By Shelley Grieshop
Spending two hours each day on a school bus can make a kid a little antsy. But in Madison Stoner's case, it was a journey to country musicland -- and a path to Buddy Jewell.
Two years ago, the 10-year-old Celina girl rode a bus driven by June Keck who played only country music to and from the Celina Intermediate School.
"I remember hearing 'Help Pour Out the Rain' (by Jewell) and I really liked it a lot," said Stoner, now 12.
The song, also known as "Lacey's Song," is titled after Jewell's own daughter. The lyrics tell about a young girl who repeatedly asks her father a multitude of questions about heaven.
"His voice is so soft and soothing," the young fan said of Jewell's vocals. Stoner began decorating her room in country flare -- a cowboy hat rests on her bed post, collages of country music singers surround the room and "I love country music" is boldly printed on the wall.
So last year, when her teacher, Steve Gladhill, asked each student to pick a role model, Stoner chose Jewell -- months before the handsome cowboy was chosen as the big draw for this year's Mercer County Fair.
Students used power point presentations and poster-size projects to tell about the person they look up to most of all. The youngsters also "became" that person, fielding questions about their idol from other students.
Jewell was delighted to find out he was the young girl's chosen role model.
"Of course I'm honored the little girl chose me," Jewell, 43, told The Daily Standard during a telephone interview Thursday. "I believe one of the reasons God has allowed me to be successful is to bring a positive message to kids."
Stoner's parents listen to Christian music and are strangers to the southern twang of country, her mother, Angie Stoner, admitted.
"She (Madison) kind of got hooked on her own," Angie Stoner said.
The young country fan admits she began to fall for country music "way back in kindergarten." She likes the ballads, the stories behind the songs and the mellow way they come across the radio, she said, but doesn't yet have any of Jewell's CDs. She's also never been to a concert of any kind, anywhere.
That's about to change. When Jewell's publicist, Emilie Marchbanks, was told about Stoner choosing Jewell as a role model, she offered the family of six free tickets to the concert, including backstage passes.
Stunned to hear the news, Stoner cuffed her mouth in disbelief and her eyes opened wide. It is her "dream come true ... I can't believe I'm going to meet him," she squealed.
Now, she has only one goal left: to convince her new bus driver to play country music.