Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Jamboree Journey in Time

This weekend the kids and I took a badly needed escape to visit the part of the state where I grew up. They hadn't been down there with me for a long time, too long. The motivation behind the trip was to enjoy a concert featuring Tim O'Brien and the Steep Canyon Rangers, but at every turn, even at the concert, we got more fun than we bargained for.

There has been a lot of curiosity about family since we started doing this family tree stuff so part of our planned visit involved cemetery stops. It was actually kind of nice, in a way, to stop at Mom's grave -- we really were kind of fumbling around for it in this giant cemetery in Wheeling, and lo, my daughter spotted the family name as we had almost given up. We also climbed to the top of Riverview Cemetery in Martins Ferry -- an experience of driving up some steep inclines with impressive views that my daughter, the skier and fearless one, did NOT like in the car.

The centerpiece of the visit was live music -- live and on the air. That part kind of eluded me in the planning. I figured we were just heading out to Brush Run Park to hang out with my brother and sister in law and catch some live tunes real cheap -- $15 for the three of us since the kids were FREE. But it turned out to be a real barn burner of an evening with four bands all broadcast live from our little Ohio hilltop around the globe at Pretty cool. The show was great fun, very old-fashioned Jamboree USA. (Once upon a time, WWVA was right behind the Opry's WSM in reaching audiences with live bluegrass and early country music.) We had a chance to hear the Wheeling Park High School Bluegrass Band which has put bluegrass music education on the map with a recent trip to Japan. Tim O'Brien had a nice long solo acoustic set; his 95 year old dad was in the crowd along with a few other friends and family. The headliner band, Steep Canyon Rangers, were an exceptional delight. Out of Asheville, they were much more high-steppin' than most of the Asheville musicians I've become acquainted with. They did a couple of my favorite Monroe tunes, Tennessee Blues and, with Tim joining in for a double fiddle fest, Wheel Hoss. An incredibly talented lineup and a heck of a night of music making.

One of the best parts of the trip was the drive back to my brother's log home that sits on the lower part of what was once our family home. It was so peaceful to drive along the river and then up into the hills at night, so my son could take in the Valley's twinkling lights and the quiet struggling beauty of it all. Once back at my brothers, we sat up into the wee hours around a cozy fire under the stars. We talked about the family business, about picking, about everything. It was truly good in every way.

Other highlights of the trip included an impromptu trip to my high school (it graduated it's last senior class in May, having been unable to catch up financially), and lunch at "grandmas"--we parked our car in a spot in the parking lot just about where her wonderful kitchen used to be and then picnicked in the shade near the Betty Zane cemetery, where my son and all my nieces and nephews spent lots of time as little kids.
After wrapping ourselves in this wonderful blanket of welcoming familiarity and a longing to be back in the company of people and places that meant so much to us, it was not easy to head home. We are exhausted, but feeling a little girded up by this rich state of re-connectedness, a bit more grounded having reclaimed a little piece of home planet. Sure, it's all about the journey, but sometimes we need the destination, too.
Take a look at this YouTube of the Steep Canyon Rangers doing a tune we enjoyed called Lovin' Pretty Women.
Here's hoping you have a chance to reconnect with your roots soon.


At October 13, 2008 6:15 PM, Blogger Blueberry said...

It sounds like a wonderful trip. I've always enjoyed browsing the cemetaries. They are fascinating sometimes. And there's nothing better than a great show with a cheap admission!

At October 13, 2008 8:53 PM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Oh it was a lot of fun. For some folks, going "home" is a nightmare, but I'm lucky in that it's usually a pretty positive thing. Making fun of the Palin rally volunteers (there was a big too-doo the next day) was fun, too. Tim even used the term "Caribou Barbie" and got away with it!


At October 14, 2008 10:51 PM, Blogger Piepiepie said...

I love that your trip left you with a fresh sense of connectedness. I think the timing for you was perfect. So glad you took the time to write all of this. I felt rather grounded myself after reading about your trip. I hope my trip to Youngstown this weekend lends some of those feelings and not the usual "WTF?" confusion.

At October 15, 2008 7:42 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Thanks, Pie. I think the timing was perfect in a couple ways -- I thought it would be tough coming back from IBMA but it actually just extended that good feeling of belonging. The "WTF" feeling I encounter usually only happens after I get back to Northeast Ohio.

We pass through your old stomping grounds on our way southeast and I always think of you. I do hope your time "down home" this weekend has plenty of good stuff. Time away with your crew always has that potential.


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