I'm dribbling this post on this Saturday evening, while thinking about Saturdays past. Long past - as back in my youth.
I'm alone (as usual now) on a Saturday night, as I never was on Saturdays in my youth. I had a full day today. I ran my mom around, taking her to pick up some prescriptions, then to the grocery store for victuals suitable for her recent gut problems. Afterwards I managed to squeeze in an increasingly rare lunch date with my lady friend. That was followed with a relaxing visit on her porch with her mom and the "kids" (her precious little dogs).
But it's twilight now The loneliness has set in. My solitude often leads towards a slight feeling of isolation. But as a child these Saturday evenings were spent with my family at home. Watching Hee Haw on the tube was a ritual. My mom and stepfather were big country music fans (back when country music was country music instead of pop music sang with a drawl).
Being a natural born southerner, the rural culture of Hee Haw was quite familiar to me. Although I'm a city boy, I had lots of family and friends who lived out in the country and on farms.
I've played baseball in cow pastures, using dried cow piles for bases. I'm not unfamiliar with the outhouse. I know the pleasure of drinking naturally cool and filtered well water and eating sun-warmed tomatoes straight off the plant. As a child I spent a lot of time in rural churches, without padded pews and air-conditioning. (A favorite pastime was watching the singers and preacher try to avoid swallowing the insects that flew in through the open windows, attracted by the lights inside which lit up all the surrounding nothing.)
The cornball humor at the expense of our country dialect was easy on my youthful ears. It was all very familiar. On the other hand, I have to say that I never became acquainted with any Hee Haw Honey-types, with their skin tight cutoff blue jean short, shorts and tied-off at the tummy shirts, complete with plunging necklines and push-up bras.
That latter was always a source of amusement (and titillation) for me. Hee Haw always ended the show with their gospel quartet singing an old, familiar hymn, accompanied only by Roy Clark on acoustic guitar. The quartet consisted of Clark, his co-host Buck Owens, Grandpa Jones (who always lost his familiar hat for this number), and Kenny Price. And there listening in a circle were the various members of the cast, including those enticing, skimpily clad young honeys! (I play the guitar myself, and I think if I had been Roy Clark looking out onto that scene I probably would have gotten my thumb hung in the strings.)
Yeah, that's just the type of corny humor you could expect, and it was so stupid you had to laugh. I remember one example in the form of a riddle which illustrates this:
Q: What's the difference between a violin and a fiddle?
A: A violin has stings, a fiddle has strangs.
That came from one episode which I remember. And if you know anything about classic country music, especially the closer it is to roots music, you know that no one can make a violin squeak and squeal like a mountain fiddler - a totally different sound than you would hear from an orchestra.
I often wondered how well this type of humor was received up north. I've read that Hee Haw was quite popular there. But I wonder if they realize how close to the truth the culture of the show was. It was only slightly a parody.
It is noteworthy, speaking of northerners and country humor, that two of the main cast members on the show were Canadian transplants: Gordie Tapp and Don Harron (Charlie Farquharson.), although even as a kid I thought those two stuck out like, say, missing front teeth.
Well, sometimes something we saw on Hee Haw would trigger my mom and stepfather to relate stories from their youth. My stepfather was a real raconteur. I think the modern family is missing something without good old-fashioned story telling. The rural life was something both charming and deep, and the doses I was exposed to - with family and friends in the country more so than Hee Haw - sank deep into my soul.
Country music, country humor, and especially country cooking ("Hey Grandpa, what's for supper?") are bits of the country you could never get out of this city boy. Of course the older I get, the more nostalgic I get about my youth. Saturday evenings with family and Hee Haw was a much simpler, happier time for me. It all seems so very far away now. I know Hee Haw reruns are still around on cable (which I don't have). And they have released some of the shows on DVD. But that could never take the place of what I experienced back on those Saturday evenings of my youth.
I remember the cast signing off for the most of the show's run with a little ditty:
We loved the time we spent with you,
to share a song and a laugh or two,
may your pleasures be many,
your troubles be few...
Sweet and poignant at the same time. And for me on this lonely Saturday evening, I love having my friends at my blog to share bits of my life with. I don't feel so alone.