Brother Steve, Brother Rudy and I, along with the “boys in the band," Steve, Galen, Rob, and Dave, had a day off in Antigo, Wisconsin.
I asked Dawn, the front desk lady at the Holiday Inn, for the name of the best restaurant in town. She chuckled to herself softly and said, "Well, the best steak in Wisconsin is at a little beer joint a couple of miles from here, called Heartbreaker's Bar and Grill. That sounded like the title of a country song, so I decided to give it a try.
When I got there, I almost didn't go in. Ya see, in Texas, there are certain “establishments" that one might think twice about before entering, the kind of place where they check you for a gun at the door, and if you do NOT have a gun, they give you one!
Heartbreaker's Bar and Grill had that kind of look about it. Well, old "Tex" decided that he would go ahead and try his luck. As I got out of my car, I said to myself, "Larry, you just might leave this beer joint, totin' a whooped rear-end.”
But, I went in anyway. Holy cheese curds, Batman! The first thing I saw was a baby, asleep in a highchair.
I felt the "whooped rear-end" scenario fall away like road dust shaken off and brushed off with a hat, in an old John Wayne movie. There were 3 or 4 tables with kids, moms, dads, grandmas and grandpas. A Packer’s game was on the big screen TV. There was no smoke. There was no "jet engine decibel level drivel" coming from the jukebox. And, unlike just about every beer joint I have ever been in (and I have been in more than a few) there were no obnoxious drunks, regaling whoever would listen (and those who were trying not to listen) with, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah...If there were, in fact, obnoxious drunks in Heartbreakers, they were absolutely the most civil, orderly bunch of obnoxious drunks in the long storied history of obnoxiousness-dom.
I asked Jason, the young barkeep, about the "Gorgonzola." He politely said, "Sir, that's the right choice". Well, I figured, "when in Antigo, do as the Antigans do, so, I ordered the gorgonzola and an O'Douls, and started watching the Packer game...Then all at once, there she was! And absolute vision! Ava Gardner. (For those of you under 60... it’s Google time.) She was stunning -- dark brown eyes, dark brown hair, beautiful olive skin, and the cherry-redest lips I have ever seen ...this side of the above mentioned Ava Gardner. I couldn't help myself. I just HAD to talk to her.
"What is your name, pretty lady?" She quietly and very coyly replied, “Aaab." I was a goner... Love at first sight. I asked, "How old are you?" She held up 3 fingers. It was then that I realized that the "cherry-redest lips I had ever seen" were really just tomato sauce from the pizza that "Aaba" had all over her mouth, her cute little overalls, and the white-haired gent sitting next to her.
Employing my best grandfatherly tone I said, "Aabya"? I'm sorry, Sweetie, but I couldn't understand your name." The white-haired gent reached out his big, calloused hand, and said,"Her name's AVA, Mr. Gatlin, and I'm Jim, her granddad (as God is my witness, I had said Ava Gardner to myself 30 seconds before). This is my wife Deborah and our daughter Alicia.
I put my 90% firmest handshake on him, and I said, "good to meet you, but Mr. Gatlin is my father. I’m just Larry.” Jim said that he was glad to meet me and that they all loved Gatlin Brothers music...Blah, blah, blah (wait a minute...that is not blah, blah", that is showing great musical taste as far as I'm concerned)
Anyway, back to Jim, Deborah, Alicia, and, can you believe it...Ava. We talked for a while and I "flirted" with Ava. Jim said, "Mr. Gatlin, I been seein' you on Fox a lot here lately -- keep up the good work."
Well, I thanked him for his kind words, and told him that I would do my best, and I went back to my "flirtin.'” A few seconds passed. Then Jim hit me with the proverbial "out of nowhere roundhouse, haymaker right hook...the knockout punch, when he quietly said, Mr. Gatlin, I feel hopeless. How are we ever going to get our country back?
The question hung in the air... And hung in the air....and hung in the air....Finally, I reached deep down into my bag of "tried and true soundbites, conservative talking points, and reflexively anti-Obama profundities", and came up with this little pearl, "Jim, we are going to have to get behind good, conservative candidates and encourage our friends to go to the polls.....blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Jim scratched his head, looked me right dead in the eye and said softly, "I did all of that – didn’t help.”
Never, repeat, never have I had a "caught without a comeback moment," as profoundly humbling as this one.
I was stumped for an answer, so I did what a good "political junky-policy wonk-Cliff-Notes quasi-intellectual-slash-country singer-songwriter-part time Fox News frequent contributor is supposed to do...I blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blahed my "so far not whooped rear-end" off.
Thankfully, my "Gorgonzola" arrived just in the nick of time. Dawn, at the Holiday Inn was right -- it was one of the best steaks I have ever eaten.
Let me tell you who else was right... Grandpa Jim was and is right! Right to have asked the question, how are we ever going to get our country back? Whoduvthunkit.
A soft spoken grandfather, not a belligerent, pushy, combative TV star or talking head person, prone to interrupting "guests," mid-sentence...I will not name names, you know who you are, would leave me… stumped! Stumped in the Heartland!
Ya see, on those occasions, when Mr. Bill, Sean Hannity, Greg Gutfeld, David Asman, or The I-Man, (oops, I named names) have asked me tough questions, I have been able to respond fairly intelligently, in my humble opinion, with answers and observations cogent to the subject at hand, and at the same time, put a little bit of a humorous spin on the "deal"...you don't have to be full of B. S. to be in "shobiddness," but it sure helps.
Those words...I feel hopeless. Well, there just ain't any humorous, good B. S. for that.
How are we ever gonna get our country back? Ain't any good Cliff-Notes-quasi-intellectual, humorous, etc., ect., "comeback" for that.
A beautiful little 3-year-old's voice has been ringing in my ear for two weeks. And the memory of the great "gorgonzola" has been ringing in my taste buds for two weeks. But it is the line, "I feel hopeless " that has been ringing in my heart, tugging' at my coat-sleeve, and has been my, almost constant companion for the last 3 weeks.
So, on JIM's behalf I ask, "Is anybody listening? Does anybody care about the Heartland?
I can just hear "all the usual suspects"....you know who you are..I don't have to name names..."Why, sure we are listening, Jim. We’d like to assure you and Deborah and Ava and Alicia that we have your best interests...Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
The problem is that Jim told the wrong person that he felt hopeless. He asked the wrong person, how are we gonna get our country back?
In a perfect world, he would have been able to ask the question of "All the usual suspects," but they are too busy blah, blahing. And he should have been able to ask Pres. Obama. But alas, it is not a perfect world, and President Obama couldn't be in Wisconsin at Heartbreakers. He was at Andrews Air Force Base, greeting his wife and daughter coming back from...SPAIN? They went to Spain while there while there is hopelessness in the Heartland.
I hope that, on Jim's behalf, and Deborah's and Alicia's and Ava's, I can "keep up the good work" at Fox, by telling whoever will listen (that leaves out "all the usual suspects") and read this, more or less, weekly "visit", that good people feel Hopeless in the Heartland at the Heartbreaker's Bar and Grill and are wondering, How are we ever gonna get our country back? That is not blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, that is the Heartland crying out for help. I hope and pray that someone will take the time to listen.
Larry Gatlin is a songwriter/musician and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion.
FoxNews.com Opinion is on Twitter. Follow us @fxnopinion.
Larry Gatlin is a country music singer and songwriter.