Author: Ramos, Jean

Fall Camp-Out Memories

The weather is cooling down, the leaves are falling from the apricot tree in my yard, and I’ve moved my warm clothing closer to the front of the closet. While the plants in my yard are entering their dormancy, I am coming back to life. I am much more energetic, creative and productive when the weather turns cool. I guess I’m a “winter” person. When October arrives, I begin thinking about raking leaves, lighting the pilot light in the furnace, using the crock pot, and foremost on my mind is the CBA fall camp-out.

We arrived on Wednesday, the morning after the big storm. Though it was cloudy, we enjoyed fair weather as we traveled through the Delta on our way to Colusa. We saw many downed trees and broken branches, the aftermath of the high winds. When we arrived at the fairgrounds, we were greeted by Steve Tilden and Marion Stealman. They helped us find a spot that seemed not too soggy at first glance. The toadstools all over the place should have been a warning but we were so excited to be there we just didn’t care where we parked. All I can say is, it’s a good thing we have four-wheel drive, if the next tenants in our RV spot would like to plant spuds, the ground is already plowed and ready for them. My husband Terry said that someone referred to us as “Swamp Rats,” because we camped in a spot I called the Soggy Bottoms.

Terry and I volunteered to help Steve Tilden with the front gate duties. The “check-in” is a great place to work because you get to meet and greet people who are happy to be arriving at an event that they have been looking forward to for months. They are all smiles and filled with the anticipation of some fun filled days spent jamming and visiting with friends, a respite from their usual routines and responsibilities. To steal a line from Cliff Compton, it was as though they were entering the Happiest Place on Earth, minus the mouse ears.

I make new friends at every CBA event I attend, this camp-out was no exception. I got acquainted with Ruth Elaine and Jim from Galt. He plays guitar and mandolin and does vocals, she plays autoharp and has the voice of an angel. Not only that, she has lots of good songs that I’d like to “borrow.” Many autoharp players just play the chords, Ruth Elaine picks the melodies and is happy to share this gift with other harpists. I also got better acquainted with a fellow named Jerry, whom I had met at Plymouth. He’s a mandolin player from Montreal, Quebec. You can read more about him in the Breakdown, I think Cliff found him an interesting person too and has penned a poem about him. One of most fun jams I joined was at Robert Reynold’s camp. When the time was right, we started singing some old country songs. Robert’s good buddy, Joe, was there and has a voice that I could listen to all night. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Joe sing “Kentucky Waltz.”

On the first day that Rick Cornish arrived, he spoke fondly of a lady named Elena Corey, a long time CBA member who has since moved out of state. I heard others say some very nice things about her too. She and Rick used to sing a song, “Blues Stay Away From Me,” as a duet. I have received the honor of carrying on the tradition in her absence, and I think Rick and I sang it at least five or six times at various jams. For those of you who know her, I hope that when you hear us sing this song, it will bring back pleasant memories of your friend Elena.

I was officially initiated into the Yum Yums on Friday night. I’ve had invitations in the past and kind of shied away, not knowing what to expect. I think it was all the candles that lent a bit of mystery to the sisterhood. That’s all I can say on the subject, except thanks to Pat Phillips for carrying on this tradition. I made some new friends through the experience.

Friday was a big day at the camp-out. Of course there was Chef Mike’s KOB fundraiser, the spaghetti dinner and raffle. We all appreciate him and his efforts on behalf of the kids. Next came Snap Jackson and his Knock On Wood Band, they were a fun, high energy band that opened for James King. I have been a James King fan for quite some time so I had really been looking forward to his concert and what a fun concert it was, a mixture of laughter and tears. Tears when he sang “Daddy Doesn’t Pray Anymore,” a song from his gospel album, Gardens in the Sky. Laughter, when he sang “Long Black Veil,” and inserted the line, “…I had been in the arms of Larry Baker’s wife.” The finale was “Thirty Years of Farming,” and he was joined on stage with George Best and Larry Baker.

Saturday night we went to the dessert potluck and hung around for the instrument raffle drawing. I didn’t win a guitar or fiddle or mandolin, but I’m happy for those who did. I’m crossing my fingers and wishing and even secretly praying to win the fiddle made by Frank Daniels that will be given away at Lake Havasu City. I know, you’re wondering why a person who hasn’t even mastered the guitar would want to try the fiddle. It’s because I’m too old to join the local roller derby team. No, that’s not the real reason. For one thing, it seems like there’s always an abundance of guitars at the jams but not a lot of fiddles. I do want you to know that I am making progress with my guitar picking, remember my bucket list? I can pick several songs, I even showed off a bit in one jam, which is really out of character for me, isn’t it? Jerry Pujol has been sending me instructional DVDs, follow-up lessons and picking exercises via email. I am grateful that he is holding me accountable, I need that to stay disciplined. But I’ve digressed…

Meanwhile, back to Colusa, it dawned on me along about midnight, that I had forgotten to fix dinner on Saturday night and man does not live on dessert alone. That’s when I saw everyone migrating towards Deb Livermore’s camp and we followed the crowd like the Pied Piper was leading the way, and were treated to a wonderful, ooey, gooey, grilled cheese sandwich. What a nice tradition! Thanks Deb.

Well, Sunday morning came and it was hard to arise at 7:15 AM after staying up ‘til 2:30, but I needed time to “crank my hair up” so I wouldn’t look too scary for bluegrass church. I had the blessing of singing a duet, “Wait a Little Longer,” with my new friend Ruth Elaine. After church, as we were preparing to leave the fairgrounds, I made a comment to one of our friends, that if (God forbid) I ever got in a position where I couldn’t sing or play my guitar, I would still not want to miss a CBA camp-out. The 2009 camp-out is now history but new friendships have begun, and many happy memories will linger ‘til the next bluegrass event and beyond.
Posted:  10/25/2009

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