The Merle Haggard Resolution
Sometimes my work in the Nebraska Legislature isn’t dry, in fact, it’s often actually fun. I was sad to hear of Merle Haggard’s passing earlier this month on April 6th. He is one of country music’s all-time greats. I knew who he was when I was younger but it wasn’t until I was a DJ at a country radio station where I really picked up his music and understood his importance to country music. I was part of the air talent team at KIX 101.1 FM in Marshalltown, Iowa off and on for a few years starting in 1997 through 2002. I remember playing Haggard’s classics like “Mama Tried”, “Okie from Muskogee”, “Pancho and Lefty”(with Willie Nelson), and “The Fightin’ Side of Me”.
My friend Colin who works for Senator Garrett is also a big country music fan. When we heard the news of Merle’s passing he came down to our office and we visited talking about his songs. What I didn’t realize was Haggard’s legendary life story. Colin came up with the idea to write a legislative resolution commemorating Haggard’s contributions to American culture. Haggard had made a stop in Nebraska for a concert in the past year, so it wasn’t a stretch to include something specific to the state in the official resolution.
We sat down that afternoon to work on the resolution. We thought it would be good to mention details of Merle’s life, as well as incorporate some of this music into the resolution. Colin compiled all of the biographical information, and I strung together lyrics and titles to Haggard’s music into the resolution. The result was LR621 introduced by Senator Garrett and co-sponsored by my boss Senator Laura Ebke. This was a fun thing to do, and a good way to honor a giant in American music. I had a great time putting together the song titles into a whimsical ending to the resolution.
Introduced by Garrett, 3; Ebke, 32.
WHEREAS, the late Okie from Muskogee, Merle “The Pearl” Haggard, an
embodiment of the American dream, was born in a boxcar in Oildale, California, on April 6, 1937; and
WHEREAS, Merle’s mama, Flossie Mae Haggard, tried to raise him better.
Flossie worked as a bookkeeper during the Great Depression and encouraged Merle’s interest in the guitar while ensuring that he got some “Sunday Learning” after her husband, James Haggard, died of a brain hemorrhage when Merle was only nine; and
WHEREAS, despite all his Sunday learning, toward the bad Merle kept on
turning, until the night the bottle let Merle down and he ended up in a juvenile detention facility; and
WHEREAS, after leaving the juvenile detention facility, the lonesome
fugitive started his love affair with trains by running away and riding freight trains to Texas to live out the legend of Bonnie and Clyde; and
WHEREAS, the legend ended when Merle was picked up for attempted robbery and sent to jail; and
WHEREAS, yet again one night the bottle let Merle down, and after being
caught drunk in prison he was sent to spend a week in solitary confinement
where, like Hank Williams before him, he said, “I saw the light”; and
WHEREAS, Merle eventually made it through December, was released from
prison, and caught the rambling fever-the type that can’t be measured in
degrees-and started a successful career in the country music business; and
WHEREAS, in 1972, Governor Ronald Reagan expunged the Lonesome Fugitive Kentucky Gambler’s criminal record after Merle remembered the roots of his raising; and
WHEREAS, ever since his pardon, Merle has rode the freedom train, until
passing away on his 79th birthday; and
WHEREAS, If We Make It Through December, or the end of session, Someday We’ll Look Back on the Old Man from the Mountain and he won’t ever have to ask “I Wonder If They Ever Think of Me?”; and
WHEREAS, right now Things Aren’t Funny Anymore, but we’ll be Movin’ On and If We’re Not Back in Love by Monday, we can agree we all shared My Favorite Memory of Merle Haggard over Rainbow Stew, making us say It’s Been a Great Afternoon; and
WHEREAS, Leonard in the Red Bandana in the Big City is asking, “Are the
Good Times Really Over?”; and
WHEREAS, Just Between the Two of Us, we had A Friend in California who is now Out Among the Stars, up above Walking the Floor Over You, now himself a Twinkle, Twinkle Lucky Star enjoying Yesterday’s Wine and a Natural High, and reminding us from Graceland to the Promised Land that Someday When Things Are Good, We’ll Chase Each Other Around the Room, and When It Rains It Pours from above over the Amber Waves of Grain we’ll all meet again on the never-ending Freedom Train.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE MEMBERS OF THE ONE HUNDRED FOURTH LEGISLATURE OF NEBRASKA, SECOND SESSION:
1. That even though he was born in California and known as an Okie from
Muskogee, the State of Nebraska appreciates Merle Ronald Haggard’s
contributions to American culture and commends him for riding his freedom train to the Ralston Arena in February 2015.
Originally published at brandonjamesbenson.wordpress.com on April 17, 2016.