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Country music tells stories of life

Sometimes we need to be reminded, I suppose, of who we are. We are all different, you know - with different likes and dislikes and enormous differences in attitudes and opinions. Some like Hunt's and others prefer Heinz. Some eat their watermelon with spoons and others with knives. Some are Democrats and others are Republicans.

Some people like rock and others like rap; some prefer jazz and others had rather listen to classical. Me? I like country music, y'all, and don't care who knows it. I was reminded of why I like country music so much around the middle of the week. Let me tell you about it.

I wanted to surprise my lovely wife, Lisa, with a night out on the town. She delivers about a million babies a week, you know, and has a birthday this week. So, dutiful and thoughtful husband that I am, I decided to do something nice for her.

Yes, I have been in the doghouse lately, but I ain't saying why.

I decided that a nice dinner and an evening at the theater would be just what the doctor ordered. Yes, an evening at the theater. Who says lintheads can't have culture?

There was a Broadway-style musical at the Fox, but I wasn't in that much trouble, so I scanned the paper for something a little more eclectic - translation: something a little cheaper - and learned that a new show was opening at the ART Station Theater in the Stone Mountain village.

Honesty compels me to admit that I wasn't familiar with this particular theater, even though it has been around for a while, but their show sounded like something I would like. It was a two-woman production called "Honky Tonk Laundry" and promised to be chock full of classic country songs including the works of legends like Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, and the Dixie Chicks.

Hey, I don't have to agree with their politics to enjoy their music.

I decided to take a chance and order a couple of tickets and am I ever glad we did.

I didn't tell Lisa where we were going and she kind of balked when I insisted that she wear her blue denim mini-skirt and cowgirl boots.

OK. It's not really a mini, and she refused to wear the boots, but she was still the cutest thing in the Western-theme steakhouse I took her to for supper. Wanting to preserve her surprise, I tried to convince her that we were headed to Stone Mountain Park for a walk, but since I did wear my cowboy boots, I don't think she bought that.

At any rate, we got to the theater on time - and let me tell you about the play.

It is set somewhere in Tennessee, just a little ways from Nashville. One of the two performers is Christy Baggett, a 10-year veteran of Atlanta theater who is a real live Dunwoody housewife by way of Jackson, Miss. The other leading lady is Jenn Fraser, who, according to the play's handbill, is from New York City, but there was way too much twang in her voice for her to be a Big Apple native.

The action centers around a small-town laundry, the Wishy Washy Washeteria, and features conversations between the proprietor, Lana Mae, and her friend and co-worker, Katie Lane. They share their dreams and ambitions and commiserate with one another over love gone bad - and spend a lot of time singing country music classics - and singing them very well, I might add - which brings me, finally, to the point I set out to make.

The reason I love country music so much is that country music tells a story and it is usually the story of everyday people like me, and you, too, I would assume. Think about the really good country songs. They contain lyrics about trains and drinking and prison and bars and pickup trucks, of course, but they also contain lyrics about hopes and dreams and ambitions and, yes, love. And you can understand the words and the stories they tell.

Take Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors," for instance, which, by the way, is featured in Act Two. When you hear those words you can just see the pride in the little mountain girl's face when she shows up at school wearing her brand new coat, and you can feel the hurt in her heart when the other kids make fun of her.

And the foot-stomping rhythm and fancy fiddlin' in "A Long Time Gone," will resonate with anyone who has ever said goodbye to their roots and then looked back with regret.

Remember Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man?" It's in the show, and Lisa said a loud "Amen!" when they got to that line, "After all, he's just a man." Because after all, that's all I am.

But I am a man who knows a good time when he has one, and I had a good time at "Honky Tonk Laundry," and I bet you would, too. It runs until Aug. 13, so you have time to find out.

And through the 26 classic hits included in the show, I was reminded, once again, who I am - and why.

And, yes, I think the show was good enough to get me out of the doghouse, for the time being, anyway.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and high school history teacher who lives in Rockdale County. Visit his Web site at www.darrellhuckaby.net. His column appears on Saturday.