Music Camp – 1993

I flew into Bozeman, Montana, and was assigned a roomie. We met in the hotel, a Western style, plaid shirt type of place. Her name was Wendy, and she was much younger than I and very pretty. The evening meal was steak and baked potatoes, the last meat we’d have for a week. When I decided to go to the music week, I’d talked with Judy Pfeil, the woman who ran it, and she said there would be music all week with groups and individuals and lots of free time. I wanted to reacquaint myself with the guitar and bask in women’s music as well as write and relax.

From Bozeman, we drove to Big Timber and camp, a former youth camp used by MoMaMu, the name of the women’s week in the wild. We numbered 100 women from all over the country—most knew Judy Fjeil and had been part of the group at least once before. There were some women my age, both gay and straight, married and single, so I fit in okay. There were community meals, showers, workshops, and evening music. Songs of women’s power and strength with Judy and her friend, Jean, and her excellent fiddling leading us each night. We sat in a huge circle and introduced ourselves before the singing.

There was a central building, cabins and space for tents. I opted for a cabin the first night. One of my cabin mates had a buckwheat pillow and woke in the middle of the night with a mouse around her head eating the pillow. She screamed and threw the pillow and the rest of the night we all felt invisible mice on us. The next night I put up my tent, which was on a small hill and I had to keep pushing myself back or I would have rolled down. (Obviously, I wasn’t an experienced camper.) I woke around midnight to go to the bathroom and was afraid to venture to the latrine in the dark, so I tried to pee outside without getting it all over me and was less than successful. I ended up taking a shower at one o’clock in the morning. I didn’t like the cement floors in the “latrine” and it was cold. It was bad enough I had to go in there to the bathroom. That was the end of my tenting, and I went back to the cabin to sleep.

Conversations with the other women were interesting and personal. Irene told me she was bisexual, married to a minister, and this yearly music camp was the only time she could allow herself to be gay. Many of the gay women had been married when they were younger and had grown children with varied acceptance of their mother’s new life. Another young woman’s partner was pregnant with their baby and she worried about her being alone. We relieved her stress by telling her about our pregnancies, and a few stories popped up about delivering babies in unexpected places like a cab or the car on the way to the hospital.

The sing-alongs, led by Judy and Jean were wonderful, and we all felt the community life of the camp. One night during sharing and sing-along, a mouse came out into the main room, walked slowly and dropped over dead, no one appeared to think of disease just the sadness of the mouse dying.

On the first night I was self-conscious (as usual in a group of people). I imagine the women thought I was either stuck-up or a snob. One woman asked me to dance; they were doing line dancing. I declined, not knowing the dance and not wanting to trip all over myself trying. Jean led us in the singing, Judy joining in with her guitar and lovely voice. Many of the women had brought instruments and played along.

I liked the round-singing workshop. We learned five new songs, one of which we would do on the last night––the performance night. I took a class in basket weaving and a daily guitar class. I learned to play Malaguena, passably. I was new to the guitar and timid with fingering, but I had hauled it all the way from Wisconsin, so I wanted to at least learn something I could do at home. I also made a dulcimer from a kit,a lanyard, and the days raced by.

The food was spectacular. Judy’s partner, Beth, owned a restaurant in California and was in charge of the meals. We had gourmet selections—Judy said we were feeding our creativity. and needed big, good-tasting food to spark us. One supper we had toasted French bread with roasted garlic. The large heads of garlic were served on the tray, and we squeezed each clove on toasted french bread until empty. I’d never tasted garlic that way and fell in love with it. There was salad with avocado and tomato , lasagne, meat loaf, spaghetti and sauce and more. All were vegetarian meals but the food was so hearty and filling I never missed the meat. We ate three meals a day and talked with each other and shared bits and pieces of our lives.

I went hiking one afternoon, wearing my “snake boots.” Apparently there weren’t any snakes this high in the Big Bear Mountains, but we were warned about bears and fire. We were told not to try and outrun a bear if confronted by one, but rather slowly back up and make a lot of noise. The afternoons were mainly free time and one afternoon, I sat by the creek, a part of the Boulder River, wild white water with huge boulders all through it. It was lovely, but I couldn’t calm down enough to stay long, much less write anything creative.

At the supper in Bozeman, people had talked about the dress-up Friday night performances and how outlandish some of the costumes from past years had been. Of course, I had nothing “costumie” to wear. In Bozeman I’d bought a leather vest and black cowboy hat but didn’t know what else I would do for a costume. I ended up wearing my black swim suit (there had been no opportunity to swim anyway) under my jeans, the vest and hat, and did a bump and grind and slowly lowered the jeans to show my legs. There was a great deal of hooting and hollering but I was too self-conscious to go any further. I had a good time in spite of it and enjoyed the other women and their antics.

It was sad leaving. Like any vacation, it took until the last day to feel really comfortable. I rode back to Bozeman with a group of people catching flights about the same time as mine.

My friend, Fay, picked me up at the Madison airport and drove me home. I came through the gate dragging my huge duffel holding the tent and all that went with it plus my clothes. I had a backpack with my necessities, a flute and cardboard dulcimer sticking out the flap. I was wearing my snake boots and jeans and black cowboy hat, and carrying a guitar case. I also had a couple of gifts for the kids and my husband in a bag hanging from my elbow. Fay fell over laughing when she saw me. I was home and it had really been the most interesting vacation I ever took. Looking back over the past twenty years, I wish I could have gone again.


Published in: Uncategorized on December 21, 2014 at 5:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

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