Journey to Ukazoo
Slide 18: Picking Apples
In Oregon, I stopped at Draper Girls Country Farm to sample some wonderful apple cider. Looking for a place to stay, someone recommended a small farm in Rhododendron. The farm, run by Max and his friend, Melanie, had a cider mill of their own and this being the season, they were in full production and their cider, like Draper Girls, was superb.
Max and Melanie offered me a cut rate for lodging in return for pitching in with a couple of chores to help with a family gathering taking place over the next three days. As soon as the offer was accepted, relatives of various sorts started to arrive and with them came a variety of foods and various musical instruments for what would begin as an impromptu jam session.
One of my first chores was helping Max and a few others construct a small makeshift stage with a few spot lights and cousin Arlo rigged up a sound system. Once done the music began. Another cousin, Richie and his wife Mary Sweetwater started the music off. Next, brothers Bert and Tim and an exchange student named Ravi each added a couple of tunes. Max’s uncle David arrived in his classic 1951 Nash Rambler with his young but talented nephew Steve and at their turn on stage worked up some beautiful harmonies. Even Melanie and Arlo took to the stage for a couple of songs.
After a long day and getting very late, most of the kids retired to bed, but the adults became so involved in the calm flow of music that they ended up playing through the night.
As the music continued unabated, late arriving relatives and now several neighbors, who had filtered over to contribute a pot luck dish and tune or two, worked up a schedule of who would play next and Melanie, requiring more apples for desserts, asked Max and me to visit the orchards to fill a few baskets.
I took this picture of Max picking some apples at the edge of one orchards before we moved to pick various varieties from around the farm to complement different apple dishes.
By late afternoon a dead tired but very grateful Max watched as a fire pit was set up for some outdoor grilling and neighbors Joni and Keef made sure there was plenty of wood stocked.
Getting wind of the now growing music festival, several local bands and fans from nearby communities descended on Max’s farm to play. The afternoon drifted into evening with only one break in the music, by a short but steady light rain in the early evening, but the growing crowd paid no mind and several individuals engaged in a muddy slip and slide down one of the nearby hills. As the rain subsided, the music picked up and again continued through the night.
Now knee deep in kitchen chores to keep up with the food requests I was still able to listen to all the onstage appearances and managed to see quite a few. All day a mix of great food and fabulous music went on and as evening waned, the music came to a close. By 9:40 p.m. the last song sung, the last slice of apple pie wolfed down, the last ember of the fire doused, everyone, myself included, chipped in to clean up, break down the stage, and put things away.
All in all some 32 family members, individuals, and groups took the stage in a very peaceful three days of food and music, and with a crowd, by Max’s estimate, of around 400 people, a small Déjà Vu type of feeling had settled in.
At my departure the next morning, amid hugs goodbye, there on the front seat of the van was a basket filled with apple tarts, and a large thermos of apple cider. Good people I will always remember.
All images and text are copyright Craig L Haupt
Postings of “Journey to Ukazoo” Slides are every Monday Evening.