What does 21 years look like to you?
For us here at Country Line Magazine the last 20 years has gone by really fast. At home our kids have grown and almost all are out of the house, one more year. We have been through lots of pets, trucks, BBQ grills, mailboxes and lawn mowers. We have had neighbors come and some go, some have been here for over 20 years. We planted a cypress tree that is huge and lost a few nasty hackberry.
In the music world, George Strait was just getting his feet on the ground and has since retired after bazillions of #1 hits. We reported on Taylor Swift when she was 17 and had just completed her first ever little concert. Who knew what would happen there? I remember back when Miranda Lambert was just getting started. I didn’t like her music and thought she would be another flash in the pan; geez was I wrong. I do have to give myself a little bit of a break here though. Nashville was cranking out a long list of short-term one-hit-wonders or, well, short-hit-wonders anyway. Daryle Singletary, Heartland, Perfect Stranger and so many others. Great music but you have to ask, where are they now?
Then we had the next generation of Texas Music outlaws coming forward. Willie, Jerry Jeff Walker, Gary P. Nunn and that generation were/are iconic, but there were these young guys and gals who were packing the dancehalls and beer joints. The music was a country, rock, ballad sound that was solid. Kevin Fowler, Pat Green, Cory Morrow.
Kevin Fowler was one of our original delivery drivers. He had long thin hair and was really just finding his country roots. As he drove his old Toyota pickup around in those early years, he scribbled the words to his first country album, “Beer, Bait and Ammo.”
Kevin and I spent hours night fishing from his homemade crappie and striper boat on Lake Travis. He taught me to bow hunt and we tried elk hunting in the mountains. His albums, those songs, his music today, it’s all true to his heart.
Cory and Pat were packing them in everywhere they played. These guys ushered in a whole new generation and to this day the wave has yet to crest. Both the guys have lived a lot of life since. Married, kids, homes, hit albums. Recently Cory came and shared his testimony as a Christian believer at my men’s bible study. Yes, times they are a changin’.
We have watched the changing guard at the radio stations. Out with the old and in with the new. Some good and some maybe questionable. We watched as historic music venues disappeared and huge new venues came on, Cedar Park Center, Circuit of the Americas. Some have hung in there, the Erwin Center and Broken Spoke. Who would have ever imagined the area around the Spoke looking like it does today? Crazy.
Out-of-town family always asked if we had been to Austin City Limits and talked about how they loved it. Now ACL has moved and the astonishing music there is found in few places around the world. Lyle Lovett to Peter Frampton, Elton John to bands I don’t even know how to pronounce. It’s a beautiful place and the sound is as good as it gets. Pure Austin.
We spent a lot of time on horseback in the early years. We covered play-days, barrel racing and lots of bull riding. We, like so many local businesses, were very active in the Austin Rodeo. We would spend 10 days a year out there every night in a huge tent. We had paid staff and volunteers manning some really cool events. American Idol was brand new and we held Austin Idol. We did meet and greets at our tent with all the stars. We brought in a huge fish tank where kids could come and catch a fish, free. We even had chairs and popcorn with old western movies playing when things were slow so parents could find a place to rest as the kids scrambled about the carnival. Lots of hard work, lots of money from us, but a wonderful outreach. Then one year, they didn’t want us back.
We have been diligent to keep a very important part of our cowboy heritage in place. First it was ole cowboy preacher Bill Pearson staying true to the Word of God each month, I loved that guy. Now it’s Jeff Gore. Jeff is a solid cowboy preacher and his heart for Jesus comes straight from the saddle.
The outdoor section has always been a personal favorite. Our kids grew up in the pictures and pages here. Our oldest went from a kid with a stringer full of perch to a professional angler fishing the BASS tournament trail. All this happened in the magazine over the last 20 years. Their first deer stories, camping trips, mountain biking and more were journal entries I left here.
You, our readers, followed us as we developed our outdoor ministry. In 1997 we officially began taking boys without dads on hunting and fishing trips in the ministry we so lovingly refer to as KOZ, Kids Outdoor Zone. Since that day we have had hundreds go with us. We are now training men around the country to use the ministry tools we developed to do the same. Men across the country finding a bigger meaning, boys finding a mentor, life with Jesus and the outdoors; it is a powerful thing.
Twenty years ago God put Randy Hill in our lives. Randy became, (and still is) a good friend. Randy was publishing Austin Blues Monthly. One night as we sat around we had this wild idea to start a magazine that reflected our family lifestyle: country. We had never done anything like it before and had little knowledge of publishing, journalism or production, but Randy did. We leapt in both feet and never looked back. There were times we struggled to get an issue on the street. There were times we lost money and we never really made a lot. But we never missed a deadline, always paid our bills and did what I think was a pretty dang good job.
Jackson Brown, Jr. is an American author best-known for his book Life’s Little Instruction Book, a New York Times bestseller. He has a quote, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Twenty years ago we threw off the bow lines and started Country Line Magazine. We have done things we could have never imagined. We have spent time with the biggest names in country music, taken our kids on fantastic adventures as we logged them in the magazine. God has blessed us beyond our wildest dreams. But today, 20 years to the date, He is stirring us again. We are on a mission to rescue the hearts of lost boys. Fatherless, wounded, hurt boys who need someone to listen, care for them. A boy needs to know he has what it takes and it our ministry is making an impact across the country. We feel the trade winds pushing us toward a new place. God has been training us for this latest adventure and it is exciting.
James 4:14, Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Make the most of every minute. Live a life of legacy. Do something important. Love people, love your family. Most importantly, know Jesus in your heart. There will be no bigger joy, no better map, no higher calling on your life.
Romans 10:9, because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Follow TJ’s Blog with a new posting each week at www.kidsoutdoorzone.com.