R.W. HamptonR.W. HamptonR.W. HamptonR.W. Hampton

Posts Tagged ‘dollar value’

Heart Value

Posted on: May 25th, 2010 by R.W. Hampton 4 Comments

There are things and then there are things. You know, you may own a rare one-of-a-kind something or other, but it doesn’t come close to meaning as much as, say, that first love letter from your kids’ mama so long ago. I guess you could say these things may have no dollar value, but they are priceless when it comes to heart value.

I should know. I keep an old box full of ticket stubs, photos, hospital bracelets, rodeo posters, old passports, baby blankets, Valentine’s Day cards, and a letter from Iraq. You get the idea: all junk to anyone else, but not to me. They are my tangible links to the past.

So while we’re taking this tour of the heart treasures, let me direct your attention over here to this corner of the room. Yes, I know, you’d have missed it if I hadn’t pointed it out. It don’t look like much, but if this house caught on fire, it would be one of the first things I’d grab to save from the flames.

I grew up playing in this old rocker. It always sat in the corner, and when I’d climb into it and get a little wild with my rocking, someone invariably would say something like, “Pull that confounded thing out away from the wall, it ain’t no carnival ride.” 

My guess is that my Dad and Grandpa got the same scolding.

The first owner of this chair was my great grandfather, Calvin Wade Hampton. He was born in the 1870s, and although I’ve got a picture of me and ol’ Calvin from when I was a baby, I never knew him. It may sound funny, but although I never really knew him, I’ve always sorta missed him, so this old rocking chair is my tangible link to him.

Calvin, or C.W., was a horse and mule trader and we both share Wade as our middle name. Family legend says he was a good part Cherokee and he looked it. It’s also told that he and an older son drove some decommissioned cavalry ponies to Alberta to sell to the Mounties up there! Did he plan this adventure while sitting in this chair?

This piece of furniture is stained dark brown – almost black – but the arm rests are worn to a light natural color. The ends of the arm rests are polished smooth and bare from the fists that have clutched them over the years. Come to think of it, I do that, too, when I’m stewing over something. Is this an inherited trait?

When I take a seat in this rocking chair, I take comfort in knowing I’m sitting in a place where three generations of Hampton men before me have sat, read newspapers, and thought. It’s one of my favorite places to take my first swig of morning coffee. Right now, I’m writing this by pencil on a yellow legal pad and sitting – you guessed it! – in my old rocking chair.  As soon as I’m done, I know my 3 year old son, Ethan, will want to climb up here and rock. When he does, I will say, without even thinking, “Son, pull that confounded thing out from the wall, it ain’t no carnival ride.”

Ah, some things never change. Maybe someday, in the dim and distant tomorrow, future generations of Hamptons will use this old rocking chair as their “tangible link to the past,” and it will remain as something of great heart value.

What are your things of great heart value?

Of Men, Music, and the Land

Posted on: May 17th, 2010 by R.W. Hampton 1 Comment

I went to town the other day to get a haircut before I flew to Florida for the weekend.

As usual, our little barber shop was busy, so I got in line behind about a dozen or so other men who were waiting for Ruben to work his magic.

Now in order to paint a clear picture of my world, let me say that when you are the best barber in a huge county of about ten thousand people, you are always busy.

As I hung my hat and coat, I exchanged howdys with everyone and took a seat to wait my turn in Ruben’s chair.

I shuffled through the stack of girlie and hunting magazines.

Not seeing anything interesting, I decided to settle in and listen to the talk. Some in Spanish, some in English, and some in what we refer to as Spanglish.

After listening for what seemed like forever, I came to the realization that I never before had considered how little I had in common with these men.

Different cultures, races, languages, tax brackets, and religions.  The only thing I could see we had in common was that we were all men in need of a haircut.

Now Old Ruben is a music lover from way back. As a result, he’s always had an old guitar that he keeps on top of the pop machine in the corner. Many’s the time that Ruben has asked, “Hey RdubbleU, how about a song while you wait?”

One time I went in with my boys, and by the time we all got a haircut, I discovered I was a little shy of what I owed him. Ruben doesn’t take credit or debit cards, but he will take a song.  So, at two bucks short and a song being worth a nickel, I am, and have been, indebted to my barber for quite some time.

On this particular day, I went and grabbed that old guitar upon request and started to play and sing. Ruben loves Marty Robbins songs, so I played “I Walk Alone.” One of the other fellas asked if I knew “Cowboy in the Continental Suit.” I played that and some others and then handed the guitar to an old man who played “El Rancho Grande” and “De Colores.”

An old cowman from the Canadian River Canyon up around Roy, New Mexico, got to his feet and did a little jig to that ancient old tune while the other men laughed and clapped. Someone remarked that he was in his nineties!  The old cowman replied that he was destined for Dancing with the Stars.  And so it went, for the better part of an hour, until it came my time for a haircut.

I looked across this tiny shop and noticed that the faces that once had been courteous, but indifferent, had warmed. We all had a good laugh when one of the wives came in to tell her husband it was time to go home.  She said she had dragged him out of the saloon many times, but never the barber shop!

When Ruben was done, I left a ten on the counter, grabbed my hat and coat, and said adios.

Heading back to the ranch, I hummed “El Rancho Grande” as I drove and had to laugh at how wrong I had been.  We share so much in common, these men and I.  Our bond is a love for music.

But much more than that, it is a love for music about the land, this land, our land!