Rambling Jack: Like a Rhinestone Cowboy

When I was a kid, I’d take my multicolored wooden blocks onto the white tile floor in our dining room and stack them as high as I could, while my parents sat nearby on a green couch reading books while listening to records on the phonograph and occasionally glancing up to watch me. Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy” was often playing. It must have been a favorite of my parents’ at the time because, as I recall, it was always on.

I’ve been walkin’ these streets so long / Singin’ the same old song / I know every crack in these dirty sidewalks of Broadway / Where hustle’s the name of the game / And nice guys get washed away like the snow and the rain ...

And my stack of blocks would get higher and higher and higher, until it gently swayed and disaster loomed. My dad would give me an encouraging word. Keep on stackin’! So I did. I placed a blue block atop a red block atop a green block, and kept on going.

Like a rhinestone cowboy / Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo / Like a rhinestone cowboy / Getting cards and letters from people I don’t even know /And offers comin’ over the phone.

And, inevitably, the blocks would come crashing down on the tile floor, the din temporarily drowning out Campbell’s crooning on the low-fi sound system. I loved the toppling as much as the building because there was a lot of noise and chaos.

Well, I really don’t mind the rain / And a smile can hide all the pain / But you’re down when you’re ridin’ the train / That’s takin’ the long way

I would gather up the blocks and start over, building another teetering tower, hoping the next one would be even taller than the last. Sometimes I stacked the rectangular blocks horizontally, or vertically, or alternated each layer as the high rise progressed. I was mesmerized, and as it reached a certain height, my parents put their books down and watched.

Like a rhinestone cowboy / Riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo / Like a rhinestone cowboy / Gettin’ card and letters from people I don’t even know....

The tower would come crashing down again, then I was done. What was fun was now boring. I would put my blocks away in the toy box in my bedroom. And by then, my dad had changed the record.

Glen Campbell died Aug. 8.


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