The call to be a law enforcement officer can be as unique as the officer. There are many tough times for police officers these days. Though there are also times when they feel the ‘love’ and appreciation from an unexpected encounter, and furthermore, those rare times usually come with a fantastic story.
For Lamar County Sheriffs Office Sgt. Hunter Sanders, a weekend full of entertainment meant a weekend full of work as he, alongside his colleagues, helped work several large events over two days in the county.
However, he never thought that working the Backyard Blowout, held at Love Civic Center, would end with a story he can tell for decades to come and one that would align him with the “Keeper of the Stars.”
“I was pretty busy this weekend with all the different events going on in town. One of the jobs I decided to work was at the Backyard Blowout at the Civic Center, and I was able to work the back door where the musicians were coming and going,” Sanders explained.
Having been a fan of Tracy Byrd, arguably one of the most significant country music artists of the ’90s, Sanders was excited to continue working after an already long day of working in the sun at a previous event.
“I was pretty excited about this because I have always been a huge fan of Tracy Byrd and I figured I could at least get a picture when he walked by,” he said, “at about 8:30 p.m. I was told there was going to be a meet and greet with Tracy and I was going to go get him from his bus.”
He continued to explain that when Byrd stepped off the bus, he stuck out his hand and said, “Tracy Byrd. How are you?” Sanders happily shook his hand and introducing himself and said he was doing fine.
“Well, Hunter, don’t worry, if someone tries to get you, I’ll handle them,” Byrd said laughing as they walked inside.
But the story doesn’t just end there for the local deputy. After Byrd’s meet and greet with fans, he was warming up for the show in the hallway when Sanders caught his eye.
He snuck up behind me and said jokingly, “HEY, are you talking about me?” Sanders explained.
Then while talking with him, Sanders quietly watched as he strummed his guitar. The he noticed it was a “Collings” and asked Byrd about it, and in return, Byrd gave him a 10 min history on the Collings guitar before he went on stage.
After his show, while Byrd was signing autographs in the front for everyone who didn’t get a meet and greet, one thing stood out to Sanders; Byrd always went above and beyond while interacting with his fans. Sanders said it didn’t matter how long their story was, Byrd was always fully engaged in the entire conversation with each fan.
So as Byrd was signing autographs, Sanders made his way over to the merchandise table to have a look. That’s where he noticed a very unique item that quickly caught his eye.
“I was admiring an autographed guitar by Tracy, and he hand wrote the words to “keeper of the stars” on its face,” he explained, “shortly after it was time to take Tracy back to his bus and as we were walking he said to me something to the effect of “you like that guitar?”
I told him, “yes, I’ve never seen anyone customize one like that before”
Tracy then said, “ok, it’s yours. Go back in there and tell my merch guy to check his phone.”
“We both just stopped, and I looked and said, “are you serious,” and he said “yes sir, you enjoy it, thanks for your help tonight,” Sanders added.
After they said their goodbyes, Sanders made his way back inside with “probably the most dumbfounded look on my face, and I went back, and I asked the man to check his phone,” he said.
To his surprise, when he made his way back to the table, the gentleman simply said congratulations as he set the guitar in a box and handed it over to the deputy.
“Every time I tell this story I try my best to emphasize all the genuine interactions between Tracy and me that night,” he said, “it just blows my mind that someone like him, a man who meets thousands of fans a year can call you by your name all night just out of courtesy.”
Although Sanders acknowledged that country music isn’t the same genre today as it was when he grew up listening to the likes of Tracy Byrd, he simply said that Byrd, in his opinion, is one last great still playing the songs that inspired a generation.