Discernment is a funny thing. We hear something and our brain pieces together the bits of audio, filling in the blanks by arranging the phonetic sound waves into a cipher that makes some sense of the accompanying surroundings. Unfortunately, my internal interpretation process isn’t always an exercise free from flaws. Frequent are the times that I don’t hear and translate the audio with pinpoint precision.

Confession: This is why I gave up on British movies. I know what you’re thinking, “Did Mark just say he’s not a fan of Monty Python?” Yep… among others. My wife interpreted The Man From U.N.C.L.E. for me last year on the fly. I enjoyed the movie and walked away thinking that this was a much better role for Henry Cavill than that waste of 2½ hours he was a part of in 2013 (Man of Steel) or the flop of a follow up, Batman VS Superman in 2016, but I digress.

Discernment is both ultra-enlightening and ultra-tricky. As such, I think it deserves a little deeper appreciation and, at times, perhaps a bit more second guessing. The ability to interpret things helps us to make sense of collected data and it ultimately lays the groundwork for every decision we make. It also puts us at fault from time to time in those moments when we’re certain of what we heard or saw, only to find out later that we evidently didn’t see or hear correctly.

One such “at fault” event came to a close for me yesterday afternoon when my brother spoke up from the backseat during our long drive home and helped to resolve a lingering mystery. I’d had a song stuck in my head for weeks, maybe even for a full month or more now that I think of it… anyway, it wasn’t your typical endless loop earworm, but more of an edge of reality haunt.

We all know what it’s like when a song such as MMMBop gets stranded on our internal turntable. It seems the only cure for such trappings is to replace it with an equally distressing melody or commit yourself to a full-on binge listen until you’re quite sick of it all over again. I’ve included the link, just in case, having stumbled across the song title, you find yourself in need of binge therapy. It seemed like the compassionate thing to do and you’re welcome.

My issue was much more fringe of insanity worthy. The song wouldn’t stop playing, but the only phrase I could recall with clarity was, “drinking the wine.” In my mental reconstruct, the substituted bumps, hums, and bops, were followed by the only phrase that I knew, and I was certain that it repeated itself in echo-like fashion, “DRINKING THE WINE… drinking the wine…” The echo was then followed by a pair of distinct “Bump, Bumps” and then some more humming of the super-catchy melody.

I searched iTunes for every song that included the key phrase; no luck. I searched YouTube and Google in vain. Certain that I had overlooked something critical, I searched all resources again several times, only to come up empty. Don’t misunderstand, there have been plenty of recorded tunes about wine through the years, but the tune that was stuck in my head had somehow been removed from every possible database.

I’m not one easily given to conspiracy theory, but this was leading me to consider the possibility that the Mandela Effect might be less than total bunk (excuse my use of scholarly lingo, but bunk feels appropriate here and I haven’t used the word in a while).

Again, back to my dilemma… the song was a great song, there’s no questioning that and it had to be out there. Surely, if I remembered it, it was wildly popular and lots of people remembered it as well.

When it comes to tunes from the past, this “drinking the wine” melody should definitely be on a list of greatest hits from the year in which it was popular… if only I knew the year, that might have proved helpful. By now, you are most likely well aware that my recognition of when something actually occurred on the grand timeline of modern history is one of my strongest weaknesses. Any thought that I might actually pull that little nugget of info out of my brain would be the longest of all long shots.

I could eliminate the boy band era and tell you that it wasn’t recorded by a jazz great or blues icon; it also wouldn’t fall into either the pop or disco genres. Nope, it was real music… real, serious music.

I thought that narrowing it down to a particular decade might be an option. I eliminated the 50’s, as I was certain that it wasn’t recorded by Elvis, Buddy Holly, or The Big Bopper. I was just as certain that it predated the 90’s; I just can’t think of much from the 90’s that would entice me to clear some space on my iPod. Before you hate, keep in mind that the 90’s gave rise to the boy bands, pop music icons such as Paula Abdul, and of course, it was during that decade that Baby Got Back right in front of God and everybody. I’ll admit to traces of the 90’s being found on my iPod, but it’s traces of Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Prince at best.

All that being said, I waded through the 60’s and 70’s (wondering in part if drinking wine would have been a celebrated activity at all during those decades) and, at last, I played Hide-N-Seek with tunes from the 80’s (although in my head, it didn’t really sound 80’s-ish). The final tally showed only a handful of songs about wine and none of them turned out to be the elusive treasure I was seeking. I was back to head bobbing, shoulder waggling, and tune humming for all of my friends who seemed to be a potential living, breathing, musical database resource. In all, I stumped more than a dozen folks. Sigh.

Then, late on a Saturday afternoon during our drive home from south Florida, my brother broke the code and, much to my wife’s delight, solved the riddle of the long lost tune. I didn’t even get to the part of the chorus where I was going to insert the only words to the song that I could clearly remember, as my brother showed his mastery of 70’s music by naming the tune in about 5 notes. Tom Kennedy would have been proud. As my wife burst out into laughter that nearly introduced us to the far right lane of I-95, I turned in my seat to look at my brother and ask, “Draggin’ The Line??? Are you sure?”

He confirmed his response and YouTube validated his answer. The song, that had haunted me for well over a month, was indeed Draggin’ The Line by Tommy James (YouTube video embeded below). With my discernment keeping me firmly committed to what I believed to be absolute truth, I had been running at breakneck speed into brick wall after brick wall because I had been trusting my own flawed perception. Having finally identified the song, I find myself writing this Saturday Morning Ramble late on a Sunday evening, following a 2-Day Tommy James listening binge.

The song was released in 1971 as the Hippie Movement of the 60’s was drawing to a close and research shows that modern day interpretation of the lyrics are split into a pair of firmly dedicated camps. Some associate the song with the culture of the 60’s, the Hippie Movement, and naturally, drugs. The thought is that “Draggin’ The Line” is a euphemism for prepping cocaine for the purpose of indulging. Those who believe this tie-in to be off base point to the drugs of the 60’s as being primarily needle based intoxicants, as opposed to things ingested by snorting.

Those who support an anti-drug interpretation of the song’s title and lyrics, link both to a phrase from the late 60’s that is tied to working your way responsibly through the obligations of the day and appreciating the life you had. Some say the reference to dragging a line has to do with working in the fishing industry, while others equate the phrase about hugging a tree to the work of an electrical lineman. Both say that the background of the song is firmly anchored in the concept of feeling good about completing a solid day of work and “Making a living the old hard way,” which is the song’s opening line.

The song was actually released on a little known 1971 album entitled, Christian of the World, which is thought to be the first Contemporary Gospel Music album ever recorded. As such, it would seem that drug use would be a bit of a stretch as the interpretive undercurrent for the song.

For me it’s a feel good tune that I remember from long ago and yet another present day reminder that as much as I may be positive that I’m right, there’s always that slim possibility that I couldn’t be more wrong. The trend, which goes back as far as I can remember, continues and serves as a constant reminder that I should always be open to little more understanding when I feel as if I clearly have the right to judge.

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