Oh, How I Love Dolly Parton!
Moments ago, I read that Dolly Parton’s net worth is about $450 million now; and a movie about her life is about to be released. Without a doubt, Dolly Parton has made it, but along the way, she never opted to become a Manhattan Meredith. She has always been Dolly Parton. There is a God.
When I was a little girl, my grandfather was the manager of the IGA, which for many years was the biggest, drawing business in my entire area. For a long while, he had Porter Wagoner come from Nashville, Tennessee, to perform in his store. During those years, Dolly Parton was a young, unknown country girl, who sang a couple of songs and advertised the kitchen towels that were being sold, along with a large box of Breeze.
Things have changed for Dolly Parton since then; but Dolly did not change with those things. She is still Dolly Parton. Just the other day, I was listenening to one of her live performances, and after she sang, some redneck hollered from the floor, “Dolly, I love you.”
Totally unscripted and not actually meant to be caught on the recording, Dolly responded–only taken a little aback, “Well, I love you, too. But honey, I told you to stay out in the truck.”
The ushers didn’t come and shush the guy. Dolly had it under control; and she never went out of character to handle it. Dolly Parton is a natural delight. She is a Great American Treasure. She is a Hallelujah Choir for the honest, everyday, down-to-earth country folks from the South. Thank you, Dolly Parton.
I didn’t grow up with a great deal of money, but Dolly Parton was dirt poor as a chid. Unfortunately, I spent some years that I was not as genuine as Dolly–years where I was trying to be cooler than I really was–trying to please an unfaced, unnamed mob, who I felt were judging me. That was a complete mistake–one that makes me ashamed now.
As any who are reading my blogs know, I grew up in the Bootheel of Missouri–in a tiny cotton town by the name of Gideon. I was fortunate that my parents provided for me to go to college at Ole Miss, the University of Mississippi; but as soon as I hit the edge of the Ole Miss campus, I cringed with embarrassment. I was no doubt wearing homemade clothes. If both my mother and my aunt had not sewn for me, I would have had very few things to wear. I spoke with a country twang [I still do]; and I felt that I simply had no pedigree.
My initial, serious hurdle at Ole Miss was immediately before the first semester began–during the sorority rush. Oh! My word! The very thought of my Ole Miss rush makes my heart seize–just for a bit. I knew nothing about sororities. I had no reference letters. I didn’t even know anyone who had been in a sorority.
Although I had been very popular and successful in the Bootheel and I had pages of honors to show that, on the very first day of rush, as soon as I walked through the doors of some houses, I was escorted to a room where the hopeless would sit. Like the other rejects, I was forced to watch the sweet Southern syrup drip on the worthy people. In some houses, I got no syrup at all.
Not only was I hurt, I was confused. I had never experienced that kind of spurning before, and I didn’t know how to align myself in its course. As the days of rush wore on, I was rejected again and again. Some sororities gave everyone a courtesty second call then, and when I discovered that I would still return to most of the houses the second day, my spirits lifted. Yet, by the third day, my invitations had dwindled, and I assessed that there must be something substantially missing in me.
I did ultimately pledge a sorority; but I never forgot my painful and traumatic experiences during rush. I am a survivor; and I began Ole Miss with my cleats on. I was not going to be wiped off the field. I went into over-drive and was elected to the Campus Senate my freshman year. I was one of the university’s delegates to the National Student Government Conference. I was also part of the Ole Miss Parade of Favorites, and by the end of my freshman year, I was model sorority pledge–not only for my sorority, but also for the entire University of Mississipi.
Most people probably thought that I was always a sweet girl from the Bootheel, but I did allow myself to change–at least for a few years. I was a quick study, and I watched the Mississippi girls. I did everything that I could to become just like them, and unfortunately, I was pulling the ruse off. But then I suffered one of the first of several blows that I would face during the next few years: I was nearly killed in a car accident.
While at an Ole Miss football game, which was in Jackson, Mississippi, that year, a drunk driver and his pickup truck literally landed in my face. After our car rolled and somersaulted a few times, I had been shoved from the front seat to the trunk. My face was destroyed; I had lost most of my teeth; and my leg was crushed. After I stirred from my coma, I had to learn to walk again. That was 45 years ago; and I have never learned to like having few natural teeth.
I changed after that car wreck. I remember thinking to myself that I had almost died–and that I was not actually living. I was allowing someone else to parasite off me, and the real me had almost ceased to exist. After that experience, I have almost always tried to be as honest about who I actually am as possible.
Don’t get me wrong. I married a Mississippi boy, and I did temporarily undergo some morphing again–trying to be the well-liked daughter-in-law of Mississippi; but that never happened, regardless of how much I changed. After 18 years of marriage, my Mississippi man left me for a much younger model; and that train wreck nearly destroyed me again. Yet, hardship was not finished with me. After barely beginning to rebuild myself and a home for my children, a fire burned my house to the ground.
I have said many times that I have felt like I was in a big, dark manhole and that every time I began to crawl to the surface, God stepped on my fingers, forcing me to fall back down. Yet, I have always managed to get back up–just a little more scarred and crippled after each fall.
I have started and been discouraged from doing several things with my life; but during this very month, I feel that I have finally picked up my bed; and I am beginning to walk.
I have always been interested in both writing and in painting, but depression and discouragement have often gotten the better of those pursuits. Just this month, however, I have begun writing again–and I am sharing not only my work and my life, but also that of my family. I am proud of my family; and I am proud of my writing and art; but more than anything else, I am proud that I am finally allowing the world to know how very proud that I am of the country girl that I have always been.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Right to Brag.”