Tom T. Hall tells a story of his own experience at the 1972 Democratic National Convention, where he had a conversation with an old porter (janitor) at a Miami Beach hotel. The porter appraises his own life by concluding that the only worthwhile things are the three listed in the song’s title.
Old Dogs, Children, and Watermelon Wine
“How old do you think I am?” he said.
I said, well, I didn’t know.
He said, “I turned 65 about 11 months ago.”
I was sittin’ in Miami pourin’ blended whiskey down
When this old gray 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 watchin’ “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,
But old dogs and children and watermelon wine.”
He said, “women think about they-selves, 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.
“(Old Dogs, Children And) Watermelon Wine” spent one week at the top and a total of thirteen weeks on the chart. On June 1, 2014, Rolling Stone magazine ranked “(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine” #93 in their list of the 100 greatest country songs.
How can anyone not be moved listening to this? I mean that old grey, black gentleman had tried it all when he was young and in his natural prime… and now all that was left bringing him joy and comfort were Old Dogs, Children, and Water-melon wine – unconditional love. Priceless!