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Standing In A Hallowed Circle

Last week, a crew of us went up to Nashville to watch a Panhandle boy make his Grand Ole Opry debut. He had his Brewton, Alabama bride by his side, and let me tell you what…it was something to behold. 


I have a childhood full of memories of watching the Grand Ole Opry while sprawled out on the avocado-green shag carpet of our living room. I remember Roy Acuff and Minnie Pearl bantering back and forth while acts like Barbara Mandrel sang about being country before it was cool. 

Growing up in that little house, I never imagined I’d someday be interviewing and writing about someone making their Opry debut. But there I sat with old and new friends celebrating a full-circle moment, for him and for me. 

The tradition of the Grand Ole Opry is that the main performer stands in a painted white circle, front and center on a wooden stage. In the world of country music standing in that circle is akin to standing on hallowed ground. 

When someone stands in that circle and the spotlight comes on, you know good things are coming.

Before I knew it tears were streaming down my face for a man I’d never met and in gratitude for a childhood, full of Johnny Cash and fiddlin’ music, that made me who I am today. 

That’s what musicians and writers do; they tell stories and paint pictures in our minds that help us remember and celebrate the people and experiences that mean and meant the most to us. 

Sean Dietrich, better known as Sean of the South, didn’t take us to church. He baptized us in the river and left us at the altar to sort out our feelings with God.

It was an extraordinary moment for him and for all the people in the audience that have followed his life and stories. He’s one of those special people whose words are the manifestation of trauma, life experiences, love, and divine ordination. 

He’s written a whole bunch of books (14) and is touched in some sorta way that he authors 500-1,000 words for a column nearly every day. He can pick a guitar with ease and get down on a piano like Jerry Lee Lewis let loose at an all-day Sunday Singin’. 

Through the gift of his vulnerability and transparency, people from all over the country have created a family-like bond with the red-headed, storytellin’ Floridian. We love you, Jamie, but we can’t quite call him an Alabamian just yet.

You know how family does when you get a new job or appear in a talent show…well they show out. It never fails. And we did. All of us. We videoed and pointed, and told everybody “we’re here to see Sean,” “here he comes,” “Sean’s next,” and so on and so forth. 

We were all so proud of you, Sean. 

So much so, we were silent while watching and experiencing this once-in-a-lifetime event. Our mouths may have been at a loss for words, but our feet didn’t forget to stand up. Three standing ovations in all. An Opry record, I heard. 

I wanted to write about it immediately because it was so moving. But how do you put into words all the things a master storyteller has already penned? I came home and waited for the perfect words to come about what an incredible moment we’d all shared in Nashville. 

But you know what happened next. 

And there was nothing left for any of us to say. 

And for a moment, Sean was speechless, too – simply listing the names of the victims of the Covenant School Shooting. 

At Local Pulse, our goal is to deliver good news and to help our readers solve problems. There’s nothing good about this news and I don’t know how on earth to solve the big ole disagreements we’ve got.

But until somebody smarter than me figures it out, I’ll start with this: we’ve got to love one another. 

More than we love ourselves and more than we love bein’ right. 

We’ve got to knock on the door of our neighbors and ask ‘em if they’re doin’ alright. Sit on the porch with ‘em for a minute. 

We need to feel responsible for messes left behind, even if somebody else made ‘em. 

And we’ve got to be good to people. All people. 

Mister Rogers told us to look for the helpers. But it’s time for us to BE the helpers.

We’ve got to put good things in our minds and on our hearts so that the good that goes in is the good that comes out. 

It’s actually one of the reasons Local Pulse recently reformatted: we just wanted to carve out one little corner of our world that didn’t feel so dadgum heavy. 

A place for good news. 

So, let’s do it, Pensacola. 

Let’s stand in a different kind of hallowed circle, in agreement that no matter what, we will be good to each other.

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Dana is an Arkansas native and a seasonal resident of the Gulf Coast since childhood. She was a Pensacola resident for 13 years, before moving to Gulf Breeze. Dana attributes her Mayberry-esque childhood in Warren, Arkansas, as enormously influential in honing her definitely Southern style of storytelling. She earned a degree in Journalism, Advertising/Public Relations from the University of Arkansas (Woo Pig Sooie!). In addition to writing, she loves photography, art, adventures in the great outdoors, and spending time with her three children.