The Best Gift My Dad Gave Me

My rough-around-the-edges, Texas-rancher dad spent 25 years or so in a house with four females (and one bathroom for most of that time), and I never once heard him complain.

As he said to me when I recently asked him what the secret was to being married to my mom for 50 years, this is his philosophy: “I try to keep my head down and my mouth shut.”

Did I mention he’s fairly funny, too?

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My dad with child-labor ranch-hand.

He probably learned that mantra in the Army, but hey, it’s not a bad plan. It’s also one that failed to sink in with his middle daughter. But ironically, I think I actually owe a good part of my outspoken nature to my dad.

You see, he may look to the world like a Tony Lama-boots- and Stetson hat-wearing good-old-boy from Waelder, Texas. But my dad is a highly intelligent man who, in partnership with my mom, gave us all an extraordinary gift: He made his daughters wholeheartedly believe that we could be anything we wanted to be, that we could do anything we set our minds to. As long as we worked hard and used our brains (that he helped cultivate, I might add), the world was ours to conquer.

In fact, I didn’t even really believe that sexism existed out there in the world — that girls were sometimes treated differently, as somehow less — until I got to college. You can imagine my anger and downright shock when I encountered blatant discrimination from a professor at Texas A&M. It was only then that I realized being a girl meant I’d need to work even harder to get to where I wanted to go.

But that was okay, too. Because my dad also taught me that no matter what life throws at you, you work through it. No matter how much something hurts, you find your grit and get up again the next morning.

Here’s a prime example of the kind of father my dad was when we were growing up. I decided on a whim one day, at age 17, that I wanted to work at the local radio station as a DJ. I had no experience, of course, or any idea of what the job entailed. But why would that have stopped me?

I didn’t ask my parents about the idea; I just headed down to the station and pitched myself to the owner, who just happened to need someone for the late-night shift — as in signing-off-at-midnight-with-the-national-anthem night shift. Neither of my parents blinked an eye when I told them about my new gig, and I started the following week.

I had my own wheels by then, so I didn’t need a ride to and from the station. And yet, every night, once I’d signed off the air, as I’d lock up the station alone and walk out to my car, I’d see my dad parked a few yards away in his old Chevy, just waiting. Maybe listening to some Waylon Jennings or CW McCall, or reading a Larry McMurty novel by the humming street light. Night dew already on the windshield, crickets chirping all around. I’d smile at him, give him a little wave, and then he’d follow me home.

He never once said I couldn’t do that job because it was dangerous, leaving the station so late, by myself, when everyone in the two-county broadcast area knew exactly where I was and when I’d be heading home. He never suggested I do something a little more ordinary, like a normal junior in high school might do.

He never said a word.

He was just there. Making sure I was okay. Even though it meant he had to stay up late, too.

He was just, always, there.

I knew he had my back, even though he’d raised me to be fearless.

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Handsome grandpa, unknown stinkbug grandson

Now, when I think about how I’m raising my own son, I’m using that as my guide. Be fearless, kid. Grab your crazy idea and go for it. But I’m here. I’m always here. Just in case.

My dad may not be a man of many words, unless he’s telling old Army stories, but he certainly knows how to raise little girls to be headstrong, independent women who rarely take no for an answer.

Thank you, Daddy. (Yes, we all still call him that. We were raised in Texas, remember.)

Thank you for being our head-down, mouth-shut, loving hero who inspired us to be who we are today.

I kind of think that, even now, in your seventies, you’re still the glue that holds us all together.

Happy Father’s Day.

 

 

 

Comment and You Could Win! Who Is Your Favorite Character in Blue Straggler?

I recently visited with another book group that read Blue Straggler, and I always love it when I hear how animated and passionate readers are about the characters in the novel.

This particular conversation revolved around Adam and Rudy — two very different male characters in the story — and which one of the two was more likeable as a long-term romantic interest for Bailey (and for the book group members …).

And then one of the members asked me who MY favorite character in the novel is. That’s a pretty tough question. After all, I created them all and they lived in my head with me for a very long time before the story was complete and out in the world. It’s kind of like asking me which of the many dogs I’ve had in my life is my favorite. I’ve loved them all in different ways. I can’t pick. Ever.

I will say, however, that I plan to write a sequel to Blue Straggler, and Rudy will have a big part in it. Because I think I might miss him the most.

Now – your turn. If you read Blue Straggler, comment below and let me know which character in the novel was your favorite and why. I’ll choose a winner based on which comment I like the best. (I’m queen of this little world/blog, you know.)

Best part: Winner will receive a signed paperback copy of Blue Straggler – in its original 2012 cover (those are in limited supply, baby!)

Now, don’t let me down. Comment away!

Here’s a recap of the some of the characters for you:

Bailey — Directionless female protagonist approaching 30; uses self-deprecating humor to deal with life; enjoys Cool Whip and alcohol on frequent occasions; can’t keep a relationship longer than it takes milk to expire in the fridge

Rudy — Bailey’s best friend since college at Texas A&M; will kick your ass at Jeopardy; Bad at dating and financial management.

Idamarie — The third and oldest member of the friendship triangle; shells out good diner food and mostly good advice. Fourth-generation Texas woman with the hair and sass to prove it.

Adam — Moody mountain man with a beat-up Jeep and heart, plus a lot of dogs and a barn for rent.

Francis — Coffee shop owner and Bailey’s first friend in Colorado. Nice Southern accent.

Stella — Feisty mail carrier and mayor of Gold Creek, Colorado. Don’t look at her prosthetic ear.

Tuck — Tow truck driver, originally from Texas, now living in Gold Creek. Has a Jesus bobblehead on his dash.

Bailey’s Mother — Enjoys throwing backyard parties and yard sales, and berating Bailey. Co-owner of family’s fiberglass cow business.

Bailey’s Father — Rancher. Values beer, old outlaw country, gambling, and good dogs.

Lawrence — Librarian with Skills.

Weasel – Bailey’s cat she believes is out to get her.

Willie and Waylon – Bailey’s family’s dogs

WHO WILL YOU CHOOSE?

Your Official Music-to-Read-By Playlist for A Good Kind of Knowing

I’ve always loved to listen to good music while reading a good novel. And since the love of music, and its universal calling, is a central theme in my latest novel, A Good Kind of Knowing, I wanted to develop a playlist for readers to have on hand while reading the story.

In the book, the artists and songs mentioned range from outlaw country to early jazz, from Ella Fitzgerald to George Strait, from music made in the 1920s to lyrics penned in the 1980s. In the following playlist, I’ve taken liberties to include some current-day music, as well. But mostly, I’ve carefully chosen music for each chapter based on the mood of the characters and the pacing of the plot. In many cases, the songs listed here are ones the characters themselves are listening to in the storyline; others are ones I remember listening to when I wrote these very chapters and scenes.

I sincerely hope you enjoy this playlist as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

PS: If you don’t want to pay for all these tunes by downloading them into a “real” playlist, most can be found on youtube for free.

A Good Kind of KnowingA Novel by Kathy Lynn Harris

The Official Music-to-Read-By Playlist

 

 

Chapter 1

Pretty Paper – Willie Nelson

Chain of Fools – Aretha Franklin

Amarillo by Morning – George Strait

Wasted Days and Wasted Nights – Texas Tornadoes

Everyone Will Crawl – Charlie Sexton

Speed of the Sound of Loneliness – Nanci Griffith

I Gotta Find Peace of Mind – Lauryn Hill

Sugar Plum Fairy – Duke Ellington

Walkin’ After Midnight – Patsy Cline

Silver Wings – Merle Haggard

A Good-Hearted Woman – Waylon Jennings

Chapter 2

Working Man – Merle Haggard

Faded Love – Bob Wills

Should I Come Home or Should I Go Crazy – Gene Watson

Old Time Rock and Roll – Bob Seger

Resistance is Futile – Steve Coleman

I Won’t Dance – Frank Sinatra

Regalame un Besito – Laura Canales

How Blue Can You Get – B.B. King

Chapter 3

Angel from Montgomery – John Prine and Bonnie Raitt

Lover Man – Charlie Parker

Summer Skin – Amy Cook

Can`t Let Go – Lucinda Williams

Chapter 4

Rainy Days And Mondays – The Carpenters

Someday – Steve Earle

Bruises – Train featuring Ashley Monroe

Chapter 5

(Sittin’ on the) Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding

Black Coffee – Ella Fitzgerald

Blue Moon – Billie Holiday

Chapter 6

Brown Sugar – Rolling Stones

Who’ll Stop The Rain – Credence Clearwater Revival

Kentucky Waltz – Bill Monroe

Chapter 7

Rainy Day Woman – Waylon Jennings

Blueberry Hill – Fats Domino

Fishin’ in the Dark – Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

California – Joni Mitchell

Lost Highway – Hank Williams

Understand You – Lyle Lovett

Chapter 8

Lullaby – Johannes Brahms

Sharp-Dressed Man – ZZ Top

Ain’t No Way – Aretha Franklin

She Thinks I Still Care – George Jones

New Life In Old Mexico – Robert Earl Keen

Chapter 9

Sunday Kind of Love – Etta James

A Love that Will Never Grow Old – Emmylou Harris

Chapter 10

If I Had You – Benny Goodman

That’ll be the Day – Buddy Holly

Runaway Train – Roseanne Cash

Chapter 11

Sunday Morning Coming Down – Johnny Cash

Desde Que Conosco –  Freddie Fender

Down to My Last Cigarette – k.d. lang

A Soft Place to Fall – Allison Moorer

Chapter 12

I Don’t Wanna Fight –  Tina Turner

Members Only – Bobby “Blue” Bland

Blues for Dixie – Asleep at the Wheel featuring Lyle Lovett

Yesterday – Gladys Knight & The Pips

Days Like This – Van Morrison

Wings Upon Your Horns – Loretta Lynn

Chapter 13

Sleepy Cowboy – Yonder Mountain String Band

Whoever’s in New England – Reba McEntire

Linda on My Mind – Conway Twitty

Chapter 14

What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong

Take Me Down – Kelly Willis

Don’t Be Cruel – Elvis Presley

Heaven – Los Lonely Boys

Original Sin – Elton John

Even Cowgirls Get the Blues – Rodney Crowell

Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (And Loud, Loud Music) – Vern Gosdin

Mr. Record Man – Willie Nelson

Chapter 15

I Am A Town – Mary Chapin Carpenter

Rose of My Heart – Johnny Cash

Sittin’ Here Drinkin’ (Whiskey Blues) – Muddy Waters

Chapter 16

The Weight (Take a Load off Annie) – The Band

Windows Are Rolled Down – Amos Lee

Chapter 17

Simple Gifts –  Jim Brickman

In The Mirror – Yanni

Before the Next Teardrop Falls – Freddy Fender

Down on the Rio Grande – Johnny Rodriguez

Chapter 18

Bad Moon Rising – Credence Clearwater Revival

Forever Mine – Hank Crawford

You Are the Best Thing – Ray LaMontagne

Ball and Chain – Big Mama Thornton

Chapter 19

A Woman Left Lonely – Janis Joplin

Mary Jane’s Last Dance – Tom Petty

Chapter 20

Meet Me in Montana – Dan Seals & Marie Osmond

Hound Dog – Elvis Presley

Help Me Make it Through the Night – Sammi Smith

Chapter 21

If Wishes Were Horses – Lucinda Williams

Peaceful Easy Feeling – The Eagles

Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man –  Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty

Texas River Song – Lyle Lovett

Chapter 22

Christmas for Cowboys – John Denver

I’m Coming Home – Zydeco Hurricanes

To Make You Feel My Love – Garth Brooks

When I Call Your Name – Vince Gill

November Rain – Guns N Roses

Chapter 23

Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain – Willie Nelson

A Picture of Me Without You – George Jones

Chapter 24

Losing You – John Butler Trio

Lovin’ Her Was Easier – Kris Kristofferson

Someone I Used To Know  – Patty Loveless & Jon Randall

Lucky Now – Ryan Adams

Chapter 25

Sweet Dreams – Patsy Cline

Chapter 26

Silver Wings – Merle Haggard

Chapter 27

Blue Guitar – Earl Hooker

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Ella Fitzgerald

These Arms of Mine – Otis Redding

Sitting In Limbo – Jimmy Cliff

Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground  – Willie Nelson

Into the Mystic – Van Morrison

THE END

Thanks for reading, and listening. Email me if you’d like a Word doc or PDF of this list – kathy [at] kathylynnharris dot com.

Music to Read By – Waylon Jennings

In A Good Kind of Knowing, Sera’s husband Bill listens to old outlaw country on his eight-track player in the garage in Chapter 1 (and later on in the story, too). And he loves Waylon.

So here’s your Music to Read By installment for today – Mr. Waylon Jennings singing “A Good-Hearted Woman.” It really doesn’t get much better than that, now, does it?