjoying some quality music.

See ya at Winstock 2005 Friday and Saturday, June 3 and 4.

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