Initially, when we moved back to the plains of Colorado, we moved to a very small town called Deer Trail. Deer Trail is the Home of the World’s First Rodeo if that tells you anything about the kind of town that it is. Most of the streets in the town were dirt. Not gravel, but dirt. And dusty. The rodeo grounds sat at the northwest outskirts of town and the K-12 school sat at the southwest edge of town. We settled down just a few blocks away from the rodeo grounds in a small trailer court nearby. This was where I first began to become a big fan of music myself, as I finished out the seventh grade here.
Deer Trail was a small, public high school that housed a community swimming pool. I only had eight total classmates in my grade at Deer Trail, so coming by friends was a bit more difficult. These small town kids were only into cows or basketball or both. I was not. They had all grown up with each other for the past eight years of school. I had not. However, the one area I may have been able to connect with them was music. Due to my dad’s influence, my musical tastes coincided a bit, as my favorite artist was Glen Campbell and I loved the song, “Rhinestone Cowboy.” That is, until my older sister, Terri came home.
Terri graduated high school with her foster family the year before and spent the following year at a community college in Indiana. She decided that wasn’t for her after her spring term was complete and she returned home to live with us in Colorado for the first time since Christmas of her freshman year of high school. I continued to be the family chef, but Terri helped out also; making pizza and brownies as her specialty. Another of our family favorite meals was sausage gravy and biscuits, but Terri introduced us to her version which included chocolate gravy instead. I hated it, but others in the family enjoyed it.
“You’ve got to listen to some better music!” Terri exclaimed. She hated my Glen Campbell. He wasn’t so popular in southern Indiana in 1985 when she graduated high school.
“Well, what else would I listen to?” I responded, not really knowing many artists or band names.
“Johnny Cougar, for one!” she said proudly. “Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Bryan Adams,” she continued.
“Well, put them on. Let me hear ‘em.” We had been making pizza for dinner and Terri had just placed the pizza pan in the oven and was getting ready to put some brownies on the upper rack. She placed them in the oven and ran down the hall of our trailer. She went back to her room that she shared with my younger sister, Shelby. She returned with her boombox and a few tapes. She slid a tape in the cassette slot and pressed play. The boombox erupted with, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper and she started dancing all around the kitchen.
Terri had this way of just letting loose. She could fully live in the moment and enjoy music or the company of friends. I couldn’t believe the years we had lost without her and I was loving getting to know my sister again. I imagined how much fun she was to hang out with as a friend in high school. She often talked about her friends from that time, confessing stories of their parties and activities. I wished I had been there to experience it with her. I also wondered what it was like to stay in Loogootee and experience a somewhat normal life for four years. The song ended and she stopped dancing.
“Here’s another great one,” she said as she pulled the tape out of the boom box and replaced it with another. “Summer of 69” by Bryan Adams filled the room.
“I got my first real six string…” Terri began playing air guitar and rocking around the room, singing every word. “Bought it at the five and dime… played it ‘til my fingers bled… was the summer of 69!”
Her boombox blared at the top of its lungs. That was the only way to listen to music in our house. We didn’t just want to hear the music, we wanted to FEEL IT! And feel it, we did.
Terri continued to exchange tape after tape, introducing me to John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” and Rick Springfield’s “Jessie’s Girl” and Toto’s “Africa.” We jammed and laughed and had a great time. Suddenly, we noticed smoke coming from the oven. We were having so much fun we didn’t even notice the burnt smell of pizza and brownies emanating from the kitchen.
“Oh, crap!” Terri yelled.
“Dad’s gonna kill us!” I screamed back.