“So, Brenn,” I asked, “What’s it like in Utah these days?”
“You know, everything that really matters is just fine,” he replied. “Everything else is upside down.”
Bruce and I first met Brenn Hill in the 1990’s, at a music festival in Elko Nevada. The eighteen- year old was writing and performing cowboy songs, and the one I best recall was about his grandfather. It was plain that this young man would go far in his musical career, and just as plain that success wouldn’t rob him of his gentleness and humility. We’re acquainted with Brenn’s parents, and impressed by the way he always honors them from the stage. We’ve attended his performances whenever possible, kept up with his college years, rejoiced when he met and married the girl of his dreams, and worried and prayed while one of their sons battled cancer.
Of course, the pandemic has shut out most in person entertainment, so Brenn and others who make a living that way have had to work at whatever turned up.
In mid-July, my granddaughter’s husband was injured in a horse wreck and, like so many young families who choose ranch life, they can’t afford to buy health insurance, so some of their church members organized a fund raiser for medical expenses. Brenn heard about it and offered to do a free concert for the event, which was held in Cody Wyoming. Brenn lives in Ogden Utah, so it was hardly a hop and skip to travel. Andy Nelson, a cowboy poet from Pinedale, Wyoming, often works with Brenn and when Andy heard Brenn was headed for Cody, he jumped in and came along.
Amid all the hullaballoo about not having football games, curtailing airline travel, mandates for masks, and whatever else is upside down right now, surely most of us can say that what really matters is just fine. If your family is together, you have a roof over your head, someone who loves you, a chance to do good, music to listen to, a sunset to watch, a hand to hold, the rest is just stuff. Yes, your job may have been cut. You may not get to take a vacation or visit your parent in a nursing home, and perhaps the event you planned for had to be cancelled. But the upside down side of our current situation has opportunities to offer. A chance to help out at the local food pantry, pay it forward, organize help for someone who is really down and out, or tackle a project with your kids. The antidote for discontent and worry is gratitude and helping others.
Brenn and Andy are accomplished entertainers, alternating comedy with thought provoking material. Andy is a farrier and, at the concert I was sitting across from Ross Keltner, who also does that work. As Andy spoke about his appreciation for the men who mentored him, Ross nodded slightly and his eyes shone with tears, acknowledging that those kinds of people are what really matters.
Brenn sang about his own family’s mantra of persistence and prayer, and I know enough about his people to know he sang truth. Everyone in that audience is familiar with tough times, but we nodded our heads when Andy said, “We will get through this because we have each other and we have God.”
Everything that really matters is just fine.