Today we Roadies woke up in Monroe, Louisiana. Our plan for the day was to head to Tim's hometown in Start, Louisiana. As I checked out of our hotel I asked the girl behind the desk if she knew of anywhere we needed to go in Start. To my surprise, she not only had some ideas but her mother worked with a woman who was Tim's friend growing up. A few phone calls later, we headed off to meet this unexpected contact.
Carmen Gonzales was kind enough to take time out of her day on short notice to sit down with the Roadies. She's known Tim for twenty-five years and was happy to answer any questions we had. They attended the same church and youth group and both sang in the choir. Once he borrowed her car and was supposed to meet her at the church. When he didn't show up Carmen went looking for him and found him at the local drive in eatery talking with friends. Tim tried giving her puppy dog eyes and she wasn't one to fall for that old trick.
Tim has given back to the community that raised him in ways that most artists don't do. He isn't running away from his roots but embracing them and making Start a better place for the future generations. Four scholarships are awarded every year at the local high school and there are playgrounds filled with equipment that Tim and his wife bought.
After Sheila and I left Carmen, we visited Tim McGraw Sports Complex and thanks to Carmen's hints, I looked for the fields named for Tim's daughters. It was a personal touch I wouldn't have noticed if I visited the facilities before seeing her. The grounds were beautiful and the local children are very lucky to have such a great place to play sports.
Tim McGraw's childhood home is on a street that is now named for him. When we pulled in it was hard to figure out which house was the correct one. A boy on a bike came by and pointed me in the right direction. When he heard why we were there, he went and got his grandmother. Barbara McCormick lived across the street when Tim was a boy and he played with her children growing up. Her daughter now lives in his boyhood home.
Barbara showed us the lake behind Tim's old home and the island where she says the kids spent most of their time. As teenagers they once snaked an extension cord over the lake by running it between trees so they could have television and radio out there. There was another story she told of Tim taking the steaks from his mother's fridge and bringing them to the island to roast. It sounded like a perfect refuge for a bunch of kids, a secret hideout only accessible by boat.
We packed up our things and took a last look at the water towers of Start. Everyone we met in the area is proud of Tim McGraw and happy to show us around his hometown.
There was no sign of Merle the bulldog in Start, Louisiana.