There’s nothing quite like the experience of watching a rodeo, mustangs circling the arena, the cowboys roping and riding, the patriotic mood in the air, the clowns losing their britches…. If you’ve never been to one, just one, well you need to go sometime! Of course it was the music that drew me to the arena. Driving out from the horse pens came a brand new Toyota pick-up truck, on in the bed of it were 3 people, ready to sing their hearts out.
The prize? The title of Rodeo Star and a cool one thousand dollars!! The announcer’s voice echoed from the PA. “The first contestant tonight, coming all the way from Rockdale, Texas is Ms. Hannah Prestridge. Hannah is a Junior at Rockdale High School where she was just named Major of the Golden Girls Drill Team. She’s been singing since she was little but she started writing songs at the age of 10 to help her deal with the hardships in her life. One of her favorite songs she has written was called Poppa’s Song, and she wrote it after her grandfather broke his neck in a car accident. Two years ago her parents took in 4 toddlers, making her the oldest of 7 children. When Hannah isn’t busy with school or Golden Girls, she is always helping her family by doing extra chores at home or helping deliver her brothers to baseball practice. After she graduates next spring, she plans to pursue her music career and take it as far as God will let her go! ”
That’s precisely what took me to to the Killeen Rodeo Saturday night! I watched as Blondie stepped to the tailgate, microphone in hand, and waited for the music to start. “Last night, I got served, a little bit too much, of that poison baby!” Carrie Underwood herself would have been impressed.
It’s not exactly the first time singing a Carrie song has brought her luck. When she was in Junior High a radio station sponsored a “Carrie-okie” contest. Participants had to upload a YouTube video singing one of her songs, and the prize was to spend the day meeting Carrie Underwood, having dinner, and attending her concert. Blondie belted out “Don’t Forget to Remember Me” and as the lyrics told the story of a young girl leaving home, I choked up at the thought of my Blondie growing up. That year Blondie and I spent our Halloween with Carrie Underwood, and as we watched her concert, I knew there would come a day when Blondie would own the stage with that same level of presence. It’s in her, it’s in her blood.
When she was younger, she was really struggling with some tough things in life, and I saw her heading for that path of pre-teen destruction. I didn’t want her cutting herself, or starving herself, or worse, I was scared of her looking in the mirror and not seeing the beautiful, talented, out-going, funny, amazing girl I see every time I look at her! I knew she needed a creative outlet to deal with her frustrations. Writing was mine, and it seemed only natural that with her beautiful voice, that she could take it to the next level. I showed her my books of poetry, let her see the way I had always poured my feelings onto paper, and off she went.
She started writing songs right and left. One day I saw an advertisement for “Rockdale’s Got Talent”, a spin-off held by our local chamber of commerce to produce the entertainment for their annual fundraiser-dinner. I knew it would be the perfect chance for her to test out her new passion, and I knew sharing her talents would bring her blessings. When she stepped on the stage, for the very first time, she was 11 years old. She was the youngest one in the competition. All of her grandparents were there. Thirty-year-old feuds were forgotten so that every one could see the queen of the karaoke machine become something more. The music started, she sang Martina McBride’s song “God’s Will” and as the words flowed from her soul, an artist was born. She took 2nd place that night. (2nd to a seasoned singer, who had already seen the American Idol stage!) Her Daddy beamed!
From there, my dad bought her a guitar, and she started fidgeting with it. Her Papa taught her a few chords, and off she went. She’s had some help here and there. A few pointers on guitar, a few writing edits, but for the most part, she’s taught herself as she went along. It’s been the most amazing thing to witness her journey. I’ve seen her grow from the Britney Spears karaoke on her Barbie Machine to a girl who can play her own show, a girl who is starting to be noticed in that world.
“Oh my mama would be so ashamed” she belted out from the bed of that truck, but I couldn’t have been more proud! I mean, here’s a kid that at sixteen years old put out her first cd, and almost immediately was ready to do it bigger and better. “It started out hey cutie, where are ya from, and it turned into oh no what have I done?” I know what she’s done, she’s won this crowd! I could tell. She owned that make shift stage in the back of that truck.
The other two singers did their best to shine, and their talents were wonderful to see, but this was Blondie’s night. She wasn’t going home with second place this year. She had that total determination in her heart, and it showed! The clowns gathered in the center of the arena. I studied their circle. I could see some of them holding up a 1 with their fingers. I saw the signal to the announcer, and then the words echoed: “This year’s Rodeo Star is Ms. Hannah Prestridge!”
She smiled, the biggest smile! The crowd went wild! Grandparents cheered! Proud parents beamed. Siblings clapped, friends screamed and for some reason she stayed near the truck, talking with officials, and disappeared into the press box. The cowboy show got started, and then she surprised us all by singing, A Capella I might add, The National Anthem, and it was BEAUTIFUL! From here the road to travel only widens. So this week’s music memory is more of a beginning, a story to be continued…
Blondie’s ready to take the world by storm, and the icing on this cake? She’s got enough gas money to get this journey started!
********This is where I wanted to share my video of the day, but in true Murphy’s law fashion, my memory card malfunctioned. Grandma’s video is shaky. So I am looking to track down the person who was standing directly in front of the truck with an iPhone. I’ll let you know how that endeavor pans out!*********