The man with grayish white hair and sagging faded blue jeans struggled to stay standing as he waited in line at Whole Hog Cafe in Bentonville, Arkansas. He steadied himself on a booth and talked to a woman with long black hair with streaks of gray tied in a ponytail.
The man then struggled to walk up to place his order. The woman held onto him to ensure he didn’t fall.
As I witnessed this scene, I felt sorry for him. I thought in 20 years that I may be in the same situation with Nan helping to steady me as I waited in line at a restaurant.
We were in Arkansas to attend the Garth Brooks concert at Razorback Stadium on the University of Arkansas campus. I had made a promise on our 30th anniversary in 2016 and then our 35th anniversary in 2021 that I would take her to see one of her favorite performers. Then the next day we would go to Eureka Springs where we spent our honeymoon. Circumstances, especially the pandemic, had prevented me from fulling that promise.
But here we were in Bentonville because all hotels had been booked in Fayetteville, 21 miles away. Nan was in a hurry to get to the concert because she knew traffic would be difficult near the stadium, so she appeased me by going to a barbecue restaurant near the Element Bentonville.
This would be my first time seeing the Oklahoma native and country music icon in concert. I admittedly am not a huge fan of his music, even though I love how he’s the ultimate entertainer who doesn’t hide from his Oklahoma roots.
I was going to a concert where the 80,000 people attending all loved Brooks, with many wearing cowboy hats and boots, and many consuming alcoholic beverages before and during the concert. One woman showed me her flask and three mini-bottles. Others waved their beer bottles and cans freely in the air as Brooks performed. After waiting in never-ending traffic and a never-ending line, we finally made it to our bleacher seats with a view of the monster stage built for Brooks and his band, some of whom have been with him for more than 30 years.
We sat between two couples, one which appeared to be in their 20s. He was dressed in starched blue jeans that fit perfectly, a pressed shirt, snakeskin boots and a white cowboy hat like Brooks wore on stage. She had black hair and was dressed in a white eyelet dress that would have been fit for church the next day if it weren’t for the plunging neckline.
I told him I thought they were the best-dressed couple there. They also may have been the politest, offering their extra seats to a couple who couldn’t find their seats in another section.
Throughout the concert, they hugged and sang along with Brooks. At one point she started giggling. I thought back to the restaurant when I saw the older couple in a nearby booth. They were looking into each other’s eyes, paying attention to no one else, she giggling at something he said.
At that point, I no longer felt sorry for the older man. Many might envy him. Then as the crowd shouted “sooey, sooey” another time, I thought about the younger couple next to me and hoped the love they shared that evening at a Garth Brooks concert would continue for many years ahead when his jeans begin to sag, and her hair has streaks of gray.
This is the first of a two-part column. Next week, Oklahoma Joe will focus on a fluke visit to a museum that everyone in Oklahoma should cross the border to visit. As Joe Hight writes, “This museum was my Garth Brooks concert.”
Joe Hight is director and member of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, an editor who led a Pulitzer Prize-winning project, the journalism ethics chair at the University of Central Oklahoma, president/owner of Best of Books, author of “Unnecessary Sorrow” and lead writer/editor of “Our Greatest Journalists.”