Excerpt: 'Teaching the Pig to Dance'

Finally, there would be the concluding chapter that we are all too familiar with, wherein I would give my instructions to a waiting America as to what must be done to meet the "challenges of our time." It's amazing how brilliant and insightful a fellow becomes when he leaves elective office and can't do a thing about all those problems.

I even had a title for that book picked out: Why I've Had Such a Hard Time Keeping a Job.

In all seriousness, that book I had in mind was going to be more than just old, warmed-over "war stories." I was going to write about opportunities presenting themselves and why I took some and not others. There's a lot to be said for seizing the moment, and I thought a book about the remarkable interconnectedness of the experiences I've had—how a decision I made has so often seemed to lead inexorably to consequences and opportunities that I never foresaw—might be somewhat instructive.

Well, this is not that book. As I got into the process, I discovered that what I was writing about was what happened before I left Lawrenceburg, not after I left. The thought of those times didn't necessarily make me nostalgic, but they did make me feel good. I was revisiting and laughing with some of the most interesting characters and funniest people you'd ever hope to meet, not the least of whom was my own dad.

The fact is that the people I knew and the experiences I had in that little town formed the prism through which I have viewed the world, and they shaped the way I have dealt with events throughout my life. Those growing-up years in Lawrenceburg left me with a particular take on life.

A saying I often heard sort of typifies it. Usually said with a smile, it is "Ain't nobody gonna get out of this old world alive anyway, son," often said to put things into perspective when times were getting rough.

And, perhaps not surprisingly, I heard sayings like that more than a couple of times from more than a few people.

From the girl I married as a teenager and her family, to the teachers, coaches, preachers, and most of all my mom and dad, they encouraged and tolerated this young ne'er-do-well kid with no apparent prospects. They cajoled me, inspired me, and shepherded me from childhood to manhood. It was not an easy trip for any of us, but by the time I left Lawrenceburg, I had learned some valuable lessons and had the confidence to take on the world. (Of course, the world had the confidence to take on me, too, but that's another story.)

There's another old saying that comes to mind: "Life is a comedy for those who think and a tragedy for those who feel." I can add to that. Where I come from, tragedy and comedy were often served at the same table. But the lessons that grew out of those experiences were grounded in the kind of commonsense view of life and living that today is, unfortunately, all too uncommon.

So I decided to write about what I wanted to write about. Stories about growing up—in every sense of the word. Stories about Lawrenceburg. It's about time Lawrenceburg had the recognition. After all, it is the county seat.

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