Author: Judd, Brooks

How Great Thou Art (Part Two of a Fathers Day Story)
Mud fest 1995 20th anniversary was the seventh and last Father's Day festival my father and I enjoyed together. He died the day after Thanksgiving in 1995.I was having a hard time coming to grips with his death. I submitted a story to the CBA in May of 1996 about my father and how I became involved in bluegrass music. The story also dealt with many other things, one of them being my concern in being able to attend Fathers Day 1996 without my father. The Bluegrass Breakdown published my story in the Father's Day June 1996 issue. The story was titled, “How Great Thou Art… A Father's Day Tale”. This was probably one of the original “How I got hooked on Bluegrass stories.”

J.D. Rhynes, and Rick Cornish spent a couple of months persuading me to attend the 1996 festival. I had never met J.D. but had talked to him on the phone several times after my father's death and he turned out to be a fountain of inspiration for me. Rick was a rock as usual. I made the decision to attend Father's Day 1996. I was teaching summer school so I would only be able to come up early Saturday and leave early Sunday.

I set off with a grim determination convinced that I would be able to make it through the weekend. As I was driving up highway 80 I began thinking of how many times my father and I had driven up to Grass Valley in his blue and white Ford Ranger. I drove and it would frustrate my father when I would turn on the radio. He would reach over and with a flick of the wrist turn off the radio saying, ”We're talking, not listening to the radio!” In a way he and Rick were a lot alike. In September I would come to Grass Valley for the Mid Summer Bluegrass Festival. Rick and I would meet for an early Saturday breakfast in town. After we had ordered breakfast I would neatly spread out my San Francisco Chronicle on the table, pick out the sports page and begin to read. Rick would nonchalantly pick up the stainless steel creamer and slowly pour it all over the sports page. “What the Hell are you doing, Rick?” I asked. Rick would smile that sardonic twisted smile of his and reply, “We're talking here, not reading the paper!”

I arrived at Grass Valley early Saturday morning and immediately drove to camp Cornish. I unloaded my bass and sleeping bag and went looking for Rick. I found him near the side of the stage. I told him my plan. I wanted to introduce myself to J.D. and thank him. I wanted to play a little music, watch a couple of acts, go out to our traditional Saturday night dinner play some more music and be in bed by 11pm. Rick nodded and said,” Sounds good, J.D. is right over there.”

J.D. was in the stage area right next to the stage inside the screened off area. The acts weren't due on for another hour. I would be able to go inside and introduce myself and not break any rules. Rick was standing next to me and was gently pushing me toward the stage and J.D. I began to feel silly and told Rick I would do this later. Rick kept pushing. I realized if I didn't do it now I would never do it. I slowly walked up to J.D. He was shuffling some papers and looked at me. I said, “J.D. I'm Brooks Judd.”

Tears welled up in my eyes. I hugged J.D. and he began telling me that everything was going to be o.k. It's crazy but I needed that hug and through the tears and all I began to feel better. Poor J.D. Such a gentleman and here I was hanging on to him and sobbing.

So much for my stiff upper lip.

The rest of the afternoon went by in a blur. I chatted and jammed with old friends and saw bits and pieces of the acts. Dinnertime snuck up on us so Rick and I set out to town for our traditional Saturday night dinner. We shared wine (lots of wine) ate a good dinner, and shared memories of Rick's father, Bebe, and my father, Buzz. They were good friends. Bebe had died several years earlier and all my memories of him were good ones. Bebe didn't have a mean bone in his body and he treated me like a second son. I loved him.

We finished dinner and headed back to camp. At camp I jammed some more, I saw a few minutes of the remaining acts, and at 11 pm I made my way back to camp and to the warmth and security of my sleeping bag.

I was proud of myself. Except for the sea of tears with J.D. I had held up pretty good.

I spread out my sleeping bag and thought of Rick. It drove Rick crazy that I wouldn't stay up and jam, but with my work schedule, my eyes and body just about shut down at midnight on the weekends. I got into the warm sleeping bag, zipped it up and placed a light blanket over the sleeping bag. I fluffed up my pillow, took one last look at the pine trees surrounding the camp, made a visual sweep of all the surrounding camps, took a deep breath of the beautiful crisp pine scented June air, exhaled, and slowly pulled off my glasses and set them down next to my pillow. Things being blurry, my ears picked up the slack and I began to decipher the various jams going on around the campgrounds. The wine won out and I slowly drifted off to sleep with a smile on my face.

I had just about nodded off in the land where pudgy bass players were considered the sex symbols in bluegrassdom, the music of Bob Paisley and Beethoven resonated throughout all the homes in the world, and rap and hip hop would not appear for another 300 years.

My journey was interrupted by the sound of something or someone plodding heavily through the camp. I could hear and feel the heavy sound of tromping footsteps nearing my sleeping bag. I listened intently as the noisy steps came nearer. The rustling of the twigs and pinecones stopped abruptly. I sensed the presence of someone breathing right over me. I lay motionless in my sleeping bag.

Two large paws grabbed the ends of my blanket and gently raised the blanket and pulled it slowly up over my shoulders. I felt a gentle tap as the paws tucked the end of the blanket around my shoulders. Then I heard a voice say, “Good night old friend.”

As the footsteps slowly began walking out of the camp I quickly reached over and picked up my glasses and put them on. I could see a large shaggy bearded rumpled haired man in white shorts, sporting a tank top that defied description, lumbering out of the camp site heading into the land of pine trees and music. He was holding a fiddle in his left hand and a bow in his right hand. It was Rick. I smiled to myself and slowly drifted off into a musical sea of Beethoven and bluegrass.

My eyes opened about 7:30 in the morning. I felt great. I stretched and smelled the morning air. I put my glasses on looked around Camp Cornish. Everyone was still sleeping. Farther away I could see movements in some of the other camps. Campers were putting coffee on and I saw smoke drifting up from the campfires. A few campers were heading toward the showers, cradling their towels like warm puppies.

My father and I had always shared Fathers Day breakfast at the waffle vendor's booth. I thought for old times sake I would go find the vendor, sit down, have a cup of coffee and a waffle and pretend my father was sitting right next to me. I located the vendor, placed my order, and made my way over to the redwood table. I sat down and began to eat. I thought of past Father's Days and how we shared breakfast.

My father and I would order our breakfast, find a table, sit down, and begin to eat. I would bring out my “special” fathers day card filled with sentimental thoughts I had spent two hours writing down. I would proudly hand over the card to my father. He would place his plastic fork down on the paper plate, grab the card with his thick arthritic fingers, open the envelope, pull out the card, read the front of the card, quickly open the card, spend about 2 seconds reading what I had spent eternities writing, lay down the card, pick up his fork, spear another piece of waffle, take a sip of coffee, look at my expectant face and say, “Nice.” I was shocked. “Nice! I spent two hours writing all those things!”

My father would give<
Posted:  1/4/2006

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