Palatka, Florida isn’t associated with beautiful beaches or surf-side cottages, but it’s home to the Rodeheaver Boys’ Ranch which hosts two Bluegrass Festivals each year. Othel and I visited this event last weekend, sitting in our own lawn chairs in a monster-sized pavilion with a wad of other Bluegrass enthusiasts.
Bluegrass music, according to those who have known it the longest, considers it the only true remnant of original country and western music. It appears from being among this dying breed of music lovers that if this unique “tribe” doesn’t produce more of its genre, history will be. I assumed this simply by observation. It was an elderly audience – like in gray hair, walkers, canes, wrinkles, and more comfortable than fashionable clothes. I felt like home!
Accommodations were offered for the three-day event – a delta-sized pasture for the hundreds of campers who were allocated a parking spot. After Othel parked us and hooked us up to water and electricity, we grabbed our lawn chairs and headed to the first set of performances which ran from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m., Thursday to Saturday evening. It was a prodigious serving of Bluegrass music!
Observers would find this event fascinating. Sights and sounds abounded in every variety imaginable. In my mind of music appreciation, the musical talent of the musicians seemed endless. Violins, dobros, bass fiddles, banjos, mandolins, guitars, and occasionally steel drums and guitars were only creators of music because of their gifted performers. The majority of voices pleased listeners, but a few did so under the guise of “practice will eventually make a difference!”
I’m definitely new to this kind of music, but the weekend was definitely enlightening. I’ve learned that seniors still have a lot of rhythm and love music, although they may need to turn up the volume. They are resilient; the sessions were long with only an hour’s break, but there were very few empty chairs for the whole evening. Ice cream will always be a favorite food for all ages.
Older people are the most frugal of all age groups. Take-out snacks were allowed, so most had a bag of treats brought from home. One of the groups asked to raise the hands of those who had been married for fifty years. There was a lot! The winning couple for most years of marriage have been applauded for their 66-year accomplishment.
For me, the song titles and music themes were the most interesting of all. Check out a few: “Man of Constant Sorrow”, “Muleskinner Blues”, “Ruby, Are You Mad?” “Sea of Sorrow”, “When My Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again”, “Heartaches and Teardrops”.
So many songs were about lost love, breakups, alcohol and death. One performer sang a real crowd pleaser: “I Wish You’d Love Me Like My Dog Does.” As I listened to some of these repeated themes, I was grateful for my old Baptist hymn which was filled with songs of hope and praise – songs that were part of my heritage and background.
The majority of performing groups would include or end with a “gospel song”. With this age group, there had to be more – songs that shared the salvation of Christ and the life that can be overcome despite lost love, breakups, alcohol and death.
Othel and I enjoyed the music and the weekend at Palatka. We joined the audience at the request of one of the bands to sing “I’ve Got A Mansion”. I was grateful to sing and to KNOW that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for his own – where the music will have only heavenly themes. Words like heartache and tears will go down in history.
Letters to Camille Anding can be sent to PO Box 551, Brookhaven, MS 39602, or by email to Camille@datalane.net.