It seems like more and more people are camping alone. I did an overnighter with Feral up at Leverentz Lake campground and a man was camping alone at site # 1 by the boat dock, and a little later a woman pulled in and camped just across from him. In a perfect world that is how people meet except that he was a young married businessman practicing yoga and trying to get away from it all, and she was an older substitute teacher and jewelry artist enjoying the right here and now.
On our first encounter with the woman, she grilled Feral and I about our age and it seemed like we were being interviewed for a job. I was put off a bit by her assumption that men like to be grilled about stuff but Feral, after our escape, had a different perspective. “She came up camping by herself, she’s probably nervous, she wants to meet people. We should be nice.” He was right, of course.
Toward evening she asked for help starting a campfire. She, Jeanette, had purchased some wood in town, some damp oak shaped like railroad ties that would make a nice picnic table but nearly impossible to light without enough kindling for a beaver dam. So Feral and I, along with Dave, the businessman, gathered sticks and did the guy thing while she did the helpless woman thing. I wasn’t quite buying her helpless woman thing (She said was part Cherokee) but hey – all of a sudden we were all talking and laughing about stuff and who cares anyway.
Jeanette invited us to enjoy the fire and Feral mentioned guitars and she said she had a dulcimer, which she pulled out of her van and passed around for inspection. We grabbed the guitars and some beers and played a couple oldies with Jeanette following along. She pulled out a music stand and fearlessly played a tune out of her Mel bay book. I tried to play along and listen for the chord changes and she was kind enough to say I did it well so you know she was not above bending the truth.
The campfire turned out to be kinetic art requiring some upkeep so Dave kept feeding the fire with engineering precision. His sharp yoga mind also injected humor into the various conversations and somehow he became Feral’s new “agent’ lining up the next big paying gig. That was good news to Feral who will normally play all night for free if someone in the audience has a pulse. Humor begets humor and Feral told a joke about a piccolo player in church which was pretty bad and I followed up with one about a banjo player and forgot half the joke set-up and pretty soon everyone was ready to call it a night. A very good night.
We packed it up the next morning but not before Feral gave Jeanette a guitar slide for use with her dulcimer. Some slide dulcimer might go very well with some John Prine should our paths cross again in some dusty Michigan campground.