When Summer Motion officials announced Sawyer Brown as the act for the Fourth of July, I had to grin.
Not necessarily because I’m that big a fan of Sawyer Brown, although I like their music. It wasn’t that long ago that Sawyer Brown was considered the “it” band of country music.
The year was 1992 and Sawyer Brown was rocking the country charts at the time — and that’s where my story begins.
My family was part of a large church group that went to Gatlinburg for a family retreat. We stayed in some rustic cabins (well, at least some of us did) and had a big time. It was fun fellowshipping with each other especially since my wife and I won a coin toss with Greg and Cindy Jackson over the bedroom whose bed didn’t aim downhill. The Jacksons and Maynard families were bunk-mates for the week and that’s a far different and even more hilarious story!
But I digress.
We did most things as a group, including a visit to the “Dixie Stampede” in Pigeon Forge. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it. What happens at the “Stampede” is loads of fun and it doesn’t have to stay at the “Stampede.” There’s a rodeo going on in the middle of an arena that’s essentially lined with picnic tables.
You are either North or South depending on where you sit. They serve only food that you can eat with your hands — bread, corn on the cob, and chicken were part of the menu if I remember correctly.
Throughout the night there is rodeo competition going on inside the arena for your entertainment. Sometimes the South would win and sometimes the North would win. They actually had a scoreboard.
After a night of cutting up with our waiter, he pulled me aside and asked if I’d like to throw horseshoes for the South.
My response: “I’m a ringer! Count me in!”
He took me down to the arena area where my counterpart, a gentleman from Indianapolis, and I waited at the gate to go inside. We were instructed to walk out like gunslingers — bowlegged with pistols on our hips. Being the cutups we were (obviously the waiters scout these people out), we were both up to the task. We entered the arena to thunderous (OK that may be a stretch) applause. It really was pretty cool.
We got to the middle of the arena and the announcer asked us our names and where we were from, all those kind of things. Then he said the “Dixie Stampede” doesn’t use ordinary horseshoes, and handed us a couple of toilet lid seats.
He pointed out the stake and it was game on between me and Mr. Indy. He threw first and, as horseshoes sometimes do, it caught on the side and rolled probably 20 feet from the stake. At that point, I knew I was winning. I lobbed my “horseshoe” and it nudged against the stake (OK, maybe it didn’t, but it sure beat Mr. Indy by several feet). I was the winner and the South crowd let me know it!
The arena erupted (OK, our church group erupted) and the announcer grabbed me again. He told me not only had I won for the
South but I’d also won two tickets to the sold-out Sawyer Brown concert the next night in Dollywood.
Honestly and shamefully, I didn’t know that much about them. I didn’t even know Sawyer Brown wasn’t a person. But I reacted with glee anyway and so did our large and noisy church group.
On the way back to our cabin, I told my wife that it’s a shame to win those tickets because we wouldn’t be able to use them. We had activities planned with our church group. I put them in my wallet and tried to remember the cheers.
We went into downtown Gatlinburg the next day and were in a bookstore on the corner. I overheard a couple of young girls talking about how much they would love to see Sawyer Brown but how the concert was sold out.
I went over to them and asked them if they had tickets to the concert, would they go?
They answered affirmatively but their tones quickly changed. “But you can’t get tickets. It’s sold out.”
“That’s true,” I said. “But I happen to have two that I’m going to give you.”
After some squeals of delight, they repeatedly asked me if they were real and, after finally believing me, left that bookstore clutching those tickets like they were winning lottery tickets.
I’m sure that even 20 years later they love telling that story, too.
So I’m looking forward to a week from tonight when my wife and I will finally get to see Sawyer Brown in concert — and we don’t have to drive to Dollywood to do it.
But if that guy from Indianapolis ever wants a “horseshoe” rematch, I’m all in.
MARK MAYNARD can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2648.