A gentle rain keeps me company in the wee hours as I pen these words. We desperately needed it. Throughout May and June, storms danced by with thunder and lightning all around, teasing us like a stripper in a night club when you know you ain't getting none.
“It's gonna rain 2 inches,” said Jetta earlier, on Sunday afternoon as the lingering crowd from “Hoefest 2014” gathered in our front room, and the first deluge hit. “No, it's gonna rain 3. No, 4. Is 4 too much?”
Yeah, four inches would be more than enough, but I wasn't going to complain. At the end of a weekend music festival, with stragglers still stuck at our farm, all I wanted was for everyone to go home or hit the road if they were homeless, and the rain would encourage them to pack up their tents in a hurry. My exhaustion stemmed from several causes, one being that Dan Bent, the sound guy, had endured and allowed us to keep the music going until sunrise both Friday and Saturday night. Our remote location and friendly neighbors permitted the unique late-night venue, a favorite with the “non-traditional” bluegrass. “Non-traditional” is a PC way of saying, “bad-ass.” Outlaw acts like Chicago Farmer, the Indiana Boys, the Flatland Harmony Experiment, and the White Lightning Boys played throughout the weekend, with the New Old Cavalry coming onstage at about three a.m. under what turned out to be not just a full moon but a “super moon,” meaning the earth's orbiter swung closer than normal.
“They're young and wild and crazy,” said another performer, Travers Marks, about the New Old Cavalry. I mean he messaged me that on Facebook back in February when we were putting the lineup together, and I'd questioned about the hour. Thanks to the copious half gallon jars of moonshine that the banjo player from another band provided, the New Old Cavalry played until sun-up and were literally passed out around the stage like dead Civil War soldiers after a battle when I emerged from the sleeping bag on the sand where Jetta and I had enjoyed the last act.
I counted out cash from gate receipts, paid off the bands in rolls of twenties. They'd played together, off and on, since about eight o'clock. Chicago Farmer, a solo artist who reminds me of a modern day Woody Guthrie, had been signed on late in the game so he jammed along with some of the other guys in a group put together by the sound guy, Dan Bent, called “Avocado Chic.”
“Avocado Chic doesn't record because we don't exist as a band,” he told me when a locally-programmed radio station, one of our sponsors, was seeking cd's of the Hoefest bands for a special program. “We're different people every time.”
We set up the stage in what had been a somewhat disappointing crop of spring carrots. The hybrid Nantes type, Nelson F1, had turned out somewhat tough in texture perhaps due to the drought. Then, a week before the festival, the starter went out in the old Farmall 300 tractor, and I had no means of disking down the lambsquarters and foxtail grass that had sprung up in the carrots the previous weeks as we harvested. Our buddy, Hippie Mike, led a crew who manually pulled weeds and ran a roto tiller to clear the ground under where we constructed the stage. A farm kid from up the road brought a bush-hog mower in Thursday afternoon to at least chop down the weeds, while Uncle Huck drove a tractor and disc to our other farm to bail me out so the winter squash and late sweetcorn and watermelons could be planted. Our closest neighbor raced his tractor over and earnestly worked in the dusty sand, pulverizing the crop into a beach littered with wounded carrots.
The festival had gone remarkably smoothly, with hippies and farmers chipping in and me mostly walking around with a beer in one hand. We'd stacked straw bales in a rectangle three high, dropped a tarp in the middle and filled with water for a swimming pool. A certified lifeguard attending the festival sat by even though the water was only several feet deep. Hundreds of folks brought hoes of one kind or another in order to get the “10 dollars off if you bring a hoe!” Quite a few married couples got by after one of them admitted the other was his or her “ho.” Basically that meant 10 dollars off for couples, and I had to say it was technically a form of prostitution. Looking around this morning, though, I noticed at least a dozen actual hoes that folks had brought for the discount and abandoned.
By Sunday afternoon exhaustion overwhelmed me, partially because music had gone until sun-up the previous two nights, but also because I'd spend Thursday and Friday night on the box springs because Jetta and I had gotten into a stupid fight the very night before the festival, probably due to the combined stress of the festival and the “crew” hanging out in our full house for weeks on end. It had started earlier in the day as we'd cruised around the town of Seymour, stuck in corporate strip malls and traffic, picking up supplies as well as a used cell phone and some straight talk minutes from Wal-Mart. Seymour always puts me in the same kind of mood as North State in Ukiah used to when I farmed in Boonville. We needed the cell phone because the previous night ours had been destroyed by spilled beer. Somehow the one we purchased wouldn't work for straight-talk, so there we were on Thursday night having spent $115 and still had no phone to match the number all the bands and potential campers had for us. I don't know exactly what we said to each other, but it came up that the mattress belonged to Jetta, so I responded by pulling it off the bed and dragging it out in the next room where another couple of hippies rested peacefully.
Not to be outdone, Jetta moved the mattress outside under a tin roof between a shed and one of our first vendors, who decided to go home after hearing us argue until I finally retreated to get no sleep on the box springs. Friday night we sang together on stage, only three songs with Jetta carrying most of the vocals after not talking to each other the whole day. I had to give her credit for performing so well under those conditions. We made up Saturday and moved the mattress back into the bedroom where she is sleeping while I write this and the morning birds send out their own symphony, the rain having subsided.
I have to wonder if the mockingbirds were influenced as much by the music as I was.