Once upon a time, when my lovely wife, Lisa, and I were traveling with our kids from one corner of this great country to the other, I made what I later learned was called a mix-tape -- and then was forced to convert it to a mix CD when modern technology made my cassette tape obsolete. No, I never had a mix 8-track.
We would pop that tape -- or CD -- into the player every time we started on one of our adventures, whether our destination was the rocky coast of Maine, Yellowstone National Park, North Myrtle Beach or Jekyll Island.
Kay Star always started us on our journey with "Side by Side." That was a sentimental selection for me because when I was traveling to Jacksonville Beach, Fla., with my kids, they would begin singing that song along about Macon and would still be singing it -- making up verse after verse of their own -- when we approached the Stuckey's store in Eastman.
It suited them and it suited us. "Oh we ain't got a barrel of money; maybe we're ragged and funny -- but we travel along, singing a song, side by side."
"Don't know what's coming tomorrow. Maybe it's trouble and sorrow. But we travel the road, sharing our load, side by side." Hearing that song still gives me a little tingle.
Ms. Star gave way to that old Red-Headed Stranger, Willie Nelson himself. I bet you can guess which of Willie's songs was second up on our Traveling Classic compilation. Yep. "On the Road Again." And there we all would be, "On the road again, like a band of gypsies rolling down the highway; we're the best of friends, insisting that the world keep turning our way."
It really has, too. My family and I have been blessed beyond measure.
The third song was one of my favorites. It had virtually nothing to do with travel but was a beautiful tribute to "all the radio heroes" that kept us company on our travels. It was by George Jones -- old Possum -- who might or might not have shown up to the concert you were holding a ticket for but had a voice crafted by God to produce pure country gold.
George's song on our mix was "Who's Gonna Fill their Shoes" and spoke of so many country legends that it was hard to keep up with.
"You know there'll never be another, Red Headed Stranger, a Man in Black and Folsom Prison Blues. The Okie from Muscogee, or 'Hello darlin'.' Lord I wonder, who's gonna fill their shoes."
Now some, including my kids, would argue that plenty of modern musicians have come along to take the place of the old country legends like Hank, Johnny, Willie and Merle -- and, yes, George Jones. I am not so sure.
I suppose I am just an old fogey, but I like my country with a little twang and sung right from the heart. Do yourself a favor and cue up "He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones. You can find it all over the Internet. Close your eyes and listen to that magnificent voice and then ask yourself if a guy in a toboggan singing about wiggling his toes in the water is really the same genre.
Don't hear something I'm not saying. I like the Zac Brown Band as much as the next guy, but I like Mozart, too. "You know the heart of country music still beats in Luke the Drifter ... "
I have a confession to make. They say it's good for the soul. I never realized that Luke the Drifter was Hank Williams Sr. until I visited his grave in Montgomery and saw that alias carved into his tombstone. Duh. The next line was "You can tell it when he sings 'I Saw the Light.'"
I love listening to Hank Sr., especially when he sings "I Saw the Light." I'm glad he did, too. Maybe I'll get to hear him sing in that heavenly choir one day -- with Elvis!
I am still a fan of country music and I listen to Garth -- or his recordings -- and Brad Paisley and Darius Rucker and Kenny Chesney and all the rest. I am a huge fan of Luke Bryant. And my kids are incredibly excited because Jason Aldean is going to play in Sanford Stadium the week after the G-Day game.
All of the modern stars have their place. A few even wear cowboy hats, although I haven't seen a rhinestone in years. But I am very thankful that I still have plenty of CDs containing the coarse, gravelly voices of Merle, Waylon, Loretta, Patsy and the other good ol' boys and girls who caused me to fall in love with country music in the first place.
You know what, though? What I really miss is traveling with my kids, and if they were to light a shuck with me and take off to Maine or California or destinations unknown, they could listen to Lady Gaga for all I'd care.
Treasure each moment. Time is fleeting and, as Jim Croce once noted, we can't save it in a bottle, no matter how much we'd like to.
Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.