(Haggard just loves his time at the lake and swimming with the geese. We are headed there this week. But you have to spell it out…L-A-K-E, up until it’s time to load the truck and head West…or you are in real trouble. The boy knows what “Lake” is. And, he likes it.)

Editor’s Note:

I got the chance to see Merle Haggard sing and perform on three separate occasions. The last time was in San Antonio, TX. at the old, remodeled, historic and certainly Western-themed — Majestic Theatre.

It was 108 degrees if it was a single digit. It was hot, muggy, humid and sweaty. And, that was before you left the hotel room. It was miserable, and I’m a Southerner by birth and a hellion by trade.

A group of us hellions left a Legislative conference early and made our way to the Theatre. We wanted to catch the main act. Most of all, we wanted to get the hell out of the hellish heat.

To put it all in perspective, here’s a true story:

Earlier in the day, I was bored and had nothing to do. So, I made my way over to the Alamo. It was not really what I envisioned in my dreams or my youth. It was certainly not the “Majestic Theatres” of forts and nowhere close to the place I expected to see. It was far from the grave that I thought fitting for either Davey Crocket or Jim Bowie. Their historic and heroic last stands were monuments in my mind. The Alamo was not.

As I strolled out of the Alamo and headed back, I noticed a preacher man standing in the middle of the road. He was thumping his Bible and his chest. His rhetoric was scorching. Almost like the heat bombs dropping from the sky. Slowly, I made my way up to the well-intentioned theologian, and I made a small suggestion:

“Sir,” I said, while getting his attention. “If I were you, I may not dwell on hell, fire and damnation too much today. After all, I would bet you $100 that hell is 10 degrees cooler than it is right here, and it would feel like air conditioned compared to this place.”

The preacher man looked stunned. I blame heat stroke. For my approach and his reaction, both.

But I digress…

After our group purchased the last remaining tickets for the show, we meandered to our seats, and we slogged down a couple of Lone Stars. The wait for “The Man” was on.

And, it was worth it.

“Okie Frokm Muskogee.”

“Mama Tried.”

“The Fightin’ Side of Me.”

“Are the Good Times Really Over.”

“Silver Wings.”

And, then my favorite of the favorites…

“The Way I Am.”

The Lyrics:

“Wish I was down on some blue bayou…

“With a bamboo cane stuck in my hand…

“But the road I’m on, don’t seem to go there,

“So I just dream, keep on bein’ the way I am.

“Wish I enjoyed what makes my living,

“Did what I do with a willin’ hand.

“Some would run, ah, but that ain’t like me.

“So I just dream and keep on bein’ the way I am.”

Man, I sang that song as loud and proud as ole’ Merle himself that night.

With a lot of gusto, if not truly on any key.

In my mind, though, I sounded just like “The Man.”

I can still recall as if it was yesterday. Or was it last night?

Just a few years ago, when Leigh Ann and I decided to get our third Golden Retriever from our great breeders and friends up in Indiana, it didn’t take either of us long to decide on a fitting name.

In honor and tribute to the late, great Merle Haggard we named our pup “Haggard.”

And, to be honest, he has lived up to that name and more every single day since.

He can sing, especially when the fire truck or ambulance goes past the back door. At the top of his little lungs.

He can run with the best of them, just like his namesake — ole’ Merle — probably did back in his heydays.

He can drink a little beer, too. Haggard will slop down some suds from time to time.

And, our Haggard just can’t stay out of trouble some times, even though his Momma tried. And, still tries.

We are headed to the L-A-K-E later this week. (Don’t know if he can read or not, but the dog sure knows what it means when he hears it spoken.) While Kentucky still is in some lock-down mode, we will slip into the boat and head over to “The Breakers” in hopes of catching a tune or two from my good friend — John Austin McDaniels. Can’t wait to hear his original song “Haggard Songs.”

As soon as the wheels pull into our driveway, our Haggard will hit the ground running. In seconds, those cool waters of Kentucky Lake will be lapping his belly.

We laugh every time, as Haggard splashes down and looks back with a wistful eye.

And, it is then that I truly do realize that our Haggard is singing the same song: “The Way I Am.”

“Wish I was down on some blue bayou…”