Baseball and Bluegrass July 1, 2016

I have only attended a handful of Bluegrass festivals in my life. Not that I didn’t want to.  Life just has its way of getting in the way.  You may not be familiar  with this activity so I will do a bit of explaining before we get to baseball and I really confuse  you. A bluegrass festival is an event sponsored by some entity such as a local bluegrass group, a traditional music society or a town..  Most often the attendees pay a fee to purchase a wristband which gets you into the Main Stage area to listen to various bands  or attend workshops.  There a open mic times, band scrambles and usually a gospel music hour. Attendees camp out at fairgrounds,  on football fields  or in parks where the event is held. My favorite part is the campsite ” jam” sessions.  Musicians wander around with their instruments and stop to listen to circles at different camps with hope of being invited to play. If one is lucky enough to be hanging out with friends already,  others come join you. I like that best.

Each festival has its own flavor which has contributed to distinct memories.  I have to remind myself that I did not start to play this kind of music until after I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.  There have been days when I could pick along with the group at break neck speed and others when I sat with my arms hugging my guitar close to my chest because my hands and arms  wouldn’t cooperate.   A guitar amplifies sound in its  big body.  Being able to hug my guitar  brought comfort to me and soothed  the extreme frustration when my brain could not make my limbs work.

One festival I played with group of people I did not know.  As the evening slipped away  I asked the time and was told ten minutes after nine. WOW, it seemed later than that.  They must have wanted me to stay around because it was actually 10 minutes before 2 am.  Another year a rowdy group started singing “Dead Skunk in the middle of the road” and other groups in the vicinity joined in the chorus to serenade the coyotes (and any nearby skunks).  One festival’s  location had wonderful biking trails and pedaling won over picking as I put over 70 miles on the odometer.
Good memories go on and on.

My trip to Fossil yesterday provided more fodder for pulp.  I love that I am able to drive myself. Bluegrass Junction was tuned in on Sirius and I arrived about when  I expected and just in time for my friend Maryhelen to get off work.  We visited McMaster’s guitar booth.  While listening to the stage bands we were entertained by a hoola hoop artist who danced beautifully to each song…with her hoola hoop.  Bands and hoola hooper finally took a dinner break.  It was then I spotted them…

TWO MEN PLAYING CATCH.

As I watched them toss the ball back and forth memories flooded my brain.  I could feel the ball burn in my glove when I played catch with a younger Luke. (I could remember when I first knew something was wrong as I threw the  ball for the dog and it went about 5 feet.) My fielders glove was like an extension of my hand after playing softball from March to October for so many years.  Setting any inhibitions aside, I picked up my trekking poles (which help me go long distances fast) and walked directly to the men.  I introduced myself and explained I hadn’t thrown a ball in many years. When I saw them playing catch I wondered  if my recent brain surgery had improved that function.  As Dr Hiller completed the first programming of my DBS in April, she manipulated  my right arm which included some throwing type movements;  movements that until  seeing the men playing catch  I had not thought of attempting.

The gentlemen, Leif and his dad Pete, appeared quite surprised at my request, yet they were willing to oblige.  My hands were really shaking as I put my left hand in Leif”s glove and took the baseball in my right. I was worried that I could not throw, or that I would “throw like a girl”.  But I felt it .  I felt the motor memory kick in. I threw it directly into Pete’s glove.  Pete threw back and I threw the next one harder. “Have you played some baseball in your life?” Pete asked me. It felt so natural, like I had just played yesterday.”Many seasons of softball” I replied.

About 10 throws were enough.  We talked a bit more.  Leif and his dad Pete  have a story to tell about playing catch with a 58 year old woman with Parkinson Disease at a Bluegrass Festival in Fossil, Oregon.   And I have another thing to thank God for…another gift of movement that I didn’t know  had been returned to me.

Anyone want to play catch? I have two gloves and a softball in the garage.

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