Anyone who goes camping knows that one of the most fun activities is sitting around a campfire telling stories, singing songs and maybe roasting a marshmallow or two. Well last night was just one of those nights. Here at 1,000 Palms they have the bonfire on the “great lawn”. The sky has turned black with a couple of stars shining through and a planet showing pretty brightly too. About 15 people are around the campfire. A number of old logs stand on end for tables in between the chairs. Dogs are laying at their masters feet or sitting in the laps or their caretakers, looking as spoiled rotten as can be.
A sip of red wine, popcorn and the evenings entertainment begins. The campfire now roaring to life, with bright blues and greens from the old Christmas lights that were thrown in with the fire.
One camper from the Massachusetts area begins the evening with a song he wrote about the plight of the rivers and bays in the area having been polluted over many years. His song is heartfelt and well received as he tells the story of how the rivers we finally cleaned up after locals gathered together and made a difference. The other members of his party told of going into Boston and having a rally at Faneuil Hall and how their actions helped save the bay and rivers.
After that the guitar and banjo players began with Madeline leading the singing, everything from Oh Susanna to other old time songs. Then I thought it was time for a good Norwegian/ Swedish story. This story followed:
One Sunday morning
One Sunday morning, the Lutheran pastor noticed Ole standing in the foyer of the church staring up at a large plaque. It was covered with names and small American flags mounted on either side of it. The old Norwegian had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside Ole, and said quietly, 'Good morning Ole.'
'Good morning Pastor,' he replied, still focused on the plaque. 'Pastor, vat is dis?' The pastor said, 'Well, it's a memorial to all the men and women who died in the service. Soberly, they just stood together, staring at the large plaque.
Finally, Ole's voice, barely audible and trembling with fear
asked, 'Vich service, da 8:30 or da 10:45?
Someone suggested a good ole Johnny Cash tune and after doing Folsom Prison, I suggested Ring of Fire. I told the story of how June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash were married to different partners at the time. Their marriages were breaking up and during that time June and Johnny started to fall in love with each other. Even after they were divorced from their previous partners, June didn’t accept Johnny’s proposal of marriage right away, as Johnny was quite a wild guy back in those days. But during that time, their love grew stronger and stronger. June Carter finally wrote the Ring of Fire about that all consuming love they had for each other. Johnny Cash of course made it into a huge hit eventually, but it was their song about their love for each other.
Tried to get them to sing "Just a bowl of butter Beans" but no one knew the tune so we went onto other songs.
After a few more songs and more Ole and Lena jokes were told, the gal next to me once again said we need a good ghost story. So I told of the two ghosts that hovered around the ceiling in my bedroom when I was growing up in Northern Mich. And how my niece had mentioned that years later when she was going to college and would occasionally stay in my parents home, that she immediately knew their were spirits in my old bedroom where she’d stay overnight. On the other side of the campfire a guy piped up and told the story of the old farm house he had bought and how the neighbors started to ask if he’d seen the ghost in the upper window waving? He hadn’t seen it yet, but out of curiosity, started to ask some of the previous owners if they had ever experienced such sightings. All said yes, including the last owner who said, “why do you think I moved!”.
A few more songs, a few more stories are told and gradually folks start heading back to their campers. A warm gentle breeze blowing the palm fronds to and fro against the dark sky as the fire slowly fades out.