Author: Ramos, Jean

The Maid in the Meadow

Wildflower Fest X at the McB Ranch is now history but I made some memories that will last…well as long as my memory lasts. This is a jam that is held each year at the peak of the wildflower blooming season in the mountains just east of Redding, CA. Our wonderful hosts were Tom and Sharon Bailey and “Ding Dong Dang It!” (their Springer Spaniel).

Terry and I went up a few days early, he helped with weed and poison oak abatement in preparation for the campers and I spent time with my sister who lives in the area. When we arrived, the ground was damp from recent rains and there were a few flowers in the camp area but the hillsides were literally painted yellow with poppies. After the mowing, and a few days of sunshine, the meadow became a carpet of color that would put any Persian rug to shame.

The McB Ranch has an abundance of oak and pine trees with a couple small creeks that meander through. The jamming and festivities are held in a meadow area between the two creeks, an area that was once a winter campsite of the Wintu tribe. There are several “landmarks” on the ranch. There is “Billy Bo Camp,” “Dang It! Creek,” “Mt. Tom,” “Mt. Sharon,” and “Grassy Knoll,” to name a few. New names are added as time goes by and things “happen.” A recent addition is a large boulder that marks our personal campsite, now referred to as “Terry’s Thunder Egg.” There is a story that goes with it, the kind of story that will improve with time; we’ll save that for a later date when the proper embellishments can be applied.

My favorite landmark on the ranch is called “The Maid in the Meadow.” <a Href=""target=0>(Click here.)</a> It is the Wintu version of Venus de Milo but with a baby carrier on her back. As I sat in my chair and gazed at her oaken form, I began to ponder all the things she had witnessed over her span there in the meadow as she made the journey from a small acorn to an stately oak tree and then to her present state, a remnant of her former splendor with missing limbs and asymmetrical breasts.

While jamming in the shade of the oaks, some distance from the nearest store, I pondered the way life would have been a few hundred years earlier. It was all about survival; preparing food, clothing and shelter, the Creator provided the means, the people did the work. As summer turned to fall, the acorns would drop and the native women would gather them and lay them out to dry before cracking them open in preparation for grinding them into flour with mortar and pestle. When the time came for making soup, they would soak the flour to remove the bitterness and cook the mixture of acorns and water in a tightly woven basket, using hot rocks from the fire. There was usually singing that accompanied each task.

Our “Maid in the Meadow” witnessed a group of Bluegrassers , a Country singer and a Redneck or two cooking meals over a campfire each morning. Krusteaz doesn’t make an acorn flour mix but we had pancakes, eggs and a variety of breakfast meats. In the evening there was meat (lots of it) hung in barrels to cook. Of course, just like in the old days, there was music (lots of it) to accompany the necessary task of providing food for the camp.

As I mentioned before, this site was a winter camp for the Wintu. There are flakes of obsidian that turn up now and then, a sign that the men spent some winter days there making arrow and spearheads. Several of the people at the Wildflower Fest were into “Primitive Camping” and all that goes along with it. Jim Langell brought several bows and arrows for an archery contest on Saturday afternoon. Lucy Smith, “Flat Pickin’ Queen,” did the ladies proud and brought home the bacon…or maybe it was a stick of salami. Steve Ladonga went home with the first prize, a bow and three arrows. I brought home a broken blood vessel on the middle finger of my right hand and a bow string burn on the inside of my left forearm. I blame it on the hecklers (there were lots of them too)!

The “Maid in the Meadow” didn’t get a moments rest. On Saturday night there was an “Open Mike.” Well, since there wasn’t any electricity, it was actually an “Open Corn Cob!” This event was a lot of fun, the audience sat around the campfire on chairs and benches that were hewn out of the deadfall trees from the area. The highlight of the “Open Corn Cob” was a performance by Jaclyn and Hailey, 11-year-old twins. These girls had never played an instrument or sung in front of an audience before but Jim Genaw, Howie Goetz, and Mikki Feeney worked with them on Saturday afternoon and they did two songs, one of them played bass, the other strummed the guitar. I think they got hooked. They also served as Emcees for the evening. I might add, they made chocolate chip pancakes for the campers one morning and S’mores in the evening. Talk about “Joy in the Camp!” They brought it.

Here I am, (seven loads of laundry later), still enjoying the memories that were made at Wildflower Fest X; the wild ride up Mt. Tom in Tom Bailey’s “Stealth Bomber,” and old ranch truck that has the patina of the reddish dirt in the area, a walk to the pond with Sharon and Dang It! where we picked and ate cattail stems while Dang It! took a swim, and making music with my friends. The weather was perfect, food was scrumptious, new friends were made and the wildflowers were spectacular. I’m glad there’s not a law against having that much fun! God bless.
Posted:  4/27/2014

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