I’ll never forget the first time I heard Joe Diffie sing.
It was close to midnight on a hot summer Sunday night as I was driving down a lonely stretch of I-20 between Columbia, South Carolina and Augusta, Georgia.
I was stationed at Augusta’s Fort Gordon Army base at the time and I was on my way back to Augusta after spending the weekend “back home” in Virginia.
I was feeling a little down that night because I’d just enjoyed a wonderful weekend with family and friends, some of whom I only got to see on rare occasions.
But then reality set in when I realized I had to leave so I could be back at work at Fort Gordon at 5:30 the next morning.
And now, here I was, almost back to Fort Gordon with the memories of “home” still fresh in my mind.
I was driving down the highway, lost in thought when I heard Mr. Diffie’s amazing voice come on the radio and start singing a truly amazing song.
But before we get to the specifics of that song, here’s just a little more background info that will help explain why it’s so special to me…
As a teenager I couldn’t wait to get away from the hills and hollers of southwestern Virginia and see the rest of the world.
Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the memories of home and family that I was “banking” during those formative years would stay with me for the rest of my life.
I’ve come to realize over time that of all the places I’ve been in this world – and there are many – the only place that will ever truly be “home” is right here in southwestern Virginia.
Which brings me back to Mr. Diffie and that wonderful song…
The song that came on the radio that night was simply titled “Home”, and the lyrics hit me like a brick.
If I had written a song about my own life, that would have been the one. Virtually every line was a perfect description of my early life up in the holler in rural Widener Valley.
The lines “the feeling of the muddy road between my toes” , “hearing my mom sing Amazing Grace as she was hanging out the clothes” and “seeing my dad sitting there in his easy chair with the smell of Sunday supper on the stove” could have been pulled straight from my most cherished childhood memories.
But the lines that really hit home were completely spot on…
“Now the miles I put behind me ain’t as hard as the miles that lay ahead.
And its much too late to listen to the words of wisdom that my daddy said.
The straight and narrow path he showed me turned into a thousand winding roads.
My footsteps carry me away, but in my mind I’m always going home.“
Regardless of where I might have been living at the time, “Home” has always been that little clapboard house “up in the holler” in Widener Valley, Virginia. And in my heart I know it always will be.
That little house was the most humble of abodes, but the love contained within its walls and the surrounding community could have filled a thousand mansions.
Sadly, Joe Diffie passed away back on March 29 due to complications from contracting Covid-19. His music will live on, but he will be greatly missed.
I’ll always be grateful that he sang that song, the one that always brings back my most cherished memories of “Home”.
Mr. Diffie would go on to record quite a few monster hits throughout his long career, but just like in my memories, there will always be just one true “Home”.
If you’ve never heard this song you can listen to it right here: