A cowboy among hippies
He was a lone cowboy sitting among a crowd of old South Dakota/Texas hippies trying his best to fit in. The common denominator was music - mostly a combination of country and folk music. I knelt down on the grass between him and my wife, striking up a conversation to set him at ease.
I take pride in my ability to make instant friends wherever I go and with whomever I meet. I easily won the cowboy over, especially when I pointed out my Texas friend, Beegs. The cowboy volunteered that he was a huge Willie Nelson fan. I shared that Beegs had Willie Nelson's lawn recliner parked in his back yard in Austin, Texas, courtesy of an IRS auction that got Willie square with Uncle Sam.
By Saturday afternoon, we were in the middle of the three-day Sioux River Folk Festival in Newton Hills State Park near Canton, South Dakota, listening to the Minneapolis duo The Cactus Blossoms performing a dead-on version of The Everly Brothers' hit song "Crying in the Rain."
We had just been wooed by an audience-charged set performed by another Minneapolis-based country group called Tree Party. Tree Party's band leader, Joey Ford, was the son of an old South Dakota friend of ours and his star was rapidly ascending to fame. After their set, I introduced Joey to my old friend, Bruce Preheim, who long ago had been tagged as "The King of South Dakota." Bruce is a longtime Dakota singer/songwriter who had discovered a few hours earlier he had won a national contest for his watercolor portrait featuring an old dance hall in Virginia.
"I didn't even realize the art show I entered was a national competition," Bruce stated.
Bruce told Joey Ford, "I knew your dad way back when. Kid, you got nowhere to go but up!"
Joey imitated Hank Williams' yodel, which he combined with his talented, accordion/fiddle playing wife, Jenny, for a country sound that could only be classified as unique. Aided by an Artist Initiative Grant from the state, Joey traversed Minnesota seeking local historical stories which he turned into song. Some of these included "Dorothy Molter: The Root Beer Lady," "Wrinkle Meat: The 137-Year-Old Man," and "Elmer Aakvik: The Old Man of the Inland Sea." However, the song that brought the house down was his rendition of Hank Williams' "Long Gone Lonesome Blues."
The weekend weather matched the quality of all the bands and musicians in attendance. Normal August weather generally brings in a rush of 100 degree days to southeastern South Dakota. This year was 20 degrees cooler, leaving our couple dozen Texas friends considering a return to their northern roots.
Our Minnesota friends, Butch and Betty, who are huge fans of music, came to the festival this year. Other than temporarily getting lost in South Dakota's metropolis of Sioux Falls, their attitude typified festival goers at the Sioux River Folk Festival's 35th and Red Willow Band's 40th reunion.
"Wick, your old friends are so great!" Betty stated.
"It's like we've known them forever," Butch chimed in.
Our South Dakota/Texas friends said, "Your Minnesota friends are great. It's like we've known them forever!"
Next week I'll tell you all about South Dakota's own legendary Red Willow Band and what they've been up to the last 40 years.