Painting over it ain’t no use

BLYTHEWOOD – After fans of the late country singer Joe Diffie paid tribute to him two weekends ago by painting ‘Billy Bob Loves Charlene” – lyrics from his song John Deere Greene – on the Blythewood water tower, the question has hung in the air, right up there alongside the tower: Who will paint over the scrawl – the Town of Blythewood where the tower sits or the Town of Winnsboro who owns the tower?

The answer may be, “Neither.” At least not for a while.

“Blythewood’s water tower isn’t scheduled to be repainted for a couple of years,” Winnsboro Mayor Roger Gaddy told The Voice on Friday. Furthermore, Gaddy said he doesn’t see any problem with the John Deere green proclamation and, in fact, has a unique affinity for epitaphs painted on water towers dating back to his own teenage years.

“When I was a senior in high school, a friend and I climbed over a chain link fence and up a water tower in Aiken and wrote “Class of ’68” on the tank,” he said with a chuckle, fondly recalling his youthful antic. Actually, as I remember it, I already had it painted before my friend got to the top,” Gaddy said.

“I really don’t see any urgency to move the schedule ahead to paint the tower,” Gaddy said. “If Blythewood wants to paint it, they can.”

The very visible tower sits beside I-77, behind Bethel-Hanberry Elementary school, overlooking the town and greeting interstate visitors.

It was installed and painted by the Town of Winnsboro in 2000 when the town agreed to provide water to Blythewood. Since that time, the paint has faded and the Blythewood town officials have designed a new, more contemporary tree for the town’s logo that they plan to add to the water tower tank the next time it’s painted.

More than 1,100 posts and shares on The Voice’s Facebook page, however, overwhelmingly favor not painting over “Billy Bob and Charlene” – ever. Many of the posts are adorned with multiple John Deere green heart emojis. Only one post objected to the artistic endeavor saying it should have been painted on a sign instead of the tower.

Kalia Radford Solomon posted her sheer delight at seeing the declaration of small-town young love scrawled across the water tower, saying simply: “I couldn’t love this any more!” Other posts express similar sentiments of joy over the tower’s John Deere green message:

Seth Anderson Daily – “This just made my day!”

Sarah Shoemaker – “I love this!”

Michelle Elliott – “OMG! This just gave me chills!”

Sarah Sprott – “Long live Joe Diffie in our hearts!”

Randy Branham – “Awesome!!!!”

And Edward Smith summed up the posted sentiments of many with, “I just hate I didn’t think of it first.”

Others were inspired by the star quality they feel the inscription imparts to Blythewood’s brand.

Jason Smith – “My town!”

Lindsy Cooper Dickenson – “Here’s the tribute to Joe Diffie from my hometown of Blythewood SC.”

Mary Katheryn Towell – “In my little hometown of Blythewood, SC. This is brilliant”

Eric Hamner – “This is where we live now.”

Savannah Kate Mattox posted, “Welcome to Blythewood.”

Still other posters cleverly finished other friends’ postings with lines from Diffie’s song.

After John Hickey posted, “The fool should’ve used red,” Beverly Beougher Thompson posted, “But it looked good to Charlene,” followed by Mark Ortman’s post, “In John Deere green.”

As The Voice’s Facebook story found its way around the country last week, it picked up multiple responses from Diffie’s stomping grounds – Nashville, TN.

Country singer Billy Ray Alcorn posted, “Go Rest High Joe Diffie… arguably one of the greatest country singers of our time… and a gentleMan ta-boot.”

Another country artist, singer Deborah Allen, even sent an email to The Voice with a digital recording of her rendition of a song she wrote for Diffie honoring him after his death (Listen to it here).

One poster received the water tower declaration as news. Sam Wildman asked, incredulously, “He’s dead?”

Others beseeched both towns not to paint over “Billy Bob and Charlene” and the heart.

Mark Sanders posted, “I hope Winnsboro doesn’t remove it.”

“Please don’t take it down,” begged Michelle Taylor.

The chances are increasing that Diffie’s fans will get their wish, at least for the time being.

The cost has caused Franklin to rethink the town painting the tower ahead of Winnsboro’s schedule.

“That’s something town council would have to decide,” he said. “It would cost a lot of money.”

While not a quorum, two of the five town councilmen who would be voting on that decision have already weighed in on the side of Billy Bob and Charlene.

“Blythewood Proud!” Councilman Eddie Baughman posted.

“An instant landmark and tourist attraction right here in Blythewood. After much thought, I believe we should keep it. What say you?” Councilman Donald Brock posted.

Whether it is Winnsboro or Blythewood that eventually paints over ‘Billy Bob and Charlene’ and the big green heart, Sylvia Miles is wistful that, ultimately, life will imitate art as she quotes a line from Diffie’s song.

“I hope they discover that painting over it ain’t no use,” Miles posted.