Tink returned from a trip to Los Angeles and was recounting a conversation between himself and a friend during lunch.
(Many in Southern California continue to be amazed that Tink, a Yankee-born-turned-Southern-Californian has found his very happy place in the South.)
“Do you have to listen to country music all the time?” asked Tink’s friend in a tone that was a mixture of disbelief and sympathy.
“Did you tell him that you went to a country music concert where a fight broke out during a patriotic song?” I asked. Tink threw back his head and laughed heartily.
“No. I wish I had thought of that.”
It’s hasn’t been long since I took John Tinker of the New England proper Tinkers to his first country music concert. I am a longtime fan of Tracy Lawrence so when I found out he would be performing close by, I bought tickets. Tink was out of town, shooting on location, so I called to tell him.
“That’s fine. I’ll just be glad to be back home with you. I’m happy to go.”
It was quite an experience for him. We even got to go backstage and meet Tracy Lawrence but the photo of that moment was forever ruined because Tink chose to wear the ugliest shirt possible. On purpose.
“Where did you get that shirt?” I asked.
“I was at a friend’s house and he was throwing out some old shirts so I took them.”
That’s another story.
Tink sat in the audience and watched the blue collars and white collars mix, the drunks shout out their requests, and the cowboys tip their hats to the ladies who walked by. He shook his head in wonder and smiled with amusement.
“How did I get here?” he asked. “Never in a million years would I have thought…”
At that show, the promoter announced that hardcore country music songwriter/singer Jamey Johnson was scheduled for an upcoming concert.
“I love Jamey Johnson,” I exclaimed. “We’re coming back.” So, I bought tickets and that’s how we wound up in the midst of an audience of Duck Dynasty men and women who looked tough enough to out-hunt and out-drink any of the men.
It was a standing-room-only crowd which surprised me because I didn’t realize that many people knew his music. As evidenced that night, though, Johnson has a cult-like following. The audience, except Tink, knew every word to every song. He didn’t know one word to one song. But he enjoyed the show.
Johnson, a former Marine, asked everyone in the audience who had a phone with a flashlight to turn it on and stand in respect for our country’s military. We did and he began to sing one of the greatest country songs ever written (by Johnson, of course). It tells the story of a young man who is looking through black and white photos with his grandfather who says, “You should have seen it in color.”
Just as the song got to the part about a winter’s battle during World War II, Tink nudged me with his elbow and said, “Look! A fight’s breaking out!” This was big news to Tink. In the South, we fight you to your face. In Hollywood, they stab you in the back.
Dadgum. It was a beautiful, awe-inspiring moment interrupted when two men nearby started exchanging words. There were three benches between them but one of the men took a flying leap to grab the mouthy guy and, suddenly, it was like television wrestling. Really ruined the moment. But Johnson, who eyed it calmly from the stage, never stuttered or faltered. He coolly carried on. Just like the kind of Marine you’d want to have your back.
“I don’t know which I enjoyed better,” Tink said. “The show or the fight.”
It may be a completely different life for Tink but it’s never boring.
Ronda Rich, author of ‘What Southern Women Know,’ writes the Dixie Diva column that appears in several newspapers.