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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Anniversary Blog Fest: Jude Johnson


Simple Summer Pleasures

Jude Johnson

The music starts as blue skies shade to lavender. Crickets tune their fiddle-legs in hidden recesses of grass. A faint murmur of voices slowly grows louder as people gather with lawn chairs and blankets in the town square. Mothers softly remind their older children to stay within earshot while toddlers squirm and squeal for freedom. Old men hail one another in foghorn blasts, their wives chirping like piccolos.

No, this isn’t an old episode of Andy Griffith. It’s present day Northern Arizona on an August Saturday evening, though it could be anywhere in Small Town America. Once the sun drops below the horizon and the day’s hellish heat begins to subside, the folks come out to enjoy summer’s simple pleasures.

There really is a gazebo centered in a park framed by four streets, sidewalks meeting in a concrete plaza--a perfect dance floor. Tall trees provide leafy shade and a hint of verdant perfume. A small playground anchors one side; a slide and jungle gym beckon little ones over to play in the sand.

One vendor sells snow cones drenched in fruity syrups. The Lions Club sells sodas and water while their members pitch tickets for a 50-50 raffle: “Dollar apiece or six for five dollars. Winner gets half the pot and rest goes to the Lions eyesight programs. C’mon now, Fred; I know you have a fiver--and we’re up to almost $500 already.” Across one street, independent booths sell wind chimes, copper jewelry, art work, locally grown vegetables, and homemade Mexican food.

The square is soon filled with meandering rows of chairs. When the local rock & roll band begins with “Brown-Eyed Girl” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, couples of all ages rise to dance. An octogenarian cowboy whose family has ranched in the area since 1870 grabs his daughter’s hand and they two-step into a lively, swirling boogie, smiling all the while. He’s an incorrigible flirt, this old cowboy, choosing a different partner for each song with a twinkle in his eye and a devilish grin, occasionally planting a loud smacking kiss on an unsuspecting cheek. “Oh you!” one woman says and throws her head back to laugh.

There are no sullen teenagers here. Everyone is up and moving to the beat. Soon the youngsters form a chain and do the wave from side to side, first with arms and ending with bumping hips. A few collapse to the walkway in fits of giggles and wildly perform air guitar solos.

The Lions are doing a booming business with thirsty dancers and grandmas fretting about reading their raffle ticket numbers in the darkness now shading the square. Not to worry; the old cowboy flourishes a pocket flashlight and offers to share in exchange for a dance. At the band’s break, one of the Lions happily reveals the pot had reached more than $800 and reads the winning number--“Hey, see? I told you, Fred!” No one grumbles over losing; after all, more than $400 will help the group provide eyeglasses and reading magnifiers to the community.

Music continues until ten o’clock. Nearly the entire crowd has stayed for the duration. The band announces they will continue to play in a tavern just down the street and a good number of folks head in that direction. Families pack up and wander to their vehicles with a sleepy child draped over one shoulder. The flirtatious cowboy bids his friends goodnight with a promise to return for the next concert, “a week from next Saturday.”

It is an age-old ritual, this summer concert in the park. Just like a scene from my latest novel, Dragon’s Legacy, people still flock outdoors on a summer’s evening to share good times with their neighbors. May the tradition continue on for all the summers yet to come.

About the Author:
Jude Johnson has been a history enthusiast since childhood and has lectured about her historical research at the Sierra Vista Historical Society, the Welsh League of Arizona, and the West Coast Eisteddfod in Los Angeles. She is a member of Gecko Gals Ink, LLC, a group of “sassy Tucson authors” who encourage other writers to become published by holding writing seminars and classes. While she has no Welsh heritage in her lineage, she has studied Cymraeg—the Welsh Language—and learned just enough to be dangerous in Cardiff pubs. She also speaks bad border Spanish that gets better with cerveza. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Author photo by William Foote

The Dragon & Hawk Trilogy--Dragon & Hawk, Out of Forgotten Ashes, and Dragon’s Legacy-- is published by and available from Champagne Books




Twitter: @JudeJohnsonAZ

Book Covers: Out of Forgotten Ashes and Dragon’s Legacy
Artwork by Amanda Kelsey, Champagne Books


Mary Ann Hutchison said...

Johnson paints a picture of a summer's evening that many of us thought had gone the way of '57 Chevies. Knowing that there is at least one community that's retained old-fashioned ideas and virtues gives me renewed hope. I'll bet there are a bunch of small towns out there who are doing the same.
Thanks for sharing, Jude.

Jude Johnson said...

Thanks, Mary Ann. It was a wonderful evening, and sadly all too rare.

Ingeborg said...

What a wonderful post. I enjoyed reading it.

mona said...

Hi, We just got home from the Corn Fest--does that count? How much did I miss?

Debby said...

Your description sounded just like our concerts on the green. They are so much a part of the summer fun.
debby236 at gmail dot com

Kat Hall said...

Sounds heavenly, Jude. We still have events like that up here in Canada but they are few and far between.


Ute Carbone said...

sounds wonderful, Jude. They used to concerts in the park here, too. I miss them.

Jude Johnson said...

Hey Mona, the Corn Fest most definitely counts!
Thanks Everyone for your comments--I hope one of you wins the drawing!

Allison said...

I loved your description. We have
something similar at the edge of bay
a couple of times during the summer.
But parking is such a nightmare, and
since we don't drive after dark,
we've never gone. Some times age
interferes. But I enjoyed it through
your eyes.

Karen H in NC said...

I think my favorite summer pastime, apart from reading, was laying on the grass watching the cloud formations trying to guess what each cloud was. I saw Snoopy in lots of those clouds...floppy ears and all.

Then it was time for the ice cream cart to come by and I could always get a cold treat. My favorite was a fudgesicle or cherry popsicle.

kareninnc at gmail dot com

Cathy Coburn said...

You make Tucson sound as quaint as Mayberry. Love your description I wanted to be there yet felt like I was. You must get cooler at night in the summer then we do here, here it's still like walking into an oven. Very nice Jude

Jude Johnson said...

Mmm, fudgecicles...that's a great summer memory!

Rosemary Gemmell said...

What a wonderful, evocative picture you paint, Jude - it sounds idyllic and I love the old cowboy!