Take a moment and share your AMERICA. Here’s mine.
Updated: Jul 30
By BRENT GRAVES
Circa 1982-ish, I’m a 10 year old single man on the prowl at the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City.
Now I gotta tell you, I was putting my best foot forward sporting a feather hat band that likely cost 7 chickens their winter coat, my satin jacket, cabover truck hat pin and my genuine 100% bronze alloy Heston commemorative belt buckle from 1979 (proved it wasn’t my first rodeo).
I had just thrown back my 4th Pepsi Challenge of the evening (I informed those Commies that Coke was better every time) and proceeded towards the family’s 12th row season ticket seats when I saw her.
She saw me too, she gave me a crooked grin and a wink. She was a gorgeous redhead in a red sequin dress.
Now I figure she has spent a lifetime of regret for being too fearful to approach the 62 pounds of future stud (hey I ain’t dead yet, could still happen) that I’m sure made her weak in the knees.
I’ve always been a cool cat around the ladies, always let them chase me, makes them appreciate the catch. I made my wife chase me for 13 whole seconds (she doesn’t run fast) the night we met. I had to steal her watch to get her to but the fact is, she chased me. I digress.
The announcer came over the PA and introduced a young Oklahoma native to sing the National Anthem. It was her! The Sissy to my Bud, the Frog to my Bandit. The chick that let me get away just minutes earlier, she had gone to great lengths to find me in the crowd.
She began to sing. The Color Guard from Fort Sill presented the colors to mid arena. The horses were banging in the bucking chutes in perfect rhythm. Every able body was standing, every hat off, every baby shushed. My life was changed forever.
I can’t fathom that there’s an angel in heaven that could sing it better. Francis Scott Key could never have imagined such a pure sound. The hair stood up on my neck, the chills shot down my spine, a tear began to sneak out of my eye. I was hooked.
I was hooked on a country that can put that girl from Oklahoma and those lyrics in a Rodeo arena and make grown men well up.
A nation that could do this had to be better than great.
To this day, I’ll hear the National Anthem and my first words are “they ain’t Reba” I suspect nobody does it better and I’ll fight anyone that desires to argue the fact.
Now kids, if you’ve never experienced Reba McEntire singing the National Anthem at the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, with Winston cigarette banners hanging over the arena, while Ronald Reagan is the president you will never understand MY AMERICA!
If you’ve never seen 13,000 (mostly white) cowboys and cowgirls stand to their feet and cheer on Charlie Sampson, a black cowboy (with a broken face at the time) riding hard in the 10th round to win the world championship, you will never understand MY AMERICA.
If you’ve never heard Bob Tallman interact with Leon Coffee while a Dodge truck is picking up yellow Coors (The Banquet Beer) barrels before Donnie Gay gets on the first bull of the evening, you’ll never understand MY AMERICA.
If you’ve never heard Glen Smith preach and Paul Tierney give his testimony on a cold December Sunday morning back behind the roping box, while praying to God that the red headed filly that sang the National Anthem last night would stop by to sing How Great Thou Art, you don’t know MY AMERICA.
I must admit, I don’t really understand the America we have today. I must assume that those who reside within our borders and despise this land have never experienced MY AMERICA, if they had they would surely love her too.
MY AMERICA is worth saving, it’s worth fighting for and by evidence of all the white crosses in Arlington Cemetery it is worth dying for too.
I wouldn’t give a bucket of dirty creek water for the America some desire, but I’d give 10 years off the end of my life for the chance to revisit MY AMERICA back in 1982, the chance to soak it one more time, the chance to appreciate it in the moment.
I’ve shared MY AMERICA, my memories, a little bit about what makes me a proud American with you.
I hope you’ll take a moment and share your AMERICA with all of us. Maybe if we tell others about our America, they’ll see the light.
God Bless America (and Reba).