IT'S A BIG WORLD

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“When this body fails me, spread my ashes across the interstates of America. That’s the only place I’ve ever felt at home.”

Photo: James Dean

www.greatplainsjames.com

Over the last few years I’ve spent countless hours traveling around the midwest. I am blessed to be able to do what I do for a living. Hours under the Nebraska night sky and days along the Mississippi River keep teaching me one thing: I’m small. I love feeling insignificant. It’s seems easier to drink in surroundings when you barely feel like you exist.

Growing up, my dad was a school teacher. Summertime generally meant a lot of farm work. Fence building, plowing the garden, rounding up cattle, repairing out buildings, and bailing hay. Throughout the school year, dad took on extra responsibilities at school so that we could take a family vacation. He stayed late and went in early ten months of the year so we could travel for one week. I’m forever grateful for his sacrifices to enable my early adventures around the United States. At age five I saw the Black Hills for the first time. Then we took a trip to Kentucky. I stood on the sacred ground at Gettysburg before I was in high school and at ten I stood inside a Redwood tree. The events and locations we visited were so big in my mind. So important. Incredibly breathe taking. That hasn’t ever gone away. Hell, I’m still fascinated with rest areas on the interstate, each one their own little oasis with a unique personality.

I don’t see my career path changing anytime soon. I plan to keep driving and feeling as small as possible.

Thanks, Dad.

-Nobody

MOUNTAIN MACHINE...

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“The trees fell to their knees, and offered the world to me.”

Throughout my youth, we had half a dozen or so farm dogs. They helped herd cattle and kept me company on the hundreds of acres I roamed everyday. The terrain was harsh, jagged rocks, deep ravines, steep bluffs, rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouths, brown recluses, black widows, black bears, and the most formidable: mountain lions.

To hear a mountain lions’ call in the wild is unnerving at best. It’s a wild, maniacal scream that makes the hair on your neck stand up. While cutting wood for our stoves one fall afternoon, Dad saw what he describes to this day as “a scene from a Disney movie.” As the sun began setting behind the hill a mountain lion appeared. Queen, our blue healer, circled around the cat. Dad watched as Queen lead the the wild animal along the top of the ridge, both animals moving at full throttle. Dad came back to the house and somberly explained why my dog would not be coming home.

Three days later Queen showed up without a scratch. To this day we don’t know how she evaded that cat, but she was home again.

I often think of the land I grew up on. I often say that my best friend growing up was hundreds of acres, trees, hills, ponds, and creeks. I am a social being, always have been, but the joy of that solitude and peace is indescribable and I miss it. I wonder what parts of me come directly from my time on that plot of dirt, or who I would be without it.

-Mountain Machine

The trees fell to their knees, and offered the world to me.”

ELMER'S GLUE AND IRONING BOARDS

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“I lived with the Rats and I sang with the Saints…”

Photo by Aaron Kafton @Clovenlife

Circa 2009

Circa 2009

The downstairs bathroom of the Rat House didn’t have a door, or functioning shower. The only real use it got was mohawk day.

Step One: Setup ironing board.

Step two: Straighten very curly hair with cloths iron.

Step three: Apply Elmer’s Glue.

Step four: Make mohawk as tall, fanned, and crazy as possible.

Step five: Sleep like hell for three nights ‘cause you don’t want to jack up your hair.

Our little community of friends piled into our nearly condemned rental (at one point it was condemned!) and sang along to Rancid and Against Me albums. We dreamt of tours while trying to make Ramen noodles as interesting as possible. We spent hours routing shows and sending emails trying to book our southern tour with local friends in a reggae/punk band.

Our band was called the Rats and we were determined to take our music to any group of two or more who might listen. Most of us were underage trying to play it cool at the bars we played. Turns out, the harder you try, the less “cool” you’re playing it. My goal was to drink my Killian’s and draw as little attention to myself as possible.

We stayed over night in Memphis on the first day. Folks have grand ideas about what touring musicians lives look like. For me, tour day one was convincing the security guard at the Heartbreak Hotel to let us park our bright yellow van in his lot, so we could get a peaceful night rest. The other band had connections that allowed them to actually sleep in the hotel, which meant one thing for us: pool time.

I swam awkward laps in the Heartbreak Hotel pool. However, the best part of the evening was teaching their bandmate about chess, strategy, and how life is one big chess board. He and I still talk about that every couple of years on our regular phone calls. I’m grateful for the friends I have made over the last twelve years of doing music. Ya’ll are the finest friends a fella could ask for. Thanks.

-Jake Rat


I STOLE HIS NAME

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“My teeth are rusty railroad spikes…”

I spent the first years of my life in and out of foster homes and hospitals to then be adopted into the Turner family. Grandma raised six children of her own, and when I came along she treated me like a seventh. Grandpa rarely smiled or laughed, but when he did, he meant it. Grandma went to church and Grandpa chewed plug tobacco. In many ways their personalities made little sense together, but in the most beautiful way. Grandma doted on me and Grandpa was stern, but so unbelievably proud that my father named me after him.

As a young man Grandpa Jake was a sweet potato farmer in Portales, New Mexico, with his family heritage based in Georgia. At age sixteen, Grandma ran away from Missouri with her sister. I’m not sure of the reasoning but they ended up in New Mexico. Grandma was a waitress at a diner, and in all of New Mexico it was the diner Grandpa daily ate lunch at. After their wedding and a few more years growing sweet spuds, they moved back to Grandmas roots in Missouri just a few miles north of the Arkansas line.

Grandma and Grandpa were uprooted when the White River became Table Rock Lake. They sold what little of the farm remained above water and moved into Barry County. There they raised a family, grew a garden, and tended cattle. Grandpa was a serious man who worked hard, rarely took time off, looked out for those who couldn’t look out for themselves, and was proud of his work.

Often I get told I don’t smile much, which is probably true. I hope a perpetual scowl isn’t the only way I am like Hubert Memory “Jake” Turner.

- Little Jake