Wednesday, July 12, 2017

A Celebration with Conviviality and Cheer and Beer

On Saturday, I joined Kristen for a party in Midland, VA. I hadn't spent quality time with her since 2009, when we'd shared a primitive cabin for a weekend, so it was fun to see her again. She was the only person there that I knew but I was looking forward to the evening. It was called 'Eric's First and Probably LAST 4th of July Party', an awesomely superb title, sounding as though it belonged in a Wayne's World movie or a Bill and Ted Adventure. I wasn't very sure what to expect so when I turned onto a dirt track and stopped in front of what looked like farm buildings, I was very curious. Kristen's friend Kellie came out and introduced herself, explaining that we were partying at an abandoned golf course. Elation set in, how positively superb! This would be a most excellent evening!
We walked towards what used to be the club house, me trying desperately to rush towards the building, eager to explore, but hampered by having to haul my cooler and a huge folding chair. As we entered I spotted tables loaded with munchies and was instantly aware of a poultry smell. In one corner were boxes filled with baby chickens and guinea fowl, none of them restricted in any way, so a few were strutting about, although most were content to stay inside the boxes or perch on the sides.
Kristen was already inside, indulging in a cuddle fest with armfuls of chicks, and I bounded over to look. There was also a very smug looking cat near the kitchen door, who, although had got a bowl filled with kibble, she evidently preferred to catch herself the odd snack, as a few random feathers on the floor gave her away.
Getting immediately down to business, I cracked open a beer, and then investigated a counter top that was piled high with countless hats. It was like being in the Disney Costume Room; there were hats with animals heads, stetsons, a Davy Crockett hat, elves hats, dress hats, but I chose a Mad Hatter hat and posed for a photo.
Even though this place hadn't been used as a golf course for some time, it still had power and had a fridge to keep our beers cold and lighting. Except in the bathrooms, but that was fine. Better that than porta potties, and my phone had a flashlight. We were introduced to Eric and his girlfriend Sophia, and a crowd of other pals, who were all super friendly. A small group of us went outside to explore the grounds and Kristen brought her bag of carrots and sugar cubes for the horses, which we were allowed to ride at $50 an hour.
We pottered about the grounds, fed the horses, and I was nipped by the tiniest one, a Shetland, on the arm, no idea why. I laughed as a line of ducks headed for the lake in single file, then checked out the kayaks, lined up along the bank ready for use. The old trampoline had seen better days and I was very tempted to try it out, only stopping myself at the thought of bouncing right through the base and spilling my beer. Not acceptable.
Then it was back inside again for a beer tasting. Kristen and I had brought some lesser known ales for others to try. Most of mine were IPAs, and note my extreme generosity at parting with a can of my beloved Squeeze to the left of the photo. Kristen brought a tasty pineapple IPA and a chocolate orange beer which was strangely tasty, and I kept sipping it. Most of the other guests weren't too enthused with our selection though, so we gamely polished off as many of the opened bottles and cans as we could, and I very bravely handed over the rest of my Squeeze can to a fellow beer enthusiast who had enjoyed it.
The sun was setting, lighting up the clouds from behind, the sky casting beautiful hues across the horizon, so we went back out for a saunter further afield. I was starting to wish I'd brought my Sony, my G15 wasn't able to capture enough detail or clarity in the low light.
We walked around the lake, where the ducks were now roosting on the beach, tucked into the shadows. The old golf course was overgrown but the cart paths were still fine to amble along and the grass had been cut down where folk would walk. Eric and Sophia had been out for a ride and we passed Steven, the owner with the horses later, taking them back to the stables as a squall blowing through was upsetting them. An old farm silo had been isolated on a small island, implying that the lake was man made when the course was built. It was very pretty here and was a perfect spot to hold a party, no nearby neighbors, although we could hear a redneck party scooting it up at full blast down the road. They had the loud music but we had the best venue. Some music was playing quietly on the patio for a while, but we didn't need it, everyone was busy chatting.
On the patio, there was a scurry of activity as Eric and Sophia arrived. Eric had proposed and now the happy couple were sharing their news with his parents on his phone. His friends created a perfect photo capture as lights were held above the beaming couple while another took The Engagement Photo.
And then the bonfire was lit. From the patio, it seemed a huge fireball had erupted across the lake and people started to grab drinks and seats then walk over there. It seemed that the fire was in an old bunker. As we set up our chairs, the ground was soft sand with grass growing in patches, lending it a beach appearance with the water close by. Some folks lay on blankets while the men huddled all the fireworks boxes together, rummaging through as though they were tearing open presents under a Christmas tree. "Oh yeah, we've got mortars!" was exclaimed a few times, making me chuckle as I leaned back, enjoying their excitement.
The pile of wooden pallets was ensuring a constant blaze from the fire, the heat and flames still enjoyable despite the warm night. Kristen and Kellie got the sparklers going while Eric and Sophia created a 'hand heart' to celebrate their engagement. The fireworks didn't really amount to much but there were still a few good bangs and some colored orbs shooting skyward. We all emitted the necessary "oohs" and "aahs" as they shot up into the night.
It was a beautiful evening. The humidity and searing heat had dropped tremendously, a cool gentle breeze wafted across us and folks just enjoyed the camaraderie. We didn't have a huge crowd, maybe 35 people, and it was just enough. I'd chatted to some great characters and had been made to feel very welcome. Once the fireworks were depleted, we packed up our chairs and ambled back to the club house.
Inside, Kristen pulled out her ukulele and played us a couple of songs, one of which Kellie and I attempted to sing along to, called 'Really Big Chickens'.  She performed it really well. I have never heard this song before, and wondered if it was a song that all Americans were familiar with as kids, but before I could ask, there was a sudden flurry of activity as folks came in and started clearing up. The party was ended and everyone helped to tidy up. Leftover food was put in the fridge and trash collected. Beers wasn't allowed to stay so I was astounded to find a 6 pack was pushed into my hands. Why can't all parties end like this? Within 10 minutes, the building was clear, and we were on our way to our homes. A future event to watch a meteor shower was promised, and although I'd be able to watch this from my house, I'd love to meet up with this crowd again. I eagerly await my invitation.

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