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I’ll add more life to my days

The aroma of kernel corn riding the balmy Florida breezes was an early sign that our road trip would have its perks. The destination was Palatka, Florida, an out-of-the-way town on the St. Johns River about 80 miles north of Orlando.

Othel is a bluegrass fan and had found a star-studded bluegrass festival sponsored by the Rodeheaver Boys Ranch in Palatka. The date was open on our calendar, and he was anxious to take a long distance trip in his recently purchased camper. I had never pictured Valentine’s Day sandwiched between bluegrass serenades, but it was to become a reality.

When we turned into the towering entrance to the ranch we followed a lengthy highway toward the ranch area. Skyscraping pine trees and palmetto groves suddenly cleared away to an expanse of RVs and campers of every imaginable size, shape and model. Othel wasn’t the only bluegrass fan.

We were given a map and escorted to our reserved spot among the 500 plus hookups spread out over the massive pasture. Neighbors were close but friendly. Our schedule of bluegrass artists covered three days, packed from 11 a.m to 9 p.m. with only two 30 minute intermissions each day.

The “concert hall” was a humongous open air pavilion with rows and seating numbers marked off on the concrete floor. The rules were simple. Carry your own folding chair to your ticket number. Lounge chairs and rockers were not permitted.

My daddy used to say when he and Mother visited Branson that he had found where all the senior citizens were. He was only partially correct. That was only half of the group; the other half was in Palatka at this festival.

I know — Othel and I are a part of the “winter season citizens,” but to associate bluegrass fans as only the older generation would be a mistake. This particular gathering was Thursday through Saturday — a perfect schedule for retirees.

However, there were additional perks for bluegrass. The song themes were about love, broken hearts, hard times, starting over and childhood memories. There were a few “drinking and cheating” verses, but the majority of the songs spoke to lives who had experienced everything the songs remembered.

Second, we could understand the words. They weren’t blasted at sonic level sound, and the music had melodies.

The musicians were amazing. The banjo, mandolin, guitar and bass were the sum total instruments of most groups. Extras were a fiddle and dolbro. Voice harmony was required, and the groups were adept at that, too.

Othel has always been a bluegrass fan; I have not. It must have been hearing Bill Monroe the first time and not appreciating his high, nasally twang. (Sorry, Bill.) But there are other artists I have learned to enjoy. Daily and Vincent are my favorites, and they were a part of the weekend performers.

The whole experience was great — even when a few twangers sang “songs that still had the bark on them.” It was even a bit nostalgic when we pulled out of the ranch, leaving behind 1,000-plus fans enjoying retirement and their favorite genre of music. For them, I think a song we heard there best described their being in that setting. “I can’t add more days to my life, so I’ll add more life to my days.”

I hope they all understood that’s always been Jesus’ plan for his children.

Letters to Camille Anding can be sent to P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven, MS, 39602, or e-mailed to camille@datalane.net.