Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A (sorta') feel good story out of West Texas

Wade Goodwyn reports today from Goree, Texas, population 321, on the Bobby Boatright Memorial Music Camp where folks come to learn how to play western swing.

Mostly, this is a feel good, human interest story, but it also features lots of references to population loss and community in rural America. Here are some evocative quotes:
Out here, people are scarce. There's the unavoidable knowledge that the past was greater than the present is or the future will ever be.
* * *

Everyone here, teachers and students, come from nearby small towns — some of them really small. Munday, Weinert, Knox City, Seymour, Benjamin and Pampa are the bigger towns. . . .

"Normally there's not many people around here, so I usually have to play by myself," [a 15-year-old camper] says. "But every now and then, I can find a jam session in Seymour or Knox City where I can go play with some people."

* * *

When you ask Cole [a 10-year-old camper] — or any of the other children here — why they have any interest in playing a style of music that was popular over half a century ago, the answer almost always involves family.

From the way they mimic their parents' style of dress and speech to the "yes sirs" and "no ma'ams," playing Western swing is a kind of love letter from younger to older generation, a voicing of solidarity. If this cowboy music and cowboy way of life is slowly fading away, it seems no one here wants it to.

* * *

Goodwyn calls the camp the "doing" of Tammy Trainham, wife of Goree's mayor, and that the 5-day camp "is all that's left between Goree and oblivion." Of her effort and the camp, Trainham says, "We're trying to rebirth a town. It was dead — graveyard dead." Indeed, population loss apparently led to the recent closure of Goree's junior high school, which somewhat ironically has become the new site of the camp. Goodwyn closes his report with a final nostalgic comment:

So here they are: School, music camp and town, trying to keep each other — and Western swing — going.

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