Friends have become family

Published 1:02 am Saturday, May 16, 2009

Our annual trek to Tannehill Historic State Park is similar to a family reunion. People we met during our first time at the Southern Appalachian Dulcimer Festival in 1989 still show up, as well as many who have joined the group since. You even get to know their dogs, like Paula and Johnny’s Peanut and Betty and John’s Rudy.

When we pulled in the campground, Skip and Betty were at the gazebo close to the store where campers register. “Nina, Billie’s here and has been waiting for you,” Betty said. She pointed to a motor home with an Arizona tag. Billie and I met at Tannehill in 1995 when she and her husband camped there during a genealogy visit to Alabama. We became friends and have kept in touch since. She’s been making the long trip to Tannehill from Arizona for the past several years.

I saw Bing and Liz from Louisiana as I steered our RV to the site my husband found us. I wondered if their friendly, elderly Poodle was still with them. Later, I saw Bing let it out their back door. It’ll be 16 in August.

A man passed by our site wearing a bright blue and yellow shirt and a sun hat. It was Corbett from Tennessee. He and his wife make the festival crowd almost bend double laughing when they play and sing “Chicken Truck,” and his wife “cluck, clucks” at the proper time.

“Freddie will be here in the morning,” a neighbor to the left of us said. He’s a retiree and she was on a few days leave from work. He told us he and Freddie, who lives in South Carolina, once worked together.

The next day Freddie and his wife Linda arrived in a motor home they had purchased just days before. It was their dream RV, something for which they had planned and saved for years. Linda proudly showed us through it.

After purchasing peanuts at the country store, we stopped by Sherry’s site to pet her little long-haired dog and a tiny one she was keeping for a friend. She said she had heard about my husband’s two books, The Secret in Deep Water Swamp and Perils in the Belgian Congo, and bought one of each. Sherrie pulls her travel trailer to Tannehill from Louisiana every year.

Jake, from Huntsville, who is 90, looked as fit as usual. He is popular with everyone and accompanies many of the dulcimer groups with his guitar. He often sings, too.

Dalton, from Glenco, had a lot of fun when people suddenly looked startled when they noticed a bunch of unkempt white fuzzy hair on the top of his head. It was really a visor with hair attached.

I was thrilled to see Nelda and Fred, formerly of Mobile, who now live in a Birmingham retirement village. We met them first in 1989.

I could go on, but you get the picture. The dulcimer festival means fun and fellowship for me. I always regret when it is over.