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Now, in much the same way Alexander was inspired by Simon Norton's ability to live on his own terms, Montana songwriter D.W. Groethe was moved by a friend who years ago, gave up a successful career to follow a dream.

D.W. GROETHE: He was my dentist.

MARTIN: Groethe wrote a song about his former dentist. We hear more in this installment of "What's in a Song?"


GROETHE: (Singing) Wouldn't it be grand, riding horseback on the reins of long ago? Oh, I tell you, boys, that's one thing that I know...

So I'm in his office one day, and I've known him for years. And he goes, Dave, you're going to have to find another dentist; I've sold my practice. And I've got my mouth full of stuff so I'm going, ho-waa-waa - you know, that kind of thing. And I said, what? - finally - I said, what are you going to do? And he stopped and - straight look, in my face; he says, my whole life, all I've wanted to be is a cowboy.


GROETHE: (Singing) Riding the line when the cold wind blows, waiting for signs of spring...

And then a few years after that, I went down to Medora, at the Dakota Cowboy Poetry Gathering. And here comes George walking up. He's got a big old cowboy hat on, the whole works; like that. And I went to myself, you know, he actually did it. He sold her out, moved down south of Baker, Montana. He bought an outfit down there, and then started raising longhorns and taking care of the horses and everything else they have on there. I mean, he was a cowboy. And he, you know, he's never been happier.


GROETHE: (Singing) It sure feels fine when the first light shines, down through the coolies and draws. Hear my heart's singing home sweet home, out where coyote howls out on the range, you know, I'm never going to change...

A few years back, I was reading a little article on - in the regional section, in the paper, and there's this little headline. It says: Medora Man has North Dakota's Largest Herd of Longhorns - and by God if he dnidn't. I just laughed when I read this article. And it was within probably that evening - if not that evening, it was certainly by the next evening - I'd written that song.


MARTIN: "What's in a Song?" is produced by Hal Cannon and Taki Telonidis, of the Western Folklife Center.

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