A few evenings ago my husband was sorting through some old letters. One was from his grandmother, written in 1972, when he was just twenty years old. She was writing in response to his desire to have a career as a professional photographer. Grandma was trying to talk him out of it. She was worried that by thirty he would be a "Drifter".
In some ways her points were understandable from her point of view. Her husband died young and she had survived the Depression mostly on her own, raising three children. She valued hard work and independence. She equated photography to a show business career, a field where there isn't room enough for everyone to make a living. Her solution was to work hard, even if it was a job one hated, put money aside and buy a house one day. That was about all one could expect.
I found it surprising that she didn't offer a solution of education to find a career in a more lucrative field. I mostly found it surprising, and sad, that a twenty year old wouldn't be allowed to follow a dream, at least for a few years. In fact, my husband did become a professional photographer and has been successful at it all these years. He has worked hard.
Of course, all this talk of Drifters made me think about Hank Williams, about whom I wrote a picture book biography. The people in Hank's bands changed over the years but all of his bands, starting from when he was very young, were called The Drifting Cowboys. I find so much romance in that name.
Drifters and Hank made me also think of one of my favorite songs that he sings, "Lost Highway". "When I pass by, all the people say, just another guy on the lost highway". This is a sad song, a cautionary tale, about a man's life. I guess Grandma saw a lot of drifters in Oklahoma, where she was from, "rolling stones, all alone and lost".
But her grandson certainly wasn't one of them.