Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Paul Richardson: The 50th Anniversary of Woodstock- I wasn't there

(Paul Richardson's column, The Horse I Rode In On runs weekly in the Neosho Daily News and Seneca News-Dispatch and on the Turner Report.)

We have arrived at the 50th anniversary of the iconic music festival Woodstock. What I have to say about that is, “I wasn’t there.” It seems that I am one of the few in my generation that wasn’t there.

The actual number of people present has been determined to be in the vicinity of five hundred thousand, that’s one-half million. Any other estimates stop before that level and tend to hover around the four hundred fifty thousand range. The number of people who claim to have been there soars to many multiples of either of these values.

Well, I wasn’t there. I was too young to drive and had I been of age to drive and still living at my parents, a trip of that length would have been out of the question. 

I am not going to make the statement that my parents would have had an influence on my attendance as I went many places either in conflict of their approval or without their knowledge. 

In addition to all of that, I am not fond of crowds. That is not an environment where I willingly go or make plans to be. I have been in my share of crowds and survived, but for me to choose this without a really good reason is very unlikely.

I wouldn’t be recalling this 50th anniversary of Woodstock if it had not been for the special news reporting over the weekend. While a lot of the music that resulted from that festival and particularly that genre of music has impacted my being, I have my hands full just remembering that dates that will directly impact my existence if forgotten. 

Woodstock didn’t fall into the same category as, say for instance, a birthday or wedding anniversary.

The real reason that this stuck with me was that after the reports on CBS Sunday Morning show and the reminder that this festival was the catalyst for John Fogerty’s “Who’ll Stop the Rain”, my mind began to wander and I could see a relationship with this current season. 

Under what we have come to accept as normal conditions, the lawns would be turning a fine shade of brown by now, mowing would be reduced to every other week and watering of the garden would be made daily and with well water. 

We are still mowing like it is early spring, watching the grass grow so fast that by the time the lawn is completed, it is time to start again. The grass is still lush and soft beneath our feet and not crunchy at all. Farmers are still cutting, and bauling hay and our other crops are getting enough rain that manual watering is only needed on occasion. 

We were so accustomed to the season of “August” where we got a reprieve from the task brought on by warm weather and moisture and relief from the pollen and mold. This year nature just keeps on giving. The one consolation is that unlike Woodstock, we are not wading in mud with four hundred fifty thousand other people, bathing in a pond, living on the most meager of food supplies and dreading future nature calls.

It’s a good thing that this is the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Due to that I have been given a reminder that the adverse conditions provided by nature can be offset by staying inside in the air conditioning and recalling memories associated with the music of that time period. 

While not present at the festival, much of the music performed there is tied to some memory in my past. My paths crossed with some of the bands later on during the next few years. Due to that, I was able to experience their performances in a less crowded environment. 

While having been to Woodstock is a great memory for some and an obviously desired memory of many others, I have great memories from that era without laying claim to something I never experienced.

“No, Christy, I wasn’t at Woodstock, but I have some other stories for you.” Our daughter Christy was the first to question as to why I did not attend. She just felt it would have fit well with the other memories. My stories may have been questioned by a few people, but like I tell them, “You don’t have to make something up if you have led an active and eventful life.” Live that type of life and the color will automatically appear in the stories.

So, for those that were there, there you go. I don’t know what I would have written about if this was, say for instance, the forty-ninth anniversary of Woodstock. No one writes about that!

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