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A HAPPIER VERSION OF THE DUST BOWL

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A HAPPIER VERSION OF THE DUST BOWL

Cindy Maddera

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We are back from two and a half days of our hot, dirty, sweaty camping concert festival. I want to use the term "camping" lightly because where I come from camping includes campfires and cookouts on that campfire and smores. This was more of a just sleeping in your tent and eating dry hummus and tofurky sandwiches type of camping trip. Cars were parked in one field and we rode on trailers pulled by tractors into the campground. I had warned Michael about the heat and the wind, but I'd forgotten to mention the dust. There really was nothing much in the way of vegetation holding down the soft sandy red dirt in the parking lot. Just the very act of sneezing stirred the dirt up into mild dust devils so you can just imagine what it was like riding behind a tractor. I am convinced that the only reason I did not get sunburned was the layer of dirt that immediately flew onto my body after spraying on the sunscreen. Seriously. I applied sunscreen twice over the entire two days. It was a small glimpse into what it might have been like to live through the Dust Bowl. It was spectacular. Every moment of it. I have lived a pretty tame life. There were no up all night frat parties during my college days or weekends of bar hoping in my twenties. The idea of camping music festivals seemed decadent and slightly dangerous, but fun and exciting and something EVERY young person should do at least once. I'm still a young person right? No...no I am not a young person (my poor achy hip). But! I think that being a bit older and wiser made the experience more enjoyable. Meaning that I was less likely to turn this into some drunken debacle that would leave me wandering around 700 tents at 4:30 AM hollering "Patrick! Pahhhtrick! PATRICK!". I sure hope that girl eventually found Patrick. I kid a little about the whole drunken debauchery thing, but really I didn't see much of this going on. Most people were pretty dang responsible and every one looked out for each other. The campground was one giant commune or hippie refugee camp, with Michael playing the role of helpful camp counselor. We dubbed him Tomahawk.

I have never been to a concert with a more gracious or humbled headliner than Mumford and Sons. I cannot say enough good things about them. I went thinking that Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were the only band I really cared the most about and they were fantastic and amazing and they ended their set with me wanting more from them which is how things should end. But I was blown away by Mumford and Sons. I believe they sounded better live than the recorded version of themselves. You could see that they truly loved being on that stage even when with it being so dang hot and their clothes sealed to them by sweat. They were having fun and enjoying every minute of their own performance. They graciously shared the stage with all of the artists that had played that weekend. And there was such joy on all the faces on that stage. It reminded me of the good parts of attending church. It was gospel. Gospel that I got to share with good people. Talaura and I held hands and laughed and cried. She kissed the top of my hand at some point and said "you taste like dirt". Michael saw me dance, really dance, not just silly car dancing and he was awed. And my friends, my lovely gracious friends, accepted this man into the tribe.

And then it was over. We drove home coated in layers of red dirt and goodbye tear stained cheeks. We cut off our now grimy wrist bands and said our goodbyes to Summer even though the temperatures are still in the high 90s. I admit that I am having a hard time moving on to the next thing because my heart is still lingering over the moments of hilarity and joy of the weekend. Talaura's bread sandwich. Michael, the sleeping giant. Laffy Taffy jokes. All of it. As Michael cut off his concert bracelets, he handed them to me and said "put these in our memory box". Except we don't have one of those (yet), but if we did, I'd put all of those things into it.

Red dirt and concert bracelets