All I Heard Was Country

We had left at 4 pm two Tuesdays ago. My fiancé  Madeleine and I were driving to Tyler, Texas from the northwest corner of Arkansas. As the sun began to set, our GPS directed us to exit off Highway 59 and onto Mountain Gateway Scenic Byway through the Ouchita Mountains of Eastern Oklahoma. Although it wasn’t a Friday, the wind in our hair felt too good not to be blasting a song like Eric Paslay’s “Friday Night” on “the wide open road” with one another, especially taking in a view like this one:By the time we got closer to the Texas border, we had to stop in a tiny mountain-valley town in Southeastern Oklahoma for dinner at one of two local restaurants. We chose the Subway. And as we walked in, we were greeted by thick southern accents and country music playing in the background – sounded like Luke Bryan. We had begun to see a theme in the music we heard walking into restaurants and coffee shops. Even before we left the Fayetteville area of Arkansas, we went to Fayettechill outdoor store/bar/coffee, and we had heard, ironically, “Drunk on Your Love” by Brett Eldredge.

We finally made it safely (after two flat tires) to Tyler, Texas and linked up with my parents and my sister for a bit of family vacation. Although Madeleine had to leave for Houston, the country music definitely decided to hang around. It didn’t matter if my family and I went to a diner or a museum, we just kept hearing country music everywhere. I can’t say I was surprised to walk by the Skyline Café of Tyler’s Historic Aviation Memorial Museum and hear, you guessed it – country. To be fair, the Dolly Parton song playing at the time did seem fitting to a museum café with linoleum flooring that seemed stuck back in time (maybe the 70s).

IMG_4526What did come as a surprise was in the quiet of a barn at our Bed & Breakfast spot in Tyler, the Rosevine Inn. I sat on the comfortable leather sofa facing the warm blaze within the stone fireplace ahead of me, looking at this scene on the wall to the left. There it was. An American flag and a mounted deer head. Enjoying the silence and the crackling fire’s subtle attempts to break it, I walked over to take a closer look at this deer, whose placard said, “BE NICE OR GO AWAY.”

I hadn’t gotten up and taken two steps towards the deer before my heart skipped a beat. It turns out that this was no taxidermy – it was an animatronic deer! He introduced himself to me as his plastic, mechanically-controlled head jerked around. Then, this deer launched into song, lip-syncing a classic – “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks.

On this Spring Break road trip through Arkansas, Oklahoma, and the top of East Texas, I realized just how deep country music runs in the soul of the South. Whether it was a fast-food restaurant, coffee shop, museum café, or yes, even a talking deer head – country music was what I heard.

And so I have a challenge for you – next time you’re driving  North through these States in our part of the South (especially once you hit Oklahoma), whether you pull in to a Sonic or stop to check out a a local store, pay close attention to what’s on the radio. I knew country music was popular, but I had no idea that it was practically all I’d hear on my road trip. But hey, with music as good as I heard, I’m certainly not complaining.


Filed under Blog Post 2, Reflection, Uncategorized, USA

13 Responses to All I Heard Was Country

  1. Paige Hinkle

    I definitely agree with you! I hear country music in so many different places. It’s just always around! This post reminds me of the song “Country Music Must Be Country Wide” by Brantley Gilbert. Although I think it is true that country music is very widespread, I’ve also had the opposite experience. When I was in New York City for an internship one of my coworkers had never even heard of Johnny Cash or Willie Nelson or Dolly Parton. Another one of my coworkers had never seen a cow in real life before! To be fair, both of them had spent their entire lives in Northeastern cities and I had never been to a Northeastern city until that summer so we were definitely on different pages.

  2. Lee Allen

    This is a great read! I really liked how you took us on the ride with you, setting the scene really well in the introductory paragraph. I find it funny that everywhere you went, you couldn’t get away from country music, even with a deer! I wonder if it was just the right time and place, or it really is just ALWAYS on the radio. Also, I wonder if it was, in fact, the radio…since a lot of places nowadays use auxiliary chords, Pandora, or Spotify to play their own tastes…who knows. All in all, this was a very interesting article, and made it seem like reading a book about a vacation instead of a normal old blog post. I liked it!

  3. Shira Yoram

    I really enjoyed reading this post! I know that when I stop in small towns on a road trip in the south, I can always count on hearing a country song when I walk in. Whether it be a restaurant or just a pit stop, that’s one thing I look forward to in those small towns. I liked how these kind of experiences lead to you writing a whole blog post about them. I have never personally driven to the states you mentioned, but now I know that where ever I stop in those states, I will hear the sweat sound of country music. Also, the talking deer head reminded me of that talking fish that sings “Don’t Worry Bout A Thing.”

  4. Lottie Glazer

    Really nice post. I can definitely understand driving through small towns and only hearing country music. When driving from Dallas to Austin or back, country is for sure the right thing to listen to. It is perfect for road trips. Every time I make a stop on the way home I can always count on hearing a country song playing in the background. Really enjoyed reading this post.

  5. Mackenzi McAfee

    I really enjoyed your post and thought it was an accurate explanation of country music in that part of Texas. I can totally relate to hearing only country music in stores and on the radio, specially in the Tyler area! The deer on the wall is hilarious too. My dad is a huge redneck so I’ve grown up taking naps in the living room with deer surrounding me and the deer that talked is too funny! My dad would LOVE to have a deer like that singing “Friends in Low Places!” Love it!

  6. Adrian Ortiz

    I really enjoyed your post and I definitely agree with you. Especially now, more than I used to before, I realize country music is everywhere in Texas. I have always known that country music was big and popular in the south but little did I know it is much bigger than I expected. Even before I started taking this class I was oblivious to the fact that if you pay attention, country music is everywhere. So when I started listening to more country songs myself as well as songs I learn in class, I began to notice country in a lot of different places. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Interesting article! There is nothing better than driving into a scenic sunset with some great music to complement the scenery. You really sum up what living in Texas consists of, especially a place like Tyler. Just about every store or venue you walk into, country music will be present. I have never seen one of these animated deer that sings, but it sounds like I need one. I am now going to try and realize ho often I hear country music playing. I would have to guess I would be surrounded by country music in my hometown of Fort Worth more so than here in Austin.

  8. Kevin Lefkowitz

    You did a great job of taking me (the reader) along for the journey. Listening to country music is just one of those things that makes mall towns so great. My family took a road trip to Minnesota (I know I know) so we got to drive through Oklahoma and Kansas and very much experienced some of the things you wrote about. That said, we never saw a singing deer! Your experiences, really make me want to copy your route and try to go to some of the same places. I love small towns and country music and to see everything together sounds amazing.

  9. Olivia English

    This post was really fun to read, Timothy. I was really interested to read what happened next on your trip, and when you started to write about the talking deer head I couldn’t stop reading! I think it’s so fun to discover something that really defines a big trip or experience in life, whether it’s a certain smell or a type of music. After making that memory, it’s always great to hear that music again or smell that certain smell that gives you such a feeling of nostalgia. I guess, for you, that even could be seeing another talking deer head singing you some fun country!

  10. Drew Scherger

    I agree that country music is a constant presence in the rural South. I think that you do an excellent job showing that through the many examples of the deer head, the cafe, and the inn. I have family in Fayetteville and I can definitely relate to your experiences on the ride back to Texas. I feel like if you’re born in the South you can’t really escape country music, because I used to dislike most of it but have come to appreciate it over the years. I’ll have to pay attention to what music I hear, next time I’m driving through the South.

  11. Tyler King

    Great piece! I agree with you that wherever you go between Texas; Oklahoma; and Arkansas, there are country music fans everywhere. Whenever I’ve been out in East Texas or Northwest Louisiana, just close to the Texas border, there’s always some country music playing wherever you go. That’s why I enjoy going around those areas because they are just easygoing towns with some relaxing country music playing wherever you go to do anything. Most small towns have those little diners or stores and it’s always enlightens me when they have country on.

  12. Julie Kleberg

    Great blog post! Very well writtena nd organized! I totally agree though there are always country music fans in those areas! It is pretty consistent throughout the south. sounds like a really fun road trip too. I want to go on a trip like that and just listen to country music the whole way. Awesome post!

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