The seed was planted into my musical mind at an early age. I barely remember being a three or four-year-old little girl in cowboy boots asking my grandpa to dance with me at a western Iowa venue called Jo-Mart. It's closed down now, but what a name! I'd look up at the stage in awe at the musicians who played a range of classic country and classic rock. It wasn't this pop country crap I hear nowadays (I'll not name names). It was the good stuff, like Buck Owens, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and George Jones.
My middle school years were spent in rural Minnesota; a place where they taught square dancing in gym class, and folks ate up Alan Jackson, Alabama, Brooks & Dunn, and Garth Brooks with as much gusto as they ate up their hot-dish dinners. My family was a musical outcast in that my parents didn't listen to country music at all. My mom occasionally tolerated my dad's favorite album, Pancho and Lefty by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, but it wasn't encouraged. Neil Young was okay, as was Bob Dylan, probably because they were more folk & rock than the twangy hillbilly music that made my heart thump so hard. We found common ground with Led Zeppelin, which contains plenty of bluesy country influence.
We moved from small town Minnesota to El Paso, Texas for my high school years. Talk about a culture shock. It was a lot more than just being a racial minority for the first time in my life or learning the southern lingo, like the word coke and y'all. The language part was easy. So was adapting to the Mexican cuisine every day at lunch. It was the rest of me that didn't fit in. I wasn't sporty enough for the jocks, I was too artsy for the hicks, too rebellious to be a prep, too melancholic to be a hippie. I didn't know any better except to pick a direction and then stay the course, so I went alternative. Those kids knew where all the live music shows were, along with parties and bars in Juarez that let underage kids drink for next to nothing.
I discovered bands like Nirvana, The Pixies, Tool, Tori Amos, and Nine Inch Nails, along with discovering Anne Rice and black lipstick. I liked the color black. Soon I had an entire closet full of it. Sometimes I'd peel off my fishnet stockings that I was wearing underneath my Dead Milkmen t-shirt and put on a Patsy Cline album, because I couldn't squash the secret love I had for singers like her, Dolly Parton, and Loretta Lynn. Sadly, I ignored this part of myself for much of my young adult life. It's funny if you think about it, because here I was hanging out with alternative riff-raff types, yet George Jones, Hank Williams, and Johnny Cash weren't badass enough for us? Please! Those guys put our shenanigans to shame, but we were young and dumb, and people in high school and college are VERY self-conscious about their labels. We simply didn't know any better. What I did know was that when I saw Dwight Yoakam's video for 'As Fast As You' playing on MTV (back when they actually played music), the sight of him dancing in those jeans seared itself into my teenage brain, and my reaction hasn't changed much in the past twenty years.
Now that I'm older and wiser, I've shrugged off the labels I relied on to define that which transcends definition; my human experience. My current WIP helped rekindle my deep love for good old country music and I've indulged in making up for all that lost time. My country music playlist has double the songs as any of my other playlists. For my birthday, I treated myself to a sweet pair of cowboy boots that look a lot like the ones I had as a little girl. I also got myself a hat. My husband claims you have to be a cattle ranch hand to wear a cowboy hat. I strongly disagree. I'm also quick to remind him that my first home was on a dairy farm. I also mention all the time I've spent around horses (riding Western--none of that English style). That's got to count for something. I also point out the fact that once upon a time, my car had Texas plates. Even if I wasn't born there, it shaped the person that I am today, and you don't mess with Texas.
See, it's an attitude thing. That's what the hat's all about. That's why you see this iconic hat on Olympians from America and Australia (sometimes Canada) all wearing these things in places like London and Beijing. The cowboy is a symbol of freedom, resilience, strength, and of doing things their way. That's basically what the founders of these countries said when they left Europe: 'Screw this place; I'm doing things my way!" That spirit is what I identify with the most; the American spirit of doing things our way. So yeah, I'm going to wear my boots with pride, and hold my head up high.
No matter what music you're into, rock on, y'all!