Country Roads, Take Me Home


Take the back roads instead of the highways.

American entertainer and philanthropist, Minnie Pearl, was born on this day in 1912 (died 1996).

Known professionally as Minnie Pearl, Sarah Ophelia Colley Cannon, was an American country comedian who appeared at the Grand Old Opry for more than 50 years and on the television show Hee Haw from 1969 to 1991.

I had the opportunity to meet Minnie Pearl back in 1988 when I planned a convention at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. Somewhere around here there’s a picture of me shaking her hand.

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Of course I grew up watching her on Hee Haw, a show my parents, and family, loved. And, truth be told, one that I have particularly fond memories of these days.

Her statement reminds me of the country roads back home.

As a child I remember that there would be Sunday afternoons (or maybe other days, but I remember Sundays), when we’d pile into my Dad’s International Scout and take a drive into the mountains. There are more stories about that, but for now I fondly remember the drives and the picnics where the food always seemed to taste better than it did at home.

My stepfather liked the drives as well, and often I’d be in the backseat with my Dad and my Stepfather…that’s not weird if you know the connection. If you don’t, it’ll be in the book. In later years, my stepfather liked me to drive really slow so that he could read the mailboxes and see the sites.

Sometimes we’d stop at an old country store with a screen door that banged when you entered and probably said something about Rainbow Bread. And there’s be a red cooler where you would pull your Coca-Cola out of the water in which it was being chilled. If you were lucky, maybe they’d buy you a Coke and a snack. Maybe.

I miss those drives in the country. Not quite as much as I miss my Dad and my Stepfather (gone just a year ago this week).

True story, John Denver sang “take me home country roads” about the back roads of West Virginia.

That is, if you don’t know, far, far, far different than Southwest Virginia from whence I hail.

That said, my high school choir used to tour in West Virginia as it was our director’s home. When the song was popular, we sang a version of it as a choir. We were once thanked for singing “The National Anthem of West Virginia.”

I swear I am not making that up.

I’m a fan of back roads. I appreciate Interstates and Freeways for their convenience and, sometimes, speed, but I like taking the scenic route.

I do that most mornings in my commute downtown. Not because it’s particularly scenic, although the view of the city as I come across the bridge is pretty cool. But I usually take the back roads because 1) I’m too cheap to pay the tolls and 2) on the mornings I think it will be “quicker” to take the expressway, it never is and I get stuck behind a miles-long backup.

These are not the same as the country roads back home.

I’d love to have the time to go get lost on those roads again. Or to just have the opportunity to say “let’s go this way and see where it comes out.”

But, life doesn’t always allow that.

True, as a writer sometimes I’ll sit down at the keyboard and just start typing and see what happens.

Monkeys. Shakespeare. You know the drill.

There’s a lot to be said for taking the backroads instead of the highway. The quickest way to a destination isn’t always the best.

Your favorite back roads are probably not the same as my favorite back roads. That’s a good thing at least in terms of traffic.

Sometimes the point of travel is the journey, not getting there on time.

Life doesn’t always allow us to, but when we can, we should take the back roads and enjoy the journey.

Maybe you can stop at a little country store along the way.

These days, I’d skip the Coke (or any soda), but maybe there can still be a snack.


Australian-American singer-songwriter and actress, Helen Reddy, was born on this day in 1941.


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