How A Long-Lost Guitar Was A Lesson In Grace And Forgiveness Rodger McDaniel grew up to the sounds of his dad's guitar, a memory eclipsed by his dad's addiction. Finding the guitar 25 years after his death helped transform McDaniel's memory of his dad.
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How A Long-Lost Guitar Was A Lesson In Grace And Forgiveness

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How A Long-Lost Guitar Was A Lesson In Grace And Forgiveness

How A Long-Lost Guitar Was A Lesson In Grace And Forgiveness

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

When StoryCorps rolled into Laramie, Wyo., Rodger McDaniel came into the booth to remember his father. Johnny McDaniel worked as a miner for a while. He drove a milk truck. He married and divorced the same woman three times. And he loved music. Here's his son Rodger.

RODGER MCDANIEL: Even though my father didn't have much of a formal education, he taught himself to play the guitar by ear. And what I remember from my earliest years were those Friday nights when he and his buddies would gather in the living room of our small home in Cheyenne, Wyo., and they would sit around until the early hours of the morning playing their guitars and singing gospel music.

My dad, over the years, developed quite a problem with alcohol. I recall one evening, he had come home drunk. And my stepmother - she had told him that if you come home drunk again, you sleep in the garage. And so he headed for the garage. And I caught up with him on the back porch of the house and said to him, Dad, why do you do this? He looked at me, and he said, it's inevitable.

Dad died in 1969 in one car accident that was undoubtedly related to alcohol. After his death, we all searched for his guitar. That had a lot of meaning for my brothers and me. But we could not find the guitar. Twenty-five years later, I got a call from a woman who said, are you Johnny McDaniel's son? And I said, yes. And she said, how would you like to have his guitar back? So I went over to see her, and she brought out the guitar.

And she said, I went shopping at an old grocery store in South Cheyenne back in 1969. And from the back of the room, she could hear some beautiful guitar music being played and somebody singing "The Old Rugged Cross." And she said, I sat and listened to it till they were done. And then I rang the bell, and the butcher came out. And a few seconds later, another man came out whom, she said, I now know to have been your father. And he said, we just ran out of whiskey and money, and I'd be willing to trade you this old guitar for a bottle of whiskey.

And she said, I ran down to the corner liquor store and bought a fifth of whiskey and made the trade. I've had this guitar ever since, and my two sons grew up learning how to play this guitar. And now they're grown and gone, and I thought you ought to have it back.

Really, up until that time, my dad's alcoholism and the problems that it brought to the family had defined him in my memory. But that story of, you know, "The Old Rugged Cross" and his old guitar caused me to think an awful lot about the meaning of grace and forgiveness and how much more than his alcoholism he had been.

(SOUNDBITE OF ENDING SATELLITES' "WE'RE FROM NEAR AND FAR")

MARTIN: Rodger McDaniel at StoryCorps in Laramie, Wyo., remembering his father, Johnny McDaniel. Rodger has spent much of his career in the field of alcohol and drug addiction.

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