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Jackpine

If you have any hope at all of having grandchildren you WILL NOT buy me anything tied-dyed.” That was my son Marc’s response when Jan called from the souvenir booth to see if she could get anything for the boys. I guess tie-dye could make dating difficult in this new digital age so no tie-dyed anything. Brewer and Shipley were scheduled to play the Jackpine Jamboree in Birnamwood, Wisconsin. The Jamboree has been going on for over two decades and is not unlike a mini Grateful Dead event. So there was going to be a lot of tie-dye there.

This was our second try at a performance at Jackpine. A year earlier Jan and I had made the event but the Brewer half of the group didn’t. It’s a long story. Jan and I had arrived the night before and were waiting to hear from Michael. How was the plane trip? Had he gotten in yet? Were there any disasters along the way? It appeared there were as you will see. But first:

Birnamwood is a small town about an hour from Wausau, Wisconsin. Michael lives near Branson, MO and has to change planes at O’Hare every time he flies anywhere. Trying to get to Birnamwood from the Ozarks requires flying into Wausau, renting a car, and driving the rest of the way. It takes about 10 hours to go from our home in the Ozarks to Birnamwood so it is a long trip any way you look at it.

Jackpine was to provide us with rooms. They were in a combination motel, bar, and bowling alley. Don’t get me wrong. The rooms were nice and the bartender was a hoot but this was the first time I ever stayed in a bowling alley. So Jan and I went down to the bar to get some food as we waited for Michael to call.

When he finally reached us he was full of horror stories. Storms in Missouri and Chicago had kept his plane from leaving so he was still stuck in Springfield, MO. When he called again it was to tell us he was finally getting on the plane. A few minutes passed and we got another call. He was going to have to deplane because of some mechanical problem with the aircraft. The telephone conversations continued following us back to the room, finally telling us that he was going to have to wait until morning to fly out. 

As night fell, Jan and I decided to head over to the Jamboree. I was truly surprised. It was packed with people who had come to hear some music and drink beer. After all, we were in Wisconsin. A lot of people were wearing tie-dye, mostly the adults. Old hippies was my guess. The music was great. As the evening progressed things did get a bit louder but the beer drinkers never did outdo the musicians on that front.

The best part was hanging out with the long time organizer and musician Jimmer Soukup. I heard a rumor that he once changed his name to Jimmer The Free Radical. I’m not sure if it’s true, but it would certainly fit. I was told that a few years ago when a group of Wisconsinites took over the Wisconsin State House in resistance to Governor Scott Walker, I was told Jimmer was one of the organizers there as well. Another factoid that would certainly fit.

So after a night of having way too much fun, it was time to head back to the room. We had surely had our fill of cheap wine and I had managed to get, as the song says, “One Toke Over The Line.” Personally I believed that was the proper thing to do at an event harkening back to the days of the Grateful Dead. And the grounds were awash in tie-dye so it all made sense to me.

The next morning it was the telephone that finally woke us up. Michael again, back at the airport telling us that he was out of options and was not going to be able to make the show. Bummer. After a quick breakfast it was over to the event to break the news to Jimmer. Fortunately our manager had already called him and while he was disappointed he told us to just hang out and enjoy another night at the Jackpine Jamboree.

Blast forward a year. To my surprise was an offer from Jimmer to play the Jamboree. How could we say no? While I was absorbing the information, Jan had the map out and was already plotting our next move. “This time why don’t we drive ?” she asked. “Last year we flew and it took us 10 hours. That is exactly how long it will take to drive so let’s do it.” I wholeheartedly agreed and prepared for another Jan and Tom adventure.

On the way up we stopped in Rockford, Illinois for a bite to eat.  A quick trip through town and there it was. The Irish Rose Saloon. I had never had colcannon but the name caught my fancy and there I was, adding another meal to my list of favorites. Our performance at Jackpine was a rousing success. I had a chance to hook up with Jimmer again, visit with the folks I had gotten to know the previous year, and get a good night’s sleep at the bowling alley. On the way home was another dish of colcannon at the Irish Rose Saloon. 

It was then I remembered that old rule of the road. When something cool doesn’t work out, keep your eyes wide open. There is often something very cool waiting just around the corner.

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