As I sit perched upon a soft rolling hill of green, I am reminded of the patchwork of memories that we have made together. I have seen many mountains and oceans, but your rugged land holds my heart.
In my early years, we shared some of my best memories on long summer days. Adventuring down endless moss covered rocks in trickling streams with my friends at my side, I felt like a character from my own "Young Hemingway" novel. We braved new territory and earned our stripes.
As those carefree days faded into night, I was lulled by the soft rumble of the attic fan pulling sweet air across my forehead from the window next to the bedroom I shared with my brothers. We recounted our day's adventures in the dark.
As I discovered music, especially Rock 'n Roll, new territory was opened to me. I was lured by the unbridled rhythm of this art form. It was like gasoline on the fire of my youthful spirit. On your festival streets and in your local schools -- wherever people would listen -- we began to create our own musical style, which seemed brand new.
Though our age difference is vast, I have never cared what others say about our romance. I am the dust and, though the gusty winds carry me far and wide, I still find warmth and friendship against your open sky. We are not followers neither of us, and I think that is one reason why we have always been a good pair, no matter our differences.
I took a punch to the chin and gave one back during our courtship. All that time, you always had a good distraction to help pull me through, whether it was a soccer game to play, a movie to see, a bit of hands-on labor or a crushing defeat at the rec basketball league. We both know I fouled out of every game I played.
I remember driving on my first open highway just after my 16th birthday, gripping the steering wheel. On your streets I learned the rules, which I tested on the hills of Los Angeles, and passed into a period of independence.
When I look at you I am enthralled and reminded of our lifelong chemistry. You have never been vain, but you have many things to boast about. You could take credit for the westward expansion of America at the turn of the 20th century, but you never ado. You could claim accolades for the array of creative artists and thinkers who have their roots on your ground: Leon Russell, Roy Clark, Garth Brooks, J.J. Cale, Woody Guthrie, Will Rogers, The Gap Band, Dwight Twilley... and Hanson. But you are too humble to bring attention to yourself. Many of your streets are lined with the iconic architecture of Wright, Goff and Pelli.
The Mother Road is one of your closest friends, but you don't name drop.
I love your humble nature -- you taught me a lot-- and I am still learning. As I have gone out into the world year after year to spread my music, which was birthed and cultivated with you at my side. I know that I still bring a bit of our deep connection with me. You are the patchwork of contradictions I hope I would be if I ever can claim a birthday beyond 100 years. A rabble-rouser and a gentleman, a cowboy and a businessman, an artist and a pragmatist.
I guess I have said a lot of things in this little note to you, my oldest friend and one of my first loves, but the simple message is this: I would not want to take a trip into any chapter of life without you in the story.
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