We ended this tour with some shenanigans around a 350-year-old champion bur oak outside Columbia, Missouri. I’ve torn through three countries and nine of the United States in the past month and a half.
A lot happened while I was gone. South Carolina removed the rebel flag from the Capitol grounds. A bunch of my friends got married. I got to keep the only regular doctor I’ve had since I was in the Navy over twenty years ago. Fifty-four Americans died and over two hundred were wounded in mass shootings. By contrast, we lost two Americans in the military- one had a heart attack and the other fell off a hotel balcony while on liberty.
With all that in the past month and a half, it’s hard to imagine what this tree has lived through. When it was born, the Missouri bottomland was full of trees like it and white people were unknown. There are bullet holes and streaks of spray paint on its massive trunk. An asphalt road runs across a third of its roots. Three years ago, it survived an intense drought when the farmer who owns the land poured three thousand gallons of precious water on its roots.
We’re pretty tough too and indebted to all the people who took care of us on the road, including the presenter who took us out to see what most people in the area refer to as The Big Tree. Later that night, people told me that they went out there to sit and find peace in hard times. They proposed under the tree. They sprinkled a loved one’s ashes there. The tree cared for them.
We’re still growing. Thanks for caring for us. We’re going to rest for a few days and then go into the studio to make our first Jonathan Byrd and The Pickup Cowboys record. It’s a very American record, with an honest look at a dark past, the good and bad of our colorful present, and dreams for the future. We hope we can give you back all that love or, in the words of Annie Gallup:
“Make them believe, if not in magic,
in money well spent”