Outside of a special one night stopover benefit show in Vermillion in late September, the band has been touring in support of their nearly non-existent presence on the national (and even regional) music scene. However, they believe their hometown fans always like to keep up-to-date on what they are doing and where they are doing it, and, although completely unsolicited, they have begun sending what amounts to journal entries detailing their journeys around these United States. Originally, they suggested a feature on the website called “Missives from the Minstrels,” but they clearly don’t know what a missive is, and that name just sounds dumb. What follows is something no one asked for, but content is king…
September 29, 2017
“Jason Hits a Deer”
There is an imbalance in the tires of the van that is causing them to wear unevenly. Jeff is behind the wheel and he is driving at a constant fifty-seven miles per hour. He says that this is for two reasons. The first is that it is the most fuel efficient speed to travel, and since most of the gigs Jake set up for us are paying us in bar food and various types of something Jason refers to as “legitimate” crypto-currency, we have to conserve as much as possible. I did ask Jason what he meant my “legitimate.” I specifically asked if we were being paid in Bitcoin. He just smiled at me and said “Yeah, sure. Bitcoin.” So, I don’t think we are being paid in Bitcoin.
The second reason we are driving at fifty-seven miles per hour everywhere (and I mean everywhere; we have gone through a couple of towns at fifty-seven and it is terrifying) is that the uneven tires make a dull thudding noise because of how much we have worn them due to the imbalance. Driving at fifty-seven, according to Jeff, makes the thud happen at eighty-three beats per minute. The reason this is important is because the song Jeff has the most trouble keeping the beat on is a song we play at eighty-three beats per minute. Jeff says he is essentially practicing the entire time he is driving.
It was good to see my kids again after Monday’s show. It had been nearly a month, and if all goes well, it may be several years before I see them again. The music business is a fickle mistress, but we are all in it for the long haul. Jason and Amy worry that the babysitter is going to get wise to their texts of “sorry, just a few more hours” that they have been sending for nearly four days. Vermillion is where our hearts are, but it was time for us to remove our training wheels and fly like an eagle. Freedom.
We are on our way to our next show that Jeff booked at “The Mansion” in Maharishi Vedic City in Iowa. The place sounds pretty great if Jeff is to be believed. Nobody else in the band has ever heard of it. I try to get more information out of Jeff about the place, but he is really focused on the thud-thud-thud, so I leave him be.
Jake is in the far back seat answering what he calls “fan mail.” I put it in quotes because responding to cease and desist notices from all of the Hard Rock Café hotels in North America doesn’t really count. Jake likes to point out it solidifies we are a band since it is addressed to “The Beards” AND most states allow for fifteen days from the time the notice is received before it is acted upon, so he still thinks we have a chance with some of them right up to when the fifteen days transpire. “A day and a dream,” he likes to say, which would be a lot more meaningful if it wasn’t the name of a hip hop website he visits several times a day.
We continue to get hopelessly lost because Amy insists on navigating by a Rand McNally atlas she received when she first signed up for auto insurance in the nineties. She claims it makes the experience of being on the road more “authentic.” Of course, since some of the roads did not exist when the atlas was printed, it is taking us quite a while to get anywhere. On top of that, it appears that Maharishi Vedic City did not exist before 2001. Amy just has us making larger and larger rings outward from Iowa City in the hopes that we will eventually see a road sign… And that is when it happened.
Jeff had long since succumbed to the highway hypnosis brought on by the eighty-three beats per minute. The aimless directions and hours past a needed restroom break caused him to lose focus and nearly hit something that had wondered on to the small county road. Luckily he swerved and missed it, coming to a stop with the front end of the van in the ditch. There in the road stood a full grown adult whitetail deer. The chaos of the swerving van didn’t seem to affect it at all. It continued to stand unflinching in the road.
Jeff and I exited the car to chase the animal back into the woods where it would be safe, but the animal wouldn’t move. From a distance we yelled at it like ranchers at a cattle drive. The deer took no notice. We walked closer, making our way to the front of the deer to make sure it saw us; the last thing we wanted to do was have the thing get startled and kick at us. The closer we got, the more it unnerved us that the deer made no outward sign of being frightened. We both spread our arms wide, trying to look as big as possible. Unfortunately for Jeff, he is a pretty small man, so even with his arms spread, he is not very frightening.
We eventually get close enough to almost touch the deer. It is a profound and moving experience, not unlike watching a Brendan Fraser movie. Jeff begins to reach his hand out to the deer. “Aren’t you worried it could have rabies?” I ask.
“Only bats and small children can get rabies,” he tells me. I’m not sure if it is true, but he’s the biologist. Jeff begins to stroke the underside of the deer’s chin and speaks softly to it. He is using English, which seems stupid.
Suddenly, the once docile animal’s head shifts slightly and its eyes seem to focus on something behind Jeff and me. A rustling sound grows and it is obviously the quickened footfalls of another person. A voice booms, “Git’ on out of here, y’here? Git!” Splitting between the two of us, Jason comes leaping with his fist cocked and swings wildly, landing a haymaker on the animal’s head. The force of the blow stumbles the animal backwards falling to its front knees. Then, as if a newborn, it regains the balance of its front legs and runs off. Slowly at first; then faster.
Jeff and I stare at Jason in silence. He turns to us after watching the deer make it to the tree line and says, “Better this way. Thing probably had rabies. Besides, we are running late.”
We file back into the van. Amy traces her finger along a blue line in the atlas that will take us no closer to where we are going, but we will get there; at fifty-seven miles per hour.