Being a ‘cancer’ and likening that to the moods and ideas that befall me on a nightly basis, the thought of images of moonlight…or better yet, moonshine, fill my heart with joy especially when the images being conjured up are following the hand of Dave DeRan, artist of note living on Pikes Peak Road, just a bit east of Delta.
At first glance the announcement of his upcoming open house on April 17th brought to mind those great trips down south my late Uncle Carl Dean Todd used to take me on. Wow! Uncle Carl would roll into the farm and ask my mom, Alpha Jean Todd Holden, if I could go with him on a ride south to visit the relatives…namely his and mom’s grand-parents, Cooper and Trusty McKnight, just outside Galax, Virginia.
For a kid of 12 years and relatively leading a sheltered life, this was huge. And so it was that I made the first of many trips ‘‘south with Uncle Carl”…trips that became more and more interesting as I got older. The trips took on a special meaning when I reached 16 and got my driver’s license.
Uncle Carl always had a new, set of nice wheels….a Caddy now and then, a 1957 baby-blue Ford Ranchero…a crisp white Chrysler 300 with red leather interior and a huge engine….and he let me drive them all.
Many trips south took on special meaning after we visited Cooper and Trusty…and Uncle Oat and others…they would feed us, put us up for the night..and we would say our goodbyes and start up the road…only to stop by a place I can only recall as ‘top of the mountain’…a bar, with a friend or two inside…Uncle Carl had friends everywhere he ever took me.
We would hang around a while, then someone would come over, talking to just Carl, and then we’d go back around to the shed…to load several Mason jars of clear white liquid. Matter of fact on those trips the ‘liquid’ was referred to as ‘white’…Being the helpful ‘nephew’ I started to raise the trunk of the Chrysler 300 only to be admonished in front of whomever was delivering the goods. ‘Just lay the jars across the back seat, nephew…just lay them carefully all the way across the seat, and toss the blanket over them,” were my instructions. Usually they were quart jars, end to end, seven or eight jars, gently folded in the Navajo blanket Uncle Carl always kept in the car…sort of an ‘emergency blanket’ if you will.
Business at hand taken care of, we’d hit the road, with me behind the wheel and Uncle Carl tuning the radio to find good country music. A little ways up the road we’d pull over for a fill-up, cheese crackers and an R.C. Cola.
Sometimes the weather was bad, snow and ice, but we’d never stop…get a motel or anything like that…he knew folks allthe way up and down the road and there was always a place for us to land.
He told me early on the reason for laying the jars carefully and closely across the back seat. “Nephew, you never put that stuff in the trunk…if the patrol pulls us over, and looks in the trunk that could be bad…you understand?”
‘Yessir, Uncle Carl.”
“You put it across the back seat, so if a patrol does come up behind us, I can break all of them and then there’s nothing in the back seat except broken glass, and that can be taken care of later on,”…you got it?”
“Yessir, Uncle Carl Dean.”
And so it was, many trips south, and many trips of great adventure. My dad always kept a jar of white in the fridge. Strong stuff,and a time or two when I had a sip, it had to be cut with grapefruit juice. Never knew or cared what it cost, on either end of the trip south.
So it was when Dave DeRan’s card came in the mail that I recalled the same scene of moonlight through the pines and the trips to wonderful country, full of beauty, the Blue Ridge Parkway…backroads, beer halls and old frame homes full of kin and an outhouse out back.
Cooper and Trusty are long gone…so is Oat and others who marveled when we came to visit. Uncle Carl is gone too…the man who in my mind was “Elvis” before there even was an Elvis.
Now there’s the poignant images crafted from the mind and heart of Dave on Pikes Peak Road to fill my head with memories and fresh starts. It’s all so beautiful when we travel otherworldly in art and reality. They are both so intertwined as we continue our journeys.
Such a refresher will be offered at the home of Dave and Roxanne this month.