Saturday, September 20, 2008


This being a home-game Saturday, my wife and I made our regular pilgrimage to the Hineygate Party, renewing our membership in the Bud-for-breakfast club.

Hineygate is what it is -- raw, loud and raucous. People our age, suitably lubricated and bedecked in scarlet and gray, dance like teenagers. Moms fit their kids with earplugs to protect them from the speakers' blast and cover their eyes to shield them from things they'll understand when they're older.

It's partisan partying at its very best, and we love it.

But today, maybe because last night was a late one, or maybe because we'd seen this show so many times before, we just got bored. So we poured out the last of our beer, hopped in the car and drove 45 miles east -- far, far from Hineygate, to the
Thornville Backwoods Fest.

As we idled along in the line waiting to enter the festival grounds, cornfields rose up on both sides of the road, wrapping us in a heartland quilt of green and gold.

I rolled down the car window and listened. Aside from the chirping of crickets and the soft throb of engines, it was quiet. And compared to the gameday din we'd left behind, it was downright silent.

We had no real clue about the size of the event until we rolled into a grassy field packed with thousands of cars, trucks and RVs -- not at all what we'd been expecting. After a dusty uphill hike from the parking area, we entered the Backwoods gates.

Hundreds of vendors were camped along wide, straw-strewn paths that snaked through the woods. Mostly, their offerings were a bit too cliché-country for my liking, but there were enough primitive artisans to hold my interest.

We strolled past the kitsch, preferring to linger over the more soulful wares of blacksmiths, cabinetmakers and weavers.
The Spoonmaker was there. A woman from the North Woods of Michigan displayed various items carved from deer antlers, and we bought a few of her intriguing trinkets.

Kettle chips crackled in big iron cauldrons. The aromas of fried green tomatoes and caramel apples beckoned. We saw our favorite baker, whose small shop is just up the street from our house, selling loaves of fresh bread. Scattered throughout the festival were musicians, alone and in groups, serenading us with plain voices and simple acoustic instruments.

Two hours later, refreshed by the experience, Mrs. KintlaLake and I made our way to the car. We wound through rolling farmland, past combines whirring in wheat fields, and back home -- a comfortable place, nestled perfectly between today's extremes.