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The Experience of Singing Gospel

Sourdough 21 Jun 01 - 03:26 PM
Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull 21 Jun 01 - 10:11 PM
Rick Fielding 22 Jun 01 - 12:20 AM
Sourdough 22 Jun 01 - 02:04 AM
Dani 22 Jun 01 - 08:54 AM
Ebbie 22 Jun 01 - 11:51 AM
Turtle 22 Jun 01 - 12:12 PM
Mark Cohen 22 Jun 01 - 08:18 PM
Sourdough 22 Jun 01 - 09:24 PM
GUEST,IanB (ianb@skywriter.demon.co.uk) 23 Jun 01 - 04:47 AM
Sourdough 23 Jun 01 - 06:51 PM
Cappuccino 24 Jun 01 - 06:10 PM
Sourdough 24 Jun 01 - 11:38 PM
Joe Offer 25 Jun 01 - 12:47 AM
Cappuccino 25 Jun 01 - 09:31 AM
Bert 26 Jun 01 - 06:55 PM
Joe Offer 26 Jun 01 - 08:37 PM
Amos 26 Jun 01 - 09:09 PM
DougR 26 Jun 01 - 09:11 PM
Sourdough 27 Jun 01 - 02:12 AM
Cappuccino 27 Jun 01 - 04:21 AM
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Subject: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Sourdough
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 03:26 PM

The discussion on the necessity of belief to sing gospel music is really interesting. A lot of people have put real though thought into their posts and the rest of us appreciate it, I think. One of the reasons why this is so interesting is that much is based on experience. I'd like to know more about the experience of singing gospel, the effect it has had on the singer and on the audience. I am going to start it off with a story about what happened when I was singing in a bar in the Texas Panhandle. I'd be real curious about the effect that singing gospel music has had, especially on "unbelievers" and on audiences in a non church setting. It is a long story but it is, I think, pretty much to the point.

The only reason I was in Dumas, Texas was because I had seen the name on a map and remembering the song, "I'm a Ding Dong Daddy From Dumas", had somewhat impulsively decided to visit there. I was on one of my motorcycle trips across the US. I am always looking for ways to encourage myself to get off the Big-I's and onto the back roads. Going to Dumas would do that. Even though it was pretty close to the summer solstice, the weather had turned bad. By the time I reached Dumas, there was a cold raw wind and the sun was setting. As soon as I passed under a big street banner proclaiming that I was "Welcome to Dumas, Home of The Ding Dong Daddy", I started looking for a motel.

The Green Lantern looked good and I rolled n there. Luther Jeter was behind the desk and the warmth of his greeting started to reduce the chill I was feeling from the weather. He was interested in how somebody from Massachusetts happened to be in Dumas on a motorcycle and we talked for a bit. Then we got down to business, Soon we had agreed on a price, I'd filled out the forms and had the room key in my hand. Luther had one more question, "Have you had supper yet?" I told him no but I was going to be looking for a place to eat.

"I've got a supper club next door but the kitchen closes at 9:00, in five minutes." I told him that it sounded good but there was no way I could unload my bike and clean up in five minutes.

"How about fifteen minutes?"

I agreed that was doable. "Okay, I'll tell them to keep the kitchen open for you. They'll be expecting you."

I carried the saddlebags and the pack from the luggage rack into my home-for-the-night and did a quick washup because I was hungry and I appreciated Luther's thoughtfulness.. When I walked into the Green Lantern Bar and Supper Club I took a place at the bar.. I could have sat at one of the tables with the green checked tablecloths. There were probably thirty of them and only half had people sitting at them but they were couples and larger groups. I felt more comfortable on a stool. The bartender walked over, smiled pleasantly and drawled, "You the motorcycle guy from Massachusetts?" Luther had kept his world, they were expecting me. I said that was who I was and he handed me a menu. I ordered a Pearl beer while I read through it.

OI have always had a habit of ordering, almost reflexively, anything on a menu that looks or sounds unusual, exotic or seems to be something I have never tried. Since I had no idea what "calf fries" were, I ordered them.

A few moments later, Luther came in, sat on the stool next to me and signaled to the bartender that he wanted a Pearl too. "They taking good care of you?"

"Yup, I'm all set."

"What did you order?"

I told Luther that I had ordered the calf fries. I was a bit taken aback by the look of surprise that flitted across his face. Then he asked, somewhat cautiously I thought, "Do you know what calf fries are?" I admitted that I didn't and explained by habit of ordering exactly those things that were unfamiliar.

"Hmmm. I better not tell you, then or else you won't eat them."

I thought for a moment and said, "Okay, Luther, I think I just figured out what calf fries are." And I had. They were calf testicles, in this case soaked in milk, dredged in bread crumbs and sauteed. And they turned out to be good. In fact they reminded me of calves brains which I had eaten several times in French restaurants. (I think that also will give you some insight into the intellectual capacity of a bull calves.)

Luther gave me some privacy in which to eat my dinner but when I was nearly done, he came back and asked me how I had enjoyed it. I complimented his cook and learned that the calves testicles come in five gallon cans and are pretty popular at The Green Lantern Supper Club. Luther and I continued talking about one thing and another for a few minutes and then I mentioned that it looked as though he sometimes had live music at his club. There was a stage, microphones, a drum set, and a bass as well as a guitar in a stand. ""Just on weekends, "he said. This was a Wednesday. "But you wouldn't like t, it's all country and western.

I was mildly offended by that and decided to change Luther's mind. "Hey, not only do I like it, I even play it."

"Not real country and western, you're from Massachusetts, right?"

"Maybe, but I grew up in New Hampshire and there was plenty of country music there. I grew up listening to Grand Ole Opry." I was on a roll.

"And you play?"

"I do."

Without any further ado, Luther stood up and in a booming voice announced to the room, "We got a special guest here, all the way from Massachusetts and he's offered to play for us". I was more than surprised.

"No, Luther, I'm tired and I'm cold from riding on the bike."

Luther urned away from me towards the tables and went on, "Let's get him up there on stage, whaddya say?" Of course, they cheered, whistled and stomped their feet. There was no other entertainment that night. One way or another, my appearance would make their evening a bit more interesting.

I knew for sure was that my guitar skills were not going to impress this group of Texans, most of whom were refinery workers from Shamrock on the other side of town. My Carter Family style would probably not find a terribly receptive audience but in desperation I came up with a sort of solution. I agreed to play but on my own terms.

"I've got an instrument in my room. I'll get it and be right back." What I had was a mountain dulcimer that I carry o my bike. I figured that probably nobody in this group had ever even seen one. The novelty might help to distract them from my playing.

The dulcimer was wrapped for the motorcycle trip in a calico bag with a waterproof liner. When I walked back into the bar carrying this long bag, I could feel a tenseness run through the room. It grew as I started to unwrap the dulcimer. In a flash of insight, I realized it was the same size as a sawed off shotgun. I think there was a little bit of Panhandle paranoia showing there for a moment but when I drew the pinch-waisted instrument from the bag, everyone relaxed. Some leaned forward to get a better look.

As I tuned, I explained what this odd looking instrument was and the audience waited expectantly. Now I was ready to play.

I may know the lyrics and chords for several hundred songs but at that particular moment in Dumas, Texas, I could not think of one. I forced myself to concentrate. Finally, I locked on to something. Relieved, and without stopping to consider its appropriateness, I started singing, "I'll Fly Away". Somewhere around, "Like a bird whose prison walls has flown", I saw the absurdity of the situation. I was singing Gospel in a Texas bar. But then the people at the tables started joining in the chorus: "I'll fly away to Glory, I'll fly away". When it was over, they started clapping, they wanted more.

It turned out to be the beginning of a night of gospel singing in the Green Lantern Supper Club. Luther's wife came on stage, picked up the bass and joined in with a beautifully mellow and clear soprano voice, singing harmonies that lifted me to what felt like a whole new level of ability and consciousness. A friend of Luther's came on stage and started playing backup guitar. One gospel song after another, "Shall We Gather at the River", "Will the Circle be Unbroken", "I Shall Not Be Moved", "Angel Band", on and on. It was a wonderful evening, twenty years later, it remains one of my favorite musical memories.

Am I a "believer", no. I am not even Christian and the little exposure I had to Christianity was as an Episcopalian, somewhat distant on the spectrum of Christianity from the traditions I had drawn on. Was the audience in the Green Lantern Bar and Supper Club particularly religious? I don't think so yet for an hour and a half or so we sang with a fervor that moved us. We sang songs about total forgiveness, an end of pain and sorrow, the chance to start over, the promise of living eternally surrounded by beauty, the opportunity to see loved ones again, and we sang about unconditional love. You would have to be made of pretty stern stuff not to respond to these kinds of promises. I don't think you need to believe that these songs are about Truth but perhaps a part of you needs to wish, at least for a moment, that the are.


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull
Date: 21 Jun 01 - 10:11 PM

Nice story, thanks for sharing it with us.I am not particlary religous, but I do like gospel music.Some of it is very nice.


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 22 Jun 01 - 12:20 AM

Thanks 'Dough. That was great.

Here's a little experience I had once.

I was booked to entertain a group of Finnish "export import something" folks, on the Toronto Island (sort of a big park).T'was fun. Naturally I didn't know any Finnish songs, but they were having a good time. Midway through the evening about 10 guys wandered over to where we had a campfire going. I said "Hi, join the group", but they stayed on the periphery.

The agent who booked the gig immediately came over to me and whispered "no, no, those men are from the RUSSIAN trade delegation. Their convention isn't being held on the Island. They took the ferry on their own over here. Finns and Russians HATE each other. Leave them be, or you'll offend the Finns.

Hmmmm, I thought. If those guys wanna hear the music, then I'm NOT going to ignore them, despite what the agent says (see why I've never gotten rich?) I started singing "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" and tried to teach it by rote to the folks. Many actually KNEW it. Got the Russians to sing "Swing low", then a quick response "Swing low" from the Finns, and I supplied the "Sweet Chariot". Worked great. Bottom line was that within a few minutes the Russians were in the midst of the Finns, singin 'bout Jesus (and drinking the free beer!) Both groups loved the Gospel songs....and they seemed to be chatting to each other with smiles on their faces, whether in Finnish or Russian, I don't know.

I'm not religious, but I know the power of those songs.

Rick


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Sourdough
Date: 22 Jun 01 - 02:04 AM

RIck, that's quite a story. That, and something you wrote in the other thread got me thinking. You mentioned how you can get into whaling songs and songs of other "non-Rick" activities. I certainly know what you mean and perhaps what we are feeling is the power of certain genres of songs to create community - sometimes between the performer and the audience and sometimes just between the singer and the groups who used to sing those same songs fifty, a hundred, a hundred and fifty years ago.

Pete Seeger likes to use the metaphor of our being links in a chain. There are certain songs, among them gospel, that singing them makes me feel snug and secure in my place as a link in that chain.

Sourdough


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Dani
Date: 22 Jun 01 - 08:54 AM

Amen, Sourdough. You made my day.

Dani


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Ebbie
Date: 22 Jun 01 - 11:51 AM

I agree. This is a great way to start a day. Thanks, guys.

Ebbie


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Turtle
Date: 22 Jun 01 - 12:12 PM

Those are both wonderful stories. Thanks, Sourdough and Rick.

Turtle


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Mark Cohen
Date: 22 Jun 01 - 08:18 PM

There's a woman in Seattle named Pat Wright who leads (led? haven't been there in some time) a gospel choir, composed mostly of children. She was invited to teach at the 1990 Puget Sound Guitar Workshop, and I was fortunate enough to take her class. Now, I'm not Christian, and have always felt a wee bit uncomfortable singing overtly Christian religious songs. But I can tell you that the performance we did at the end of the week, with maybe 80 people singing, was one of the most intensely moving and thrilling experiences of my life. I was among many with tears rolling down our faces as we clapped and sang and shouted and rocked the camp. It didn't matter to me that it wasn't my religion or my beliefs. The feeling was universal, and the experience was pure joy.

Aloha,
Mark


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Sourdough
Date: 22 Jun 01 - 09:24 PM

Isn't that amazing, Mark? As I think about it, it seems more and more to me that this is a genre of music that helps to build a sense of community and connectedness. We are a social creature and this kind of experience seems to link right into or hard-wiring. On the other hand, there is a powerful feeling of cleansing, of acceptance, of new chances, all wrapped up in this music.

I went to a Mahalia Jackson concert in a black high school in New Haven around 1960. As young as I was, I could appreciate how she took the crowd and slowly raised them to a level of excitement that was just a tiny bit less than hysteria. Then she let them relax for a bit and with another song or another way of singing even the same song, she would build them up again. I became a part of that, moving with the people around me, feeling swept up, reassured and then lifted again. People were crying, were testifying, were opening themselves up to Jesus through her songs.

I hesitate to add that there is a dark side to this as anyone who has watched the clear bright faces of the Hitler Jugend sing their very moving songs.

Group singing releases very powerful emotions as unions, political parties, nations, politicians, religions all know so well. In the end, we are responsible for what we take way from soul stirring songs. For me, I feel that what I take away from the gospel songs that I love so much makes me a better person in some indefineable way even though the concordance of my beliefs and the fundemental Christan faith expressed in most of those sacred songs is small, at least as far as the details go. However, in the largest sense, perhaps I do agree that I am just a small part of creation and that there is much beyond my control, much to wonder at, to hold in awe and much to be grateful for even if I don't quite know the exact address to which to send my thanks.

Soudough


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: GUEST,IanB (ianb@skywriter.demon.co.uk)
Date: 23 Jun 01 - 04:47 AM

Hello from Oxfordshire. This thread has encouraged us - thanks. We've just put out a home-recorded CD of fairly tough Christian songs about our duty to our fellow-men, for a charity we support that equips remote health centres in Africa and India. (Details of CD & charity on www.skywriter.demon.co.uk.) We were wondering if we had the guts to take this stuff out 'live' to pubs... and your stories have helped us decide! Many thanks.


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Sourdough
Date: 23 Jun 01 - 06:51 PM

There is obviously a lot of interest in GOspel musici around here. I think ma people besides mself would be curious about what experiences you have, our feelings and the feelings of our audiences, as ou try this material out. Is it new or traditional music?

Soudough


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Cappuccino
Date: 24 Jun 01 - 06:10 PM

Thanks for your interest. The problem is this – we know that most church worship bands, at least here in England, have never played outside the rarified atmosphere of the church, and are unable to cope with audiences who are not congregations, if you take my meaning... they will play ever-so-politely, like they do in church, and sing in church-speak, like 'Jesus, thou art worthy to be praised', and in a pub, they'll get things thrown at them for it! But we're old folkies, so we decided that we would go for a powerful acoustic guitar and bluesy harmonica style, just as you might expect in folk-club or pub surroundings, but with toughened-up Christian lyrics. So we dug up old songs that haven't been heard for years, and for many, we don't even know who to credit as writer. There's an old Hank Williams-style one called A Tramp on the Street, the story of Lazarus, to which we gave a fast bluegrass clawhammer style. We did the same to Family Bible, which used to be a fairly typical slow maudlin country and western song. We've added ragtime guitar to some songs, and even though my ragtime playing is fairly ham-fisted, it gets attention! There's a wonderful song called Compassion Road, the Good Samaritan story, and that gets some breakneck guitar fingerpicking... you know, keep the rhythm and it sounds great, but make a mistake and it all comes down like a house of cards! And the harmonica player really is super, and very bluesy, and we've removed all the church-speak from the lyrics. So, with luck, we'll get attention for the sound of the music first, and get the message of the lyrics across second. Well, that's the plan…! Best wishes. - Ian B


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Sourdough
Date: 24 Jun 01 - 11:38 PM

I will bet that you will come to like the old fashioned hard-driving/ THese songs have stood up to the taste and sometimes wandering attention of the singers. People who grew up withthese songs never forget them no matter what pathe their lives take. THere are literally hundreds of terrific songs, Tramp on the street is certainy good one. I don't recall that it is Hank WIlliams although he did write a wonderful song called "Where the Soul Never Dies". Don't forget the beautiful songs such as "Angel Band". If you look in Digital Tradition under "gospel" you'll see lots and lots you'll have to choose from. My suggestion is that you choose some that have good choruses for the audience to join in.

I say all of this as a non-Christian but someone who appreciates the beauty, power and history of these old songs.

I was listening ot a collection of field recordings from western Virginia and Estern Tennessee. One of the songs was "Rank Stranger". I guess it isn't exactly a gospel song but it seems to fit in there and it is great to sing along with on the chorus. You might consider it if unless you want to have an unbroken set of outspokenly religious songs. I'll bet that people reading this thread will have a lot more suggesitons.

SOurdough


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Joe Offer
Date: 25 Jun 01 - 12:47 AM

That's one hell of a story, Sourdough. I learned to love gospel when we'd gather around a piano and drink beer and sing gospel in a Catholic seminary in the 60's. We sang just for the fun of it, and we were quite cynical about the theological content of the lyrics. I won't sing gospel in church because I can't buy the theology in it, but I still love to sing it. Sometimes, I think I should get down off my intellectual high horse and figure out why people like gospel music so much, and then maybe I'd feel comfortable singing it in church.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Cappuccino
Date: 25 Jun 01 - 09:31 AM

I looked up Rank Stranger on the Search, and guess what turned up? The song about Abdul Abulbul Amir and Ivan Stravinky Stravar!!! I do agree with what you say about the old hard-driving songs. The people who wrote them were more direct and to the point than those why write CCM (contemporary Christian music) , where the lyrics go all round the houses and don't always get to a point at all! If you're interested, the story of the songs (so much as I know them) is on my site at http://www.skywriter.demon.co.uk, and we're taking them out to the streets of this town (Witney, 17 miles west of Oxford) at a street festival on July 7. Then we'll see!!! Very best wishes and many thanks - Ian B


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Bert
Date: 26 Jun 01 - 06:55 PM

Refresh - Thread of the week 'specially fer Joe


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Joe Offer
Date: 26 Jun 01 - 08:37 PM

Well, thanks for naming this the thread of the week, Bert - be sure to read Sourdough's terrific story in the first post.
-Joe Offer-


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Amos
Date: 26 Jun 01 - 09:09 PM

Powerful and beautiful indeed they are, and in many ways farther reaching and deeper-cutting than the paler versions being turned out in mnay churches modernly. I have never failed to get a group moving with "Keep Your Hand on the Plough" and "Wade In the Water", "Just a Closer Walk", "Amazing Grace". and "Home in That Rock". Never needed to subscribe, either!

A


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: DougR
Date: 26 Jun 01 - 09:11 PM

Sourdough, Rick: great stories. Sourdough, over fifty years ago I spent three summers in Dumas, Texas working for a custom plowing company. That is wheat country, and after the combines had cut the wheat and the trucks had hauled the wheat to town, we would follow along behind plowing the stubble. Sorry for the thread creep but I couldn't resit.

I use to sing gospel music back when I was a Southern Baptist in Texas. We use to have country singings under a brush arbor in the country during revival weeks. It was a wonderful experience, and I wouldn't take for it. I haven't sung gospel in years though.

DougR


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Sourdough
Date: 27 Jun 01 - 02:12 AM

Two years ago, I went down to Big Bend, Texas on my bike. I found a camping space about fifty yards or so from the Rio Grand and set up my tent towards the middle of a big field. Since I was not far from the river, I was afraid there would be a lot of biting insects and decided to sleep in my tent so I could get behind some mosquito netting. Because it was so hot, I had decided against a real supper. I had with me a six pack of Shiner Bock beer and a bag of ice that I had picked up in town.

It was a Saturday night in early July. At this time of year, in West Texas there isn't a lot of cooling after the sun goes down. I sat down under a tree and as the shadows grew longer and the worst of the heat dissolved in the dusk, I took out my harmonica, opened an iced beer, cut off a chunk of cheese I had with me and generally felt that all was pretty well with the world. Even though I was feeling pretty good, there was something about this particular time and place that brought out melancholy tunes. One after another I played them, stopping occasionally for another cooling pull on a beer.

After fifteen or twenty minutes of this a vulture landed in the tree overhead. THis was somewhat unnerving. I think a vulture's attention may be a bit more disturbing to a motocyclist a thousand miles from home than he would be to, say, an RV camper. Anyway, this bird flew down and walked about in front of me. I looked at his powerful beak and figured it might be a good idea to share my cheese with this ugly bald-headed bird with the red neck feathers. It might keep his mind off carrion. He hopped around with great agility as I tossed bits of cheese first to one side of him and then the other. When he was sure that the cheese was gone, he flew back up in the tree and another vulture flew in from the distance to join him up there. I kept playing on the harmonica trying to imagine that they were an appreciative audience.

Then another vulture flew in, and another. I started to feel like the Pied Piper of Hohner. The tree was filling up with these big black birds. It was hard not to look at them as some sort of omen. Not only are these birds with their four foot wingspans not liked by man, they don't seem to like each other and as the tree branches filled up with birds flying in from all compass points, they started squabbling for the best limbs. They became noisier and more argumentative and I moved away. With that many upset birds overhead, it would have been only a matter of time before I was slimed by one of these overly exciteable creatures.

Another beer and the sun was near the horizon. It was a night of a full moon so as the sun sank below the horizon in the west, a large polished white disk rose in the East. It was so bright it cast shadows on the dry ground.

I put the harmonica in my pocket and started to get ready for bed and was taking off my boots when a coyote walked into camp.

He was about the size of a small skinny german shephard but he walked through the campsite, about thirty feet away from me, with a noticeable degree of dignity, as if to make sure that I understood that he was the real resident here. He seemed to be saying that people like me come and go but he would be here tomorrow and the next night, and so on. He did keep his eye on me all the way across the clearing as he headed for the brush along the river. As he passed by, his head turned until, when he disappeared into the bushes, he was looking back over his shoulder at me. Then he was gone. Now it really was time for bed. I lay down on top of my sleeping bag and closed my eyes.

As much as I wanted to fall asleep, it was so hot that soon I was warm and thirsty. I crawled out of the tent and in the light of the moon, opened another beer. A few minutes later, with a new determination to fall asleep, I stretched out on top of my bag in the tent. This time I was determined to fall asleep and stay that way until sunrise which, because this was midsummer, was only a few hours away.

The next sound I heard was a kind of snuffling. I can't really describe it very well, kind of like a very fat man with a runny nose. I tried ignoring it but it got louder and soon there were lots of snufflings. The noises seemed to be coming from my motorcycle. My curiousity got the better of me. I opened my eyes, unzipped the mosquito netting and looked out.

In the moonlight, I could see, by actual count eleven javalinas. They were rooting through my open saddlebags and pack. Javelinas are pigs but they are pigs with an attitude; athletic pigs armed, you might say, to the teeth. They have sharp tusks and tremendously strong neck muscles. They've been known to gut a horse and then having brought it down to atack the rider.

I was aware of their aggressiveness but I also didn't want pig nose drippings all over my goods so I picked up handfulls of dust and twigs from the ground by the tent. Kind of softly I said, "Go on. Get out of here". I punctuated my quiet remonstrances by throwing the dust and twigs in their general direction. A couple of these dustballs and my annoying voice combined with the fact that they hadn't found anything that smelled interesting was enoough for them to conclude that I wasn't worth the annoyance I was causing them. They left the field to me.

Relieved that my gear was safe and even more so that I hadn't been gutted, I went back into the tent, lay out on the sleeping bag and tried again to fall asleep.

This time, I may have actually succeeded, at least for a while, but in the fog of half-sleep I heard more sounds from outside. Again I tried to ignore them. When that failed, I tried to identify them. They were big, heavy sounds, thumping, sort of, and there was snuffling but this time it sounded more like a horse than a pig. Too curious to sleep, I unzipped the mosquito netting yet another time and looked out, again towards my motorcycle. What I saw in the moonlight was a small herd of cattle milling around the field. I didn't think of it at the time but this was rather odd because there was very little grass there. The dozen or so cows could have devoured the few clumps in a few minutes. I figured cows couldn't hurt me and they didn't seem to have any interest in my motorcycle so I zipped up the tent and lay down again.

I don't know what it was, I didn't hear anything but something spooked this little herd and from inside the frail nylon tent and suddenly I heard the sound of a stampede and it was coming my way! I looked at the roof of the tent thinking that the last thing I would see would be hooves tearing through the fragile fabric. I'll bet my eyes were the size of dinner plates. I even had time to think how odd it was that a guy who grew up in New Hampshire would end up being killed in a Texas cattle stampede. What happened next seemed like a miracle. The cattle went around both sides of the tent, never even touching it. As I began breathing again, I heard the herd hit the water at full gallop, splashing across the shallow river into Mexico. Perhaps the grass looked greener there, who knows?

Exhausted by my moments of fear and then terror, I finally did fall asleep.

The sky was beginning to lighten when I woke up next. The vultures were already gone and I started to pack the camp. I was rolling up the tent when the coyote reappeared out of the bushes by the river, returning home after a night out hunting. He didn't seem surpried to see me and crossed the field on the same track he ahd taken a few hours before, again watching me over his shoulder as he passed into the trees on the other side of the clearing.

About an hour or so later, I rode into Marathon, Texas, the first town I had come to. It was Sunday morning and the street in front of the Marathon Baptist church was starting to fill up with pickup trucks and people dressed in clean, bright colored clothes that looked out of place alongside dusty workday vehicles that had brought them in from the surrounding ranches. I parked between two pickups and went into the church. THat morning, I felt I had a lot to be thankful for and I wanted to tell someone about it. The gospel songs I sang that morning alng with the congregation of the Marathon Baptist Church seemed to help me do just that.

Sourdough


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Subject: RE: The Experience of Singing Gospel
From: Cappuccino
Date: 27 Jun 01 - 04:21 AM

Oxfordshire, England, may be a long way from Texas, but the atmosphere of your stories resound well even here. I have friends who have a ranch in Bandera, south of San Antonio, and I love that state... I could feel the atmosphere of evening in Texas while I was reading! Hmmm... time for another visit to the States. I've promised my 13-year-old I'll bring him over to see your country before long...

All the best, - Ian B


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Mudcat time: 7 April 7:47 AM EDT

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