Montana plow man gives new life to “Wichita Lineman”

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Winter driving seems difficult for almost everyone, especially when there is considerable snow or other precipitation on the ground. In places like Bozeman, Montana, there can be a great deal of snow, and a need to take safe driving seriously. One man became a walking, singing public service announcement to help reinforce the idea that in winter, drivers need to do better. Justin Horak, a plowman for the county in Bozeman, Montana, sees drivers at their worst. He set his observations to the tune of “Wichita Lineman” to describe drivers he sees texting and driving and giving him the finger, among other offenses.

As some audiences will remember, “Wichita Lineman” was the song made famous by the late Glen Campbell who passed away in 2017. The song, with its melancholy tune and heartfelt lyrics about the narrator’s job, became popular. Now, with Horak’s take on it, people get not only the humor of someone who sees drivers at their worst, but can perhaps feel a little empathy for those who do road work when drivers need it most.

No accident that Montana plow man chose to sing

Horak’s version of “Wichita Lineman” is no parody. Horak sings well, and his observations are his own. The take though, is interesting because it involves a song about someone doing a thankless, difficult job being sung by someone else doing the same class of work, but updating it with modern aspects.

According to NPR, Horak decided to record the song because his daughter urged him to. But Horak is no ordinary singer. He also is not a novelty singer, who would win audiences over with his schtick, rather than his talent. Instead, Horak is classically trained, having studied at both the Montana State University and the University of Montana. He sings in Bozeman’s symphonic and chamber choirs. Horak has also had roles in Bozeman’s Intermountain Opera. He is preparing for a role in “The Marriage of Figaro.”

According to NPR and several radio reports, a country station in Bozeman wants Horak to record the song again, with backing instrumentals.

What started out as a joke for his co-workers became an Internet hit when the video earned 13, 000 hits right away.

Horak’s story is interesting because it shatters stereotypes and makes learning how to be an effective and safe driver entertaining. Audiences should not be surprised that Horak is a singer, but his participation in the arts does not line up with his day job, in some people’s views. In all, Horak demonstrates a forthright attitude that makes an arguably thankless job one that entertains and informs.

As of this writing, Horak’s “County Plow Guy” has received more than 21, 000 views on YouTube.

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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