This week the
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition
[Sundays at 8 pm/ET on ABC] bus takes us to one of my favorite parts of the country, a place where country music is a way of life: Hendersonville, Tennessee. We experienced a quintessential Southern community when we visited this town just 20 miles outside of Nashville, with its famous landmarks the Grand Ole Opry, the Ryman Theater and the Country Music Hall of Fame. It's a community that embraced us as one of their own.
The Hawkins family... what a story. A little over six months ago, an F-3 tornado (over 175 mph sustained winds!) ripped through Hendersonville and completely demolished the Hawkins family home. Jerrod, dad and a firefighter, was out on call helping his neighbors and only could watch from afar as the tornado headed right towards his home, his two boys - Jair, 6, Cole, 4 - and hid lovely wife, Amy, who were inside taking shelter in the basement.
Now, Amy will tell you that what she did to protect her boys was simply a mother's instinct, but I call her a hero. Amy took Jair and Cole down to the basement to weather the storm, but the tornado was too much for the small house to bear and it collapsed on top (literally on top!) of the three huddled within. Covering the boys with her own body, Amy took the brunt of it, completely crushing her spine and leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Instinct or not, she is a
The Hawkins' home was completely demolished, saving our awesome builder, David Luecke of Capitol Homes, the trouble of tearing it down. From a knife buried into an oak tree up to its handle to the wedding dress (still on the hanger) found a quarter mile away, I can't get over the complete devastation and sheer force a tornado can unleash. It's a good thing we had the complete support of the community, people like Jerrod's firefighter buddies, the local AAA baseball team the National Sound, and even Farmer Bob (the Hawkins' neighbor).
A high point of my work on this house came when I got to make the bed for little Jair in his special baseball-themed room. What a ballplayer Jair is. Immediately after door-knock, Preston and I started to play a little ball with him. He hits, he catches and he throws just as well as I do (and a little better than Preston does). Pay attention, scouts. I also was able to join forces with Preston to construct a giant fort for the boys to play in, using the felled oaks from the tornado-ravaged property.
Being so close to Nashville, I managed to get in a little R&R. In what is now one of my top three concerts I have ever been to in my life, Ty, Preston and I were able to attend a private show put on by music legend Tom Waits. I have to be sure to mention the great support and hospitality the Gibson team showed us while in their backyard. They even went so far as to bring their own bus, which is, pretty much, a traveling sound studio. You'd better believe that Preston and I let loose in there as much as we could, plugging in the ES-336 or the ES-175 (guitars, to the laymen) and jamming away. What a great week and a great family. I'm looking forward to the
team's next adventure and the next group of friends and family we'll get to make.