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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Heading to New Mexico

                                                     Western Oklahoma red dirt

Woody Fest was exhausting, mostly because there was music playing all night long outside my tent and at dawn the sewer truck would come through and do its thing and then the morning crowd would rise and shine and start playing music. I left Okemah around 3:30 and made it as far as Oklahoma City, about one hour, before I started nodding off in the driver's seat.  I checked into a cheap interstate motel and fell into a coma.

The next day I drove north towards the panhandle and was really taken with the wide-open landscape of farms and ranches and all of that red dirt they were singing about at the festival (Red Dirt Rangers were very popular). I stopped for lunch in Woodward, just a classic old West town and later, my sister told me we have cousins there. How about that. I'll have to go back again. What I did do was drive out to the Boiling Springs State Park and hang out in a shaded picnic area for a few hours. Got out my uke and sang to the trees. There weren't any folks around and it was quite pleasant.
                           Boiling Springs State Park, Woodward, OK

I met a great musician at Woody Fest named Don Conoscenti who is from Taos and he gave me some tips on where I might stay on my way into New Mexico.  I had originally planned to camp at a state park in the Panhandle but 1) no one I met could understand why I would want to go there and they had never been there and 2) it was too friggin hot. Instead, I booked a room at a 100+-yr-old hotel in Clayton, NM. Way out in the middle of nowhere I think you could say. Dry, hot, flat, rugged. These parts have not had rain in forever and most of Oklahoma has had over 100 temps for several weeks in a row. But they are the nicest people.

                                             Dog-Cat-Rat Man near Guyman, NM

I ran into this character on the road to Guyman, OK. He was heading for South Dakota. I had to stop and take his picture. What a character. You can Google him. I guess he hangs in the little house, too, but I tell you, it stank to high heaven from the animals. That's the engine in the back. It was all very bizarre. But then....

This sunlit cloud was right above me as I was leaving Oklahoma. I did have a wonderful time and developed an appreciation for its rugged landscape. So wide and open. The clouds followed me everywhere. Pretty sure that I will be back.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Woody Fest

I loved the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival! It was great fun to drive into an event not knowing one soul or even much about the performers and the venues. I had been listening to Jimmie LaFave for years and had seen his Ribbon of Highway tribute show to Woody twice and I knew that Jimmie had been with the festival since the beginning. I knew that the Guthrie family was involved and that there would be grandchildren of Woody performing. I knew that it might be hot.

I was most nervous about the camping spot. It was out at the rodeo grounds and there were already a lot of tents and RV's when I arrived Thursday afternoon. I pretty much randomly stopped the car to walk around and ended up finding a spot with shade and next to good people. Bruce, who had a pop-up trailer, moved his car so I could get my tent as close to the trees as possible. P.C. helped me stake my tent when the wind started up and offered me a cold one right away. Rebecca had her guitar out and sang like an angel. We did not find out that we were both music teachers until later. In short, serendipity kissed me once again.

I almost passed out from the heat after I got the tent up, though. I managed to get the cot up and find my chairs and then I just sat for quite a long time. Maybe it was 107 that day. It was 108 the next two. I probably would have heard a lot more music if it had been cooler. The daytime venues were in town, one on the main street and one 4 blocks up the hill at the middle school. The walk between could wipe you out. There was also an open mike in the patio behind the saloon on the same street but, the second day, when I went to check it out, I discovered that the AC in the bar itself felt so good that I would just hang there for an hour and visit with the locals.
                                          Butch Hancock performing at Pastures of Plenty stage

The evening stage area is called Pastures of Plenty. I needed a sun umbrella for the first set or two but, once the sun went down, it was so pleasant. What surprised me about Woody Fest is that there are not big crowds. The campground never felt crowded.  Everyone was so friendly - the performers, the concert goers, the locals. And the music was really, really excellent. That was the best part, getting to know a whole new group of performers. One of my favorites was John Fulbright, who grew up in Okemah. Another was Don Conoscenti from Taos. And the Burn Sisters.... they seemed to be able to pull 3-part harmony out of a hat.

                                 Don Conoscenti and the Burn Sisters at Middle School Auditorium

Impossible to tell all. I'm posting albums on Google but it's just the tip of the iceberg. If I run into you I could regale you for hours with stories and photos of this trip. My last day at the festival I was up at dawn to pack up before the heat beat me. Then I went to Woody's Hoot, which was a fundraiser for Huntington's and featured any performers who were still around. Woody's sister-in-law was in the house. One of Arlo's boys played. It was the icing on the cake. Then I drove around Okemah and walked a little bit to take pictures of some of the beautiful, old houses in the neighborhoods.  I will be coming back next year, for sure.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Joplin, MO

I was not prepared for the devastation I saw today in Joplin, Missouri. I had spent the previous night in Springfield and two different people made a point of giving me directions and advising me to go into the city and take a look. I felt like a catastrophe tourist and wasn't sure if it was right, but my friend, Alice, said just don't put a label on it... go.

It started with downed limbs and trees on the outskirts of the city and then, as I got off of the freeway, a few businesses closed down or with obvious recent repairs and signs that said BACK OPEN. But then I turned a corner and saw the swath of destruction that ripped through this town. I had to stop and catch my breath. It was like a horrible monster from one of those old Japanese sci-fi films had raged through about 6 or 8 blocks across. I took a few photos but felt so intrusive. Then I drove across, all the way to the hospital and parked up on top of the hill where nothing was left. Down below there were a lot of houses that were toppled, maybe never to be rebuilt but, up here, there was just nothing. There were flowers and photos and flags marking where family members had died. The hospital windows were all blown out. I was weeping and called Bill at work just to talk to someone. Wow. My little thunderstorm on the bay story didn't sound quite so tough now. I imagined the sound of the wind, the fierceness of it. Across the town I could see nothing but green trees and knew that there was a pretty town to be seen but I just got in my car and drove out of there.

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