Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Little Big Town -- "Boondocks" (2005)

You can take it or leave it
This is me
This is who I am!

Time is passing at an unacceptably rapid pace.  For example: Little Big Town's top ten country hit, "Boondocks," was released in 2005, which is simply not possible.

"Boondocks" is a very calculated song, but it works for me despite its questionable genuineness.  When I hear it, I always think of my hometown -- Joplin, Missouri -- where I was born and spent the first 18 years of my life, and where my parents still live.

I visit Joplin two or three times a year, and those visits never fail to put me in very odd mood. 

Most of my closest childhood friends have moved away, but I still know a lot of people in Joplin.

But instead of getting together with them for a drink or dinner and waxing nostalgic about our high-school days, I tend to hang around my parents' house (fiddling around on the computer when I'm not obsessively looking through old photos and newspaper clippings from 40 or 50 years ago) -- and I take long, solitary  walks.

The last several 2 or 3 lines posts (or "columns," as one of my Joplin friends is kind enough to call them) were about Las Vegas, where I go on business every September.  The last few years, I've started dropping in on my parents for a few days on the way back from Vegas to my home in suburban Washington, DC.

This year, that trip carried more significance than usual because my parents have had a number of health problems this year and because they were going to fly back to Washington with me to see my oldest son -- and their oldest grandchild -- get married.

When I visit my parents, I always walk through the neighborhood just north of where they live, which was almost completely flattened by the tornado that hit Joplin on May 22, 2011.  

The destruction starts less than two blocks away from my parents' house.  There used to be 22 houses that stood on Alabama between 20th and 22nd streets.  After the tornado, only one house was left standing.  Today, eight new houses have been built or are in the process of being built.   The rest of the lots remain vacant.

Just across 20th street, there's a large tree I've been watching with interest.  It lost nearly all of its limbs and leaves in the tornado, and most experts predicted that it and many other such trees would not survive.

But almost two and a half years later, this tree is still hanging in there.  I would guess that it has grown enough leaves to provide sufficient energy to keep it going, but time will tell.

Since I've explored the hundreds of city blocks that were hammered by the tornado pretty thoroughly, I spent quite a bit of time this year walking the trails that radiate from the Wildcat Glades Conservation and Audubon Center, which is located on the southern edge of Joplin.  The weather was absolutely perfect during my visit, and it wonderful to be outdoors in the middle of the day instead of stuck inside my office in downtown Washington.

Wildcat Glades is at most a ten-minute drive from the house I grew up in, but it seems much farther away.  The most notable natural features found in the area are Shoal Creek, a beautiful Ozark stream with numerous rapids and falls, and the 25 acres of chert glades that border Shoal Creek -- which represent about half the remaining chert glades in the world.

Chert is a very hard rock -- also known as flint -- that was used to make arrowheads.  A glade is an opening in a forest, which usually features a lot of exposed rock.  The areas of a glade that aren't bare rock are usually covered with only a very thin layer of soil, which means that glades are very inhospitable to plant life during dry summers.  (The Wildcat chert glades are home to prickly pear cactus and lizards that are usually native to deserts.)

Shoal Creek is crossed by a primitive little one-lane, low-water bridge that some drivers can't bring themselves to cross.  There's not a lot of room for error.  (You wouldn't have to be Ted Kennedy to get into trouble on that bridge.)

If you turn right after crossing the bridge, you quickly come to Grand Falls -- the highest waterfall in Missouri that flows year round:

The chert formations at the falls are very weathered, full of little nooks and crannies.

If you go away from Grand Falls, the road goes uphill to a small parking lot that marks the beginning of  the "Bluff Trail," which takes you on top of some chert bluffs and is roughly 50 feet above Shoal Creek.  It's not that scary a trail unless heights make you nervous.  (Count me in.)

Some people say that this stretch of Shoal Creek, Grand Falls, and the chert glades and bluffs is the most beautiful natural area in Missouri.  I wouldn't disagree, although there's a lot of Missouri I haven't seen.  

Here's a view of Shoal Creek from the Bluff Trail:

Here's a big crevice in the rock that I hopped over while walking the Bluff Trail:

After half a mile or so, the Bluff Trail gradually descends to the level of Shoal Creek and follows the west bank of the creek all the way to the base of the old Redings Mill Bridge.

We'll take a closer look at that bridge and the trails on the east side of Shoal Creek in the next 2 or 3 lines. 

I liked "Boondocks" the first time I heard it in the spring of 2006, when we were visiting my daughter Sarah, who was a freshman at Ohio Wesleyan University.  (Sarah later figured out what the song was and sent me an e-mail identifying it, which was thoughtful.)

It was "Kids and Sibs" weekend at OWU, so we were accompanied by Sarah's ten-year-old brother.  (Peter was suffering deeply from the migration of his twin sisters to college the previous fall.)

Ohio Wesleyan University
I remember a couple of things from that weekend.  A very funny comedian/magician performed for the students and their families in one of the residence halls, and there was a special showing of the movie Benchwarmers at an old downtown theater.

Benchwarmers is one of the worst movies I've ever seen.  It was basically a Bad News Bears ripoff -- a bunch of misfits and lovable losers get together and beat their snobby, affluent opponents in a baseball game -- except that Benchwarmers was about adults, not 12-year-olds.  (Although those adults acted like 12-year-olds.) 

The movie starred Rob Schneider, David Spade, Jon Heder, and Jon Lovitz -- none of whom were the least bit funny.  (But none of them ever are, so why should we be surprised?)  It featured cameos by ex-Yankee great Reggie Jackson and ex-NFL'ers Sean Salisbury and Bill Romanowski.

I don't find Little Big Town's recording of "Boondocks" particularly convincing.  The two women and two men who make up the group are a little too nice and a little too clean-cut to really pull this song off.

Part of this song is sweetly nostalgic -- there's some stuff about tasting the honeysuckle that grew down by the creek, and hearing the midnight train pass through town, and learning about Jesus on Sunday mornings.  Little Big Town handles that part of the song very nicely.

But the rest of it is about having a big chip on your shoulder about where you grew up -- about getting pissed off when you hear some assh*le from Boston or San Francisco or some other big city make a condescending comment about small towns in general, or your small town in particular.  

The lines from the song that I've quoted above -- "You can take it or leave it/This is me/This is who I am!" -- need to be delivered by a good ol' redneck singer who's got an angry streak in him, or at least someone who can do a convincing imitation of a redneck with an angry streak.  (Toby Keith comes to mind -- I'd love to hear him sing this song.)

Here's "Boondocks":

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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