June 11, 2009 — When Rascal Flatts plays Miami, Okla., on Friday, the appearance will have huge significance for guitarist Joe Don Rooney. He grew up in tiny Picher, Okla., just three miles from Miami, so it will literally find him running across the same piece of land where he first got an inkling of what he wanted his future to look like.
"It's gonna be awesome to come back," Joe Don told The Oklahoman. "It is like a family reunion. It's gonna be great to get to park the bus there and spend the whole day with them, maybe try to play a little golf with Dad."
But Picher is on its last legs. A tornado devastated the community in 2008, and in the aftermath, the government decided not to help rebuild the town. It had been heavily polluted by zinc and lead mining operations, and Picher is 0Aslowly closing down. The high school, in fact, is permanently closed after graduating its final class last month. The home Joe Don grew up in was demolished by the storm.
Even though Picher is all but gone, Joe Don's memories remain strong.
"I do have some nights when [being on the big stage] is kind of a blur and it goes by and I don't get to think about it much," he said. "But there are those special nights when it does hit me between the eyes and I just get shocked myself. It's an amazing dream come true. But I think it's all due to, seriously, growing up in that small area and that beautiful area that gave me such a broad outlook on life and gave me the confidence to just challenge myself and try anything I wanted to try."
Before Joe Don goes back to his original hometown, he's got a big show to do in his current one. Rascal Flatts is one of eight acts slated to play Thursday's opening-night stadium show during the CMA Music Festival at Nashville's LP Field. Sharing the bill are Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Darius Rucker, Jimmy Wayne, Julianne Hough, Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn.