A to Z April Challenge

During the month of April I will be doing a different spin on my memoir posts. It starts with a song. Each song will be followed by a brief essay that is evoked or inspired by that song. You might want to click on the YouTube link to hear the song as you read the piece I've written. Or you can listen to the song lyrics first and then read. Whichever way you choose, I mostly hope you'll read and leave a comment with your thoughts about my post. Thank you for visiting and please follow the blog if you are not doing so already.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Big Bend

Big Bend 09Big Bend 09 (Photo credit: auntie rain)

       
           In Spring of 1974, Art Jennings, one of the founders of the International Jugglers' Association (IJA) and long time family friend, came to visit my family in Maryville, Tennessee.  At the time I was attending the University of Tennessee, but still living with my parents.  When Jennings pulled into town with his young wife and his Airstream trailer we were excited to welcome him into our home.

           My father was a young man not yet married when he first met Art in the late 1940s.  The older Jennings was a sort of renaissance man with diverse interests and a high intellect who was outgoing and bonded with my father.  As a child I recall seeing Art Jennings on various occasions and always being fascinated by him, perhaps in part because of his alternate persona of juggling clown Happy Daze.

          We hadn't seen him in a while but my parents had remained in contact with him via mail that always included his yearly newsy Christmas greeting message.  Now in his 70s he was back on the road presenting a bicycle safety program as Happy Daze at schools throughout the United States.  Since the passing of his wife he had also acquired an attractive wife many years younger than he was.

         Jennings was quite the raconteur and I enjoyed listening to him and my father reminisce about the early days of the IJA and show biz stories.  Having recently taken an interest in film making, I was particularly interested when he hauled in his 8 MM projector and collection of films taken on his travels.  Much of his recent travel had been in West Texas and since I was not too familiar with this part of the country I was quite interested in his films.

          His film making was above par compared to typical home movies.  He had edited them into very watchable travelogues. The portion that caught my attention the most was the sequence about Big Bend National Park.

           Coincidentally, I had just read a newspaper story about Big Bend and therefore had already developed a curiosity about the place.  Seeing the sights on film increased my interest in the area.  It was then that I became convinced that I needed to go to Big Bend.

            It didn't take much for me to convince my friend Vernon to go there for his summer vacation.  He'd just bought an older van that had once been owned by the telephone company and he was anxious to give it a real road test.  A trip from East Tennessee to West Texas was just the thing.  He began working on the van to make sure it was worthy of this epic road trip.

             In July of 1974 Vernon and I set out in the old van and made the trip.  We were not only not disappointed by the experience, we were amazed by the place.  The rugged desolate landscape was so different than what we were accustomed to seeing in Tennessee.  We camped in several locations in the park and savored every minute of the magical time we were there.

             So enamored were we with Big Bend that we made a return trip in the same van--this time accompanied by our friend Dave.  In some ways the second trip was even more amazing.   Big Bend became one of the highlights of our lives.

             Since those trips I returned to Big Bend one more time after I married my first wife.  It was still as magical and amazing as ever.  Big Bend is one of those places I still long to go back to visit.


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22 comments:

Ron Easton for Dads UnLimited said...

I love guys like "Happy Daze, your dad and yourself who are entrepreneurial enough to make an unusual life a worthy life.

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Wonderful to read Lee, there are places I could and would like to revisit which have special memories.

Yvonne.

Jenn said...

This was great to read!! I would love to visit there someday, as I have read about Big Bend before--but I haven't been there. Thanks for sharing!!

Cheers, Jenn
http://www.wine-n-chat.com

Sally said...

It sounds a fascinating place to visit.

Kathleen Valentine said...

It's an amazing place. I lived in Texas for six years and found it so different - yet strangely beautiful - from the northeast.

Bish Denham said...

Here I live in Texas and I haven't been yet, though I very much want to go. I know it's beautiful.

sterlingsop said...

It sounds a great place to visit, hope you manage to get back there sometime.

Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

My son is going to school in Texas next year. Maybe we'll get a chance to visit Big Bend.
Love your travel theme!

Play off the Page

Lynn Proctor said...

made me want to travel

Sherry Gloag said...

It sounds an awesome place, I love the pic, and the stories of Happy Daze remeniscing with your Dad. Thanks for sharing.

Gossip_Grl said...

Nice post and reminds me how much I need a vacation.:) Lovely photo thanks for sharing

Masquerade Crew said...

Great post. Only one complaint: you left us hanging at the end. You should write more about your trips to Big Bend. Would make an interesting chapter in a memoir.

ediFanoB said...

Aftere reading your inspiring post I looked at my calendar: Only 27 days left until my wife and I go on holiday!!

Brandi said...

Great read! Cant wait to travel!

Sharkbytes said...

I've never been there... yet! I just signed on to the A-Z challenge, nearly at the last minute, but I'm trying to visit every blog at least once.

Susan Kane said...

So many places I would love to see, but so little time! This sounds like one I'd enjoy.

Rena said...

I'm writing a weight loss memoir, so I'm excited to have this blog as resource.

prose.spective.blogspot.com
theredbookexperiment.blogspot.com

Margo Berendsen said...

I haven't made it to Big Bend, but I've heard amazing things about it. Another neat spot in Texas is Guadalupe Mtns. National Park. I'm a new follower and a fellow A to Z blogger.

Sarah Mäkelä said...

I think I've been there, but I can't remember since it would've been when I was younger.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee .. interesting to read - fascinating how we love parts of country that we visited as kids - Cornwall is mine ..

One day I'll get to travel across parts of the US of A ... and I love jugglers .. cheers Hilary

jen said...

i wrote about big bend for my "b" as well. beautiful place! http://growninsouthernground.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/b-is-for-big-bend-balmorhea-baltimore/

M. J. Joachim said...

Having camped at Big Bend numerous times in my youth, it was easy to include this great place in my latest episode of Blogging Destinations. And since I loved Vancouver, BC when I visited there as a teenager, I couldn't pass up the extra juice for that post either. Check it out, Arlee: http://mjjoachim.blogspot.com/2012/05/blogging-destinations-episode-2.html