• Marilyn Gardner Woods

Turkey anyone?

Updated: Dec 8, 2019


It began around the campfire at Song Dog one year.


It was enhanced by the Wild Turkey.


And then it became a tradition.


My four best buds and I—off to the high desert on an overnight camping trip early in November. Faye, Nancy, Sue, Alice and I regularly traveled together—exotic trips to foreign lands and quick getaways nearby. This was our first foray into camping. We were forging a new experience in the great outdoors in a remote land of gently sloping, rounded mounds which cradled a peaceful landscape of quiet magnificence. Song Dog, a private camping spot, lies in a section of land where the California counties of Kern, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo meet.













The Song Dog scene stretches for miles with all the isolation of a Hopper painting.



Edward Hopper Road in Maine 1914, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York


The website nowadays says “Song Dog is not a dude ranch, nor some ritzy retreat. It is for the ‘real’ and adventurous. (I guess that was us…) There are no cattle grazing in the pastures nor fields of fruit along our fence lines. The only things ever raised here are small herds of wine glasses in the light of the campfire.” And it professes “this is place where the spirit is encouraged to soar. Here on earth you can howl at the moon.” We did.

BTW, there was no website when we were campers!


A week ahead, I suggested we each come with a provocative question to ponder around the campfire. Around the campfire at Song Dog occurs after a delectable grill of Tri Tip, chicken, giant mushrooms, and organic vegetables, along with an abundance of superb Santa Ynez red wines.


After the November sunset spattered an explosion of color across the sky, the evening air grew cool and darkness set in. Alice hustled around the fire pit stacking the logs for our bonfire, readying it for our friendship circle. We bundled into warmer wear—mufflers, sweatshirts, gloves and hats. In my tent I retrieved the bottle of bourbon I had been assigned to bring. Our blaze maker poked the flames; we settled into Adirondack chairs and the sky lit up with a million stars.




We passed The Wild Turkey and drank it straight from the high-shouldered bottle with the quirky looking bird on the label. It calmed and helped to fend off the cold. We all began to feel cozy.


“I’ll go first,” Faye, who came camping with her Samsonite train case from the 50s full of her make-up, volunteered, pulling a folded piece of paper from her jacket pocket.

“In your life, who has given you the best piece of wisdom? And what is it?”

A litany of answers and head nods explored fiscal responsibility, meditation, mentoring, affairs of the heart and filial piety.


Alice, whose life with father story is tumultuous at best, went next. “From my dad, I learned…”

A cross between hero worship and tales of disappointment followed as we shared stories of abusive, absentee and adoring fathers. Just as I finished my lessons learned from my father’s battle with alcoholism, Sue nudged me offering another sip of Wild Turkey. The tinge of irony did not go unnoticed.


The bottle of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 101 Proof, made its third trip around our small circle. I had purchased the booze using the “top shelf” criteria; i.e., more expensive is better. Indeed, it was. This was smooth sipping with subtle hints of smoky sweetness made even more sexy as the flames subdued and imaginations soared.



“How’d this booze get named Wild Turkey,” Alice blurted out as she raised the close-to-empty bottle and angled it toward me. From my Song Dog mug, I sniffed, took a sip, swallowed and savored the blend of spice, pepper and oak flavors. It went down easy as I related what I had recently googled.

“The Wild Turkey brand is said to have arisen after a distillery executive took some warehouse samples on a hunting trip in 1940.

“Guess what the gentlemen were hunting?” I asked the group and before they could answer, “Wild turkeys!” I yelled.

“Under my chunky knit beanie, my head fuzzied a bit from the alcohol. I paused for the last swig and added, “That’s how it got its’ name. The bourbon proved so popular among his friends they continued to ask him for "that wild turkey bourbon."

Alice thrust the bottle upward toward the night sky again and we all cheered.


The alcohol, the waning crescent of the Scorpio moon in the sky overhead and the toasty warmth of the fire combined to heighten the bonds of friendship between us. I reached for Nancy’s mittened hand. She squeezed mine in return. One by one, I contemplated the familiar faces of my good friends, luminous in the firelight. Warmth radiated throughout my body. I wanted to drink in the moment—make its memory last forever.


“Last question of the night, Marilyn—what have you got?” Faye invited.

Several weeks before, in searching quotes for a project on portraits for the art museum, I came across “Clothes make the man.” The proverb which means people will judge you by the clothes you wear, has an impressive literary pedigree from Mark Twain to Erasmus to Shakespeare. In the Tragedy of Hamlet, Shakespeare wrote “the apparel oft proclaims the man.” Twain wrote “clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” In Latin, Erasmus pontificated vestis virum facit. Or “clothes make the man.” I wondered about the woman.

As the embers faded and the cold of the night closed in, I offered one last question, the most banal of the handful I had come with, to end the night. “It’s said ‘clothes make the man.’ What is the most drop dead outfit your ever wore and how did it make you special?”

Provocative or not, it garnered memorable responses.


Faye, ever-floating Faye, our magical princess remembered an organza ice blue poufy creation which she wore with a garden hat covered with blossoms. The occasion—a good friends’ afternoon wedding they attended just days before her young husband was diagnosed with the brain cancer that killed him ten short months later. A glint of the tear in her eye flashed in the firelight.


Nancy, our mysterious Scorpio, recalled a sophisticated and daring black number. She shook up our peaceful gathering momentarily by throwing off her blanket and jumping up to demonstrate, “backless, draped and sensuous!” She did a hip thrust toward the fire. As she sat back down, she hinted at a gigolo in Vegas.


Not to be outdone, Sue surged forward in her chair and pounded her flat chest vigorously. “My turn!” She upended her cup.

“Oh man—my “nursing” boobs! She giggled as she recalled her experience as a new mother when she exhibited genuine cleavage for the first and only time. During the precious months of abundant milk for her little baby, she made certain all special occasion necklines were plunging.


Alice, statuesque and sexy, even tonight in her flannel plaid shirt and black puffer jacket, enthusiastically recounted her thigh high black leather boots with stiletto heels she wore for her husband’s thirtieth birthday in San Francisco. The tip of the boots and the bottom of the black leather mini skirt left a scant two inches of her long legs showing, which “brought out the animal in the birthday boy,” she boasted with a big smile.

“Oh, and don’t forget the shoulder pads,” she laughed out loud.


I went last and immediately thought of my devoted mother. My most memorable outfit was a hip and trendy 1970s number, which she created on her Singer Sewing Machine. I debuted it at a front row seat at The Royal Box in New York City. I felt fabulous, as The Fifth Dimension took the stage.




In my peacock blue ensemble—bell bottoms, Nehru collar, wide macramé trim on the full sleeves. I would have fit in perfectly with the group on stage wearing my eye-catching mod ensemble. Plus, I knew every word to the long list of hits—Up, Up, and Away, Aquarius/Let the Sunshine in, Stoned Soul Picnic. Marilyn McCoo, my idol.



As the embers began to fade, we wound down our intimate talks of sex, parents, children, jobs, dreams and friendship. Women do this well.


With or without Wild Turkey.


I can just see you all around the campfire. I can hear your stories, your laughter and your sadness. What wonderful memories you have gathered over the years and what a wonderful way you tell us about them. Thanks again. Jan


Thus is fabulous, Marilyn. I can smell the campfire. 

You and your pals remind me of the ya ya sisterhood, California style😉Kay


Famous Grouse - one of the most well known Scotch blends, got its name somewhat the same way, I believe. Interestingly, it  causes similar evenings to occur amongst those who imbibe!!

Great Story!

John


Totally enjoyed this one!  

Easy to imagine girlfriends sitting around the campfire sharing while swigging - and getting more honest and humorous as the bottle made its second and third rounds!  I imagine also lots of laughter!  Beats.Blazing Saddles humor.

Happy 

Lynda


No need to go public with my drop dead outfit. 

For seven years Don and I had a house in Kennebunk Maine which we built. (A block from the ocean. )

I went by myself for the months of June -July sometimes with family or friends.  Don came in August. 

My outfit

A pink and purple bikini. And a nice tan. D in Texas!



The late Liz Carpenter used to tell a story about how she and a group of friends howled at the moon. She would begin by saying, "The moon was full, and so were we..."

Chris in her tiny house on 22 acres


Hi Marilyn! I love your stories! I want to go on one of those camping trips! (Although I don’t drink whiskey.) It reminded me of the campfire scene in “The English Patient.” What Fun to have girlfriends that can still get out and “whoop it up!” I also loved your review of “The Dutch House.”  I had just read it. One of my favorite authors. Ciao! PKP



This dress was like queen for a day at friends bridal tea. 1956. i matched the wallpaper.  sort of ! MP



Years ago my mother took a trip to China with three Corpus friends during one of the first times travel was open.  They experienced eating dog and other exotic fare.  They had no water to drink, only beer and hot orange drink.  She commented when she returned home "Jack Daniels straight out of the bottle isn't bad."  Loved your story. MM in Texas


Marilyn,

Loved your account of you and friends around the campfire. And what a great assignment (best advice). Have to remember that the next time friends and I have some serious conversation time.

Hugs, H


Totally enjoyed this one!  

Easy to imagine girlfriends sitting around the campfire sharing while swigging - and getting more honest and humorous as the bottle made its second and third rounds!  I imagine also lots of laughter!  Beats.Blazing Saddles humor.

Happy 

Sent from my iPhone


Love this wd!  Oh the merriment we have shared…..simply the best times ever..huge love.  ams


A wonderful story and reflection of the ways friendships make our lives better!  kqj


   Ah, the world of imagination as I let my fantasy recreate your adventures under the moon. I wonder if there was a dog singing in the distance - you never told us where the name Song Dog came from.

     There are very few things that can compare to the bonds in family, yet a hand-picked bunch of friends is as priceless as it gets.

     Thank you for taking me with you,   Renato


Wishing you a joyful Thanksgiving!

I just finished reading your Wild Turkey blog...sensuous!  It’s Dave’s favorite bottle to take on  hunting trips. Now I know why.

Linda


Hi

Marilyn, Loved your camping story with friends ( but enjoy each and everyone of your writings) and could smell the smokey campfire which we enjoyed so many times with the family backpacking in the Sierras - minus the Wild Turkey.  Do miss the serene and majestic mountains in Mammoth and all the wonderful hikes into the back country. Thanks for the book recommendation.  Ann's stepmother lives in Fallbrook and she would have her come to talk about her early books - she has flourished as a writer and will be looking forward to the latest read. Joan

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