Thursday, March 1, 2012

The "Weddin'" At Water Hole Branch, Fairhope, Alabama

First let me set the stage. I arrived back in Greenville, SC on Monday evening after a writer's event for literacy, to find an invitation to a "Weddin'" (Yes, no "g" and that fact alone pretty much committed me to attend before I even knew who was involved). Further research informed me that it was a "ceremony" to formally join friends/authors Suzanne Hudson (A Temple of Trees, In the Dark of the Moon) and Joe Formicella (The Wreck of the Sunset Limited, Murder Creek). It was to be held at Water Hole Branch, outside Fairhope, AL, down by the whiskey bottle fence. Yes, it is a fence constructed with whiskey bottles.

Readin' further, I was advised that Miss Manners would not be consulted. It was held on "Fat Tuesday," the last day of Mardi Gras, after all. Then came the "rules" for attendance: Leave your dignity at home. Appropriate dress included camos, jeans, Mardi Gras colors and anything else one chose to wear (an opportunity for the Ostrich-skin boots). And, no presents would be tolerated. NO-ZERO-NADA! A breach of manner given such clarity. It would be tacky. "Suzanne worried about 'tacky?'" The service would be performed by Brother Wilson, Suzanne's ageless, childhood minister, the only traditional touch I noticed... On a positive note, I didn't have to unpack and repack my suitcase; it was almost time to go. Two days! I agreed with the invitation that it would have been rude to plan ahead.

Fairhope is at best a seven hours drive from where I live and driving on an interstate in a driving rain was not my favorite form of entertainment, having done it a number of times while on book tours for Lowcountry Boil and Louisiana Burn. This drive was, however, undertaken with the joy and anticipation that rarely surfaces. I was going somewhere I wanted to be and see people I wanted to see.

Suzanne and Joe live at Water Hole Branch (a tidal creek for those geographically challenged). It is not fancy, but it is home and a virtual shrine to the beauty of nature and simplicity. Huge and ancient live-oaks, hung with Spanish moss, border the drive and are scattered throughout the large property. The house is not an intrusion on the natural splendor of the site. Three or four levels of steps and landings lead down to "The Water Hole".

For the event, Mardi Gras decorations - the ever-present beads and other traditional accoutrements of the holiday season - adorned most every open space. But it was not "tacky". The altar was a wall of empty half-gallon whiskey bottles, approximately sixteen feet wide and six or seven feet tall, all appearing to be the same brand and clear glass. It was placed under the "Whiskey Tree" in front of the branch. An Academy-Award winning set designer could not have created a more beautiful and appropriate setting. It vibrated with joy and celebration.

The attendees were an eclectic bunch. Successful unsuccessful people and "just folks". Some of the notables in attendance were Joe Galloway, author of We Were Soldiers (film by Mel Gibson) and a decorated war correspondent, Everett Capps, author of Off Magazine Street/film "A Love Song for Bobby Long" with John Travolta and Scarlett Johansson, Milton L. Brown, songwriter, "Every Which Way But Loose" and other major hits and a whole bunch of people with similar credits, and others who were "just folks", not burdened or privileged, depending how one looks at it, with careers in the arts.

All of this atmosphere and happiness was accented by the music of Grayson Capps (yes, Everett's son), a consummate delta blues guitarist and singer, and Corky Hughes, formerly with the group, Black Oak Arkansas and other significant blues and jazz groups too numerous to mention. The music was phenomenal and intimate even though it was being played outside. Of course Grayson's "Water Hole Branch" was a favorite, along with "Lorraine's Song", both taken to their limits by extraordinary guitar mastery and Grayson's hard-life, raspy blues voice. Nothing else would have fit. These songs and others by Grayson are downloadable.

I won't try to describe the bride and groom's attire, best you see the pictures. I really don't have the adjectives to give them justice. Enough to say they were appropriate. The ceremony was the only traditional about the whole day, which went on, I was told, until four-thirty. IN THE MORNING!

I have never experienced such an atmosphere of elation, joy and celebration in my life. I was you all had been invited. I think the groom, Joe Formicella, summed it up best when he said "If there is peace anywhere in the world, it is here at Water Hole Branch." He could not have been more "spot-on".
Myself, Grayson Capps, and his father Everett Capps
The Bride and the Groom

The Water Hole Branch

Grayson Capps