The following little story is a teenager’s confession of guilt. It comes forty-years following the infractions were committed and safely following any statutes of limitations or the possibility of being grounded at home for a month.
If you had the intense pleasure of growing into maturity while living in the rural areas of Virginia, the odds are very good that you’re familiar with the term ‘field celebration’. Some more comfortable than others. For any un-knowledgeable urbanites, here’s the definition of area party according to the online Urban Dictionary.
“A celebration held in the middle of a farm or field crop so to avoid parents and police. Usually held by under age partiers and accompanied by a keg purchased by an older sibling.”
In Shenandoah County during the 1970’s, the total population of the entire county wavered around 25,000 people. That’s roughly 48 people per square mile, a great chunk of whom lived-in or near the half-dozen smallish towns dotting the center of the valley. Some of those small communities had a night police force of one or none. The legal drinking age was eighteen-years-old, thus a high school senior could buy their own keg of beer.
The conditions were ideal for a field celebration.
The field party checklist:
A area, rather owned by someone you know.
Malabar Raccoon Removal
A source of electricity for music. (Car battery, gas generator, extension cords,etc.)
Bonfire, bigger the better.
Bathrooms available naturally near the fence line. Drip dry only.
We had been invited to a huge field party by someone who’d heard about it from someone who understood the directions to somebody’s farm where the big party was held each year. My girlfriend and some other friends of ours were going to the party before me ; I’d catch up after I got off work at 9PM.
There was no Interstate highway in these days, so the fifteen mile drive to a field party seemed a bit extreme, but apparently well worth the drive out of what we were told. There was no also GPS at the time, but the directions that I was given seemed easy enough for a country boy to follow.
“Go south on Rt. 11 for about 10 or 12 miles. Before you get to Mt. Jackson, right past Hawkinstown, take a right on Hawkins Road. Drive for just a little bit, you’ll go over the railroad tracks, then you’ll pass the radio channel. Keep going. You should see the bonfire from the street. There’ll be a couple of cows facing West on one side of the road. The dirt road on the other side will take you right up the mountain to the celebration. Just listen for the band. You’ll find it no problem.”
I had completed the first 4/5ths of the directions when I saw the glow of the bonfire at the crest of the hilly field. As I got closer, the silhouettes of dozens of party-goers can be seen against the towering flames. It seemed like the movie trailer for “Quest for Fire”, but with my girlfriend as Rae Dawn Chong and Led Zeppelin supplying the soundtrack. As the reins were pulled my slowing Ford Pinto, my eyes frantic glances alternated between the street and its ditch-line, searching for that elusive dirt road, or at least the landmark of cows.
Then suddenly the road veered sharply and the Pinto went straight down a muddied ditch. The car wasn’t traveling fast and hit nothing solid, but once it came to a stop, I looked like Neil Armstrong strapped into a capsule simulator, facing downwards after a G-Force training session.
The wheels only spun from the wet mud, the car was going nowhere. So, I did the only reasonable teenaged thing and started walking up the hill to join the party. The car wasn’t going anywhere.
Friends gave me a ride back down the mountain after the party. As we neared My Ditch, another car could be seen along the road, many young men inspecting the napping Pinto. We pulled up alongside.
“Hey, what’s happening fellas?”
“Somebody ran their car down this ditch!”
“Yea, I know. Guess I will need a tow-truck”
“Nah, hell no. We can push you out! Get in and start her up!”
After Neil Armstrong managed his way back into his Apollo rocket ship, the Good Samaritans pushed the car back on the dirt road. Together with my heartfelt thank-yous, I handed the guys the luke-warm six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer in the back seat of the car (of which them appeared strangely very appreciative) then followed my friends back into town for a late-night feast of 7-11 chili dogs.
Pity those who have not appreciated the rural life. Wonderful times with great friends spent fireside on a chilly night. In the middle of a massive open field.