61: Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine

61: Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music

Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine

Story by Tom T. Hall

Song written by Tom T. Hall

Recorded by Tom T. Hall

I wrote this song in 1972, during the Democratic National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida. There was a park across the street from the convention center called Flamingo Park. They hired me, and George Jones and Tammy Wynette — this was when they were still together — and Ray Price to entertain. It was a daytime show that started late in the afternoon.

One of the interesting things that happened that day was, when the show was over, I gave away my P.A. system. We were having a lot of trouble with it that day, so I told the audience, which was composed of hippies and yippies and other partying types of that era, that they could have the P.A. system, and they took us up on it. We picked up our instruments and got on the bus and the crowd came on stage and carried away the P.A. system. I could see people walking off with mikes and stands and speakers and monitors. It just all disappeared into the night in Miami.

I went back to the hotel where we were staying. The convention was going on, so there were hardly any people in the hotel that night. This must have been about 9:00 or 10:00 at night and I decided to have a nightcap, so I walked into the little bar there in the lobby. There were only two people in there. The bartender was watching Ironsides on television, and he was standing there in a very theatrical pose, watching the show and cleaning one glass over and over, which is what bartenders do when they want to look busy.

I went over and ordered a drink. I remember it was Seagram’s 7, Canadian blended whiskey, just like in the song, I went back and sat down and there was this old, African-American gentleman who was there cleaning up. There was very little to do there that evening, so he came over to my table and wiped off my table and said, ‘Do you mind if I sit down?” I said, “No, go right ahead.”

He said, “How old do you think I am?” That’s where the song begins.

We talked until my drink was finished. I said goodnight and went back to my room. But before I left, I wrote the words “watermelon wine” on my bar napkin and stuck it in my jacket pocket.

The next morning, I got on a plane for Atlanta on my way back to Nashville. On my way up to Atlanta, I was looking for something in my pocket, and I found that napkin. I had nothing to do on the plane and I started looking for something to write on. The band was on the bus and they were driving back to Nashville, but I had a recording session in Nashville that next day so I had to fly back. I didn’t have much with me. I got a sick bag out of the seat pocket in front of me and started writing.

I wrote down exactly what happened, which is the way I write most story songs. I let whoever is listening figure out what it was all about. I knew he said that he had turned sixty-five eleven months ago. I didn’t know what that line meant; I just knew he said that. I put it in the song, and later I realized that he was probably telling me that he was retired and maybe on retirement or social security and didn’t need the job, that he was just killing time or picking up some extra change.

I went into the recording session the next day and told Jerry Kennedy, “Here’s a song I wrote on the plane,” and he liked it, so we cut it. I think the song was less than 24 hours old when I recorded it, but it turned out to be a pretty good song for me.

Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine

“How old do you think I am?” he asked. I said, well, I didn’t know.

He said “I turned sixty-five about eleven months ago.”

I was sittin’ in Miami pourin’ blended whiskey down

When this old grey black gentleman was cleanin’ up the lounge

There wasn’t anyone around ’cept this old man and me

The guy who ran the bar was watching Ironsides on TV

Uninvited he sat down and opened up his mind

On old dogs and children and watermelon wine

“Ever had a drink of watermelon wine?” he asked.

He told me all about it though I didn’t answer back

“Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime

That’s old dogs and children and watermelon wine.”

He said, “Women think about theyselves when menfolk ain’t around

And friends are hard to find when they discover that you’re down.”

He said, “I tried it all when I was young and in my natural prime

Now it’s old dogs and children and watermelon wine.

Old dogs care about you even when you make mistakes

God bless little children while they’re still too young to hate”

When he moved away, I found my pen and copied down that line

’Bout old dogs and children and watermelon wine.

I had to catch a plane up to Atlanta that next day

As I left for my room I saw him pickin’ up my change

That night I dreamed in peaceful sleep of shady summertime

Of old dogs and children and watermelon wine

More stories from our partners