Thursday afternoon, my friend, Joe, arrived from Oklahoma. We (Joe, Caroline, Allan & I) went out for a great dinner at a steak house. I hadn't been there before, and lawdy, trust me, I'm going back!!! My filet mignon was so tender that it melted in my mouth. OK, I know that is an overworked cliché, but I'm not kidding. The taste was indescribable. Wonderfully indescribable!
On Friday, Joe and I just hung the house for a while, having coffee and talking about old times/new time/ times to come, and then went into Ruidoso for a little lunch at Lucy & Ethel's, my favorite lunch spot. We had French onion soup in a bread bowl, possibly the best I've ever had. Yummmmm. We also did a little shopping, picking up a few things for him to take back to his wife, along with some old fashioned window shopping, including some time spent in a model train store. Model trains are so cool! Then back to the house to get ready to go to the show.
The Friday night presentation of the New Christy Minstrels was really fun. We had good seats and were able to take some nice photos. I was really pleased with the dinner and the show. the food was very tasty, something that isn't always true at dinner theaters. If you make it to Ruidoso, remember the name "Mountain Annie's," and try to take in a show. And the show was more than I expected, to say the least. I didn't have any deep preformed ideas about what to expect, but what we saw was excellent! Six of the eight performers were from the original group and two were "ringers," younger musicians filling the shoes for group members who have passed on. Seeing folks that age jumping, dancing, singing, playing instruments all around the stage was awesome! Randy Sparks is 74 (and looks like Captain Kangaroo!!) and had more energy than I do on most days! I don't know the ages of the others, but Barry McGuire isn't far behind, and the other "originals" are at least in their 60s. What a show they put on!! I was pleasantly jazzed with how good they sounded, how energetically they performed and how much fun they seem to be having up there. By the end of the show, they were pooped, but they didn't appear any more so than the two younger members who I'm guessing were between 35 and 50.
Joe was able to talk with the group members he knows, and he let them know we would be back the following night with other friends. They were happy to see him, and glad to hear that we were returning.
The weather had turned cold and we had a significant amount of rather heavy fog between Ruidoso and home. There was a crunchy layer of frozen mist on the steps when we started into the house. It didn't seem terribly slick, but I wasn't taking chances, so we proceeded carefully into the house. When we got up on Saturday, there was a light snow falling, but it didn't quite cover the ground. It remained cold during the day, and it was a good day to stay in and just visit with my old friend.
My other guest, Gail, arrived in the afternoon. The three of us enjoyed gabbing and having coffee for a couple hours and then got ready to go again. I showered before she arrived, because I told Joe that when she got there, I knew we'd yak enough that we might run out of time to do so. Sure enough! All three of us were talk-talk-talk-talking until it was literally time to go out the door!
Down ... no, make that ... around the mountain we went. When we arrived, we were able to talk to one of the group for a few minutes before the show, a nice surprise. She was happy to see that Joe and I returned, as if Joe would have let a blizzard keep him away! We introduced her to Gail and Allan, and she went backstage to get ready. Our other friends, Leon and Cindy, arrived and we had intros around the table as necessary, met another couple seated with us, and had another very good meal.
The show was as good as the night before, and they did some different numbers. Our table was even better, too, right on the front row, so our photos were easier to take. A really cool thing that happened was that Randy acknowledged Joe at the beginning of the show, mentioning the he'd had breakfast with him in Tulsa a few weeks ago, and that the $4.83 he spent on Joe's breakfast was well worth it .... Joe had not only traveled so far to see the show, but had brought five friends with him. He said he figured that the $4.83 was a good investment in a loyal friend. Joe was embarrassed, but pleased, too.
At the end of the show, we caved and bought some CDs and the group autographed them for us. We visited for a short while with them before leaving. Sometimes they have little receptions after the final show in a town, but they didn't last night. The altitude was getting to them, I think! I heard a couple of them saying that they were feeling the effects of the thin air!
In spite of their feeling winded and tired, they said that they have fallen in love with Ruidoso and plan to return. In fact, they informed the owners from the stage that they want to return to this venue, and they also will pass along to other performers what great people they have been to work with and how good the town was to them. Nice to hear! A side note on this: The owner, or the female half of it, is the one who arranged to get them here. Her husband, "Mr. Mountain Annie," as he introduced himself to Joe and me, said that she got hold of them, and was dismayed at their cost, but she kept after them until a compromise could be developed. The theater is a family owned/operated enterprise. Dad takes care of the ticket sales and much of the front office things; Mom is the cook and "the brains," according to Dad; Son helps with the wine/beer bar before dinner, helps with serving dinner and being sure everyone is fed, emcees the opening of the show, and helps with whatever else needs done; Daughter-in-law does the wine/beer bar and operates the light/sound system. and whatever else isn't named gets done by whoever is handy when it needs to be done! I'm very impressed that the four of them run as efficient an operation as they do with a few servers and bus-persons for dinner. Just amazing!
OK, here are a few shots of the New Christy Minstrels in action. I'm glad they have revived their group and sound as good or even better than they did 40+ years ago. Their voices have matured (not to be confused with "aged") and they were awesome!
This is one of the few pictures that I was able to get all eight of them in one photo.
This is Becky Jo Benson, Randy, Jackie Miller (Sparks-Davidson, Randy's ex-wife), and Dolan Ellis (who has been the official balladeer of the State of Arizona for 41 years).
Jackie, Dolan, and Clarence Treat (while the group was on hiatus, he was on the LA Fire Department and retired as a Captain).
Barry, Art Podell, Buffalo Bill Boycott (Man, can this guy yodel!!), and Becky Jo. Bill and Becky Jo are the younger, new members of the group.
This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is My Land!!
And lastly, the three old chums from high school (more years ago that we shall discuss, thank you!).
We had a ball!
After the show, we came home, talked a little while, shared our collective pictures and hit the sack. Joe left early this morning for his long drive back to the Tulsa area. I really hated to see him go. We spent some good hours together. We talked some about the experience and difficulties of losing a spouse and the life adjustments that must come. Joe is the first person I've had the opportunity to talk with about similar experiences, and It was validating for me.
Gail left an hour or so later, but only after we shed some tears for things past (our parents and other loved ones now gone). We have been friends since we were probably about 12 years old, and have so many shared experiences and share some understanding about the other's relationships. This, too, was good for me.
And then they were gone, all of them.
The dogs looked at me as if to say, "Where is everyone?" I wandered around the house for a few minutes, not wanting to lose the feel of the company, not wanting to accept the quiet that was suddenly here. We three, the dogs and I, went out and walked in the yard, soaked up some sunshine, and then came back in. It's OK now. And I'm so glad to have had the friends, the fun, the tears, the pictures and the music of the past week. Need I say it?
Life is beautiful .............
Even when the friends go home.
Even when the friends go home.