Fight to the Core

Happy First Anniversary, my Love 

Right on time we are entering Kerrville. We turn down the main drag and Jim jokes about where all the water has gone. I suggest we stop at a little BBQ joint I’ve been eyeing for years, so he pulls in the parking lot and I get out and stretch our legs. Jim remarks he’s had to pee for the last hour and makes a mad dash to the restroom. Meanwhile I make friends with the jovial black lady running the place. I get the feeling this is a family business and I’m impressed by how friendly she is.

 

Jim returns and tells her were headed to the festival and I hate feeling like a tourist. She does not seem to mind one bit. Tourists I’m sure are her livelihood, and she goes on about how the restaurant supplies food for the festival and how she has festival friends she looks forward to seeing each year.

 

Jim comments on how hot it can get and that we are looking forward to the cooler temperatures. The woman nods thoughtfully and continues slicing our brisket.

 

Ya know, sum lady, 56 I think, up and died out there in June. Hadn’t happened in years. Found her in her tent.”

 

That’s horrible,” I say.

 

We’ll she died in a place she loved,” adds Jim smiling at the pile of food the nice lady is placing before him. “What do you have to drink?”

 

Got some sweet tea. Just over there in that barrel.” Jim smiles, pays the lady, lingers over to the tea and then joins me at the table.

 

Nice lady, great tea,” he smiles and takes a long sip.

 

Yea, I bet they’ve owned this place for years. Food’s delicious.”

 

Jim agrees. For a long while we’re just silent. The food is too good to talk, and we are too hungry. I think about how nice it is to be this comfortable together. I used to watch some couples eat without talking and I worried about their relationship. Ah they have run out of stuff to say I would muse. Now I know that is not always so, for many like us they are just happy to sit and watch each other chew their food.

 

My mind returns to the woman who died, and I picture her husband finding her. “You know I see people every year there that I just can’t believe come out in the heat.” I am recalling one heavy set middle-aged woman in particular. I have seen her there every year driving her senior scooter up and down the dusty roads inside the camp. Her big flowered sun dress soaked with sweat clings to her body and the low arm holes expose the sides of her large breasts. I realize that alone is probably why I remember her. “Those folks just look like, like they’re gonna fall over.”

 

I know,” mumbles Jim with his mouth full of BBQ. He swallows, wipes his face, winks at me and takes a sip of tea. In 15 minutes we’ll be at the festival.

 

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It is almost 5 pm when we enter the main gate and see the sign “Welcome Home.” By 5:00 we have our spot picked out under a large tree toward the back end of the meadow. It is a nice location for the shade and two large canopies nearby promise good music and good people will overflow into our campsite tonight.

 

Jim gets the tent up in a flash, and I blow up the air mattress, we return the car out to the far parking meadow and by 6 pm we are officially “at the festival”. We sit in our camping chairs, smoke a cigarette and look at each other with a “whew” we did it sentiment.

 

I smile and put on my best whiny voice, “It’s hot, I’m itchy, there’s ants, we could be headed to a fancy dinner right now, I wanna go home.” Jim laughs and pretends he is going to spank me.

 

Ok, pack the shit up, and let’s go!”

 

Right on….” I laugh. “Now make me a drink.”

 

Jim obliges by stirring up Vodka and Cranberry juice cocktails in wine glasses, and we sit down and try to get into the Kerrville groove. To do that one must really really relax and let go of everything the everyday world hangs on you. This can sometimes take at least three drinks and sometimes four.

 

We are on our second drink when I pull out the Motorcycle Maintenance book and start reading it to Jim. He listens closely to a part about modern man’s dependence on technology and after about three pages I get bored and put it down. This gets Jim thinking however, and he goes on for a while about things being made in China. By the end of our second drink Jim has pointed out that our chairs, his hat, his pocket knife, his sun glasses and the camping table, are all made in China. And it is at this point in a dire effort to save our marriage that I take out a deck of cards and challenge him to a game of Gin.

 

Looking for a comfy place to deal, I muse that a nearby tree stump would make a great low table to play on if only it were not surrounded by weeds. Jim quickly jumps up like he can do something about it. I watch him saunter over, turn it on its side, and begin rolling it toward me. This catches me completely off guard. I thought it was rooted in the ground. Now I am laughing hard at my assumption and my husband’s superman strength to uproot a tree for me.

 

We finish five hands of Gin and I win them all, which never happens. I marvel at this and attribute my luck to the magic stump. We notice folks have started making their way up to the main stage for the concert, and I ask Jim if he’s ready to get something to eat. He nods and motions that the night is young.

 

Moments later I am regretting the strong drinks. I feel like I need to move around. That if I don’t I’m gonna fall asleep. I think food will help too. Jim says he’s ready to leave and he looks like I feel. Yes I think food is required. I grab a blanket, our flashlights for when it gets dark and we are off across the meadow.

 

Are we gonna be okay?” I ask half joking, half not. Jim answers me and I’m surprised by his answer. “I don’t know” he says. He’s not one to show fear, or pain or to whine or complain and any other time this would have stopped me in my tracks. I would have turned around and asked him “Why’d you say that.” But I am feeling no pain, and instead I just plod forward. Thoughts focused on getting to the main stage to listen to music and to find much needed food. I can hear Jim’s feet crunching the high grass behind me, and his breathlessness when he speaks. But nothing much is registering.

 

We come up to the little dirt road that winds around the campground past the Kerrtree Store. It continues toward the main office and goes on up to the festival Main Stage. “Which way?” I ask, not really giving Jim a chance to answer. I’ve already calculated the distance in my head and decided crossing the road and climbing the hill to the Threadgill Theatre is a nice short cut. We’d come out right by the KerrTree store and get there faster, find food faster and be able to sit down faster. Jim nods toward the road, and I cut him off short motioning that we should take the faster route up the hill. Just gotta put some energy into it is all. I start trekking. Again I can hear Jim behind me and we are up the hill and standing under the high beams of Threadgill in no time.

 

The open air amphitheater is beautifully constructed with wide earthen bench seating carved like layers into the hill. I have always found this place to be one of the most serene and magical spots at the festival. Back in May Jim and I had wandered out of our tent during a dry spell and sat over a ways just a few rows down from where we just entered. We sat close together tapping our feet; his arm around my shoulder the whole night.

 

I look over and see Jim has sat down on the stone bench behind us.

 

Need to rest?” I ask and sit down beside him.

 

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