Little Jake Mitchell and the Soul Searchers

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“Little Jake”  Acrylic on 11″ x 14″ Canvas  by Judi Cain

 

Yesterday morning I saw a Facebook notice that Little Jake Mitchell would be celebrating his 75th Birthday with a special performance! What a perfect opportunity to give him the portrait I did of him!  I thought about it all day. – How i could go about it without making a big deal of it and still have time to paint.  I really didn’t want to get all dressed up and spend my time listening to music. I just wanted to paint.
I had forgotten what had made me want to make this portrait in the first place!
I saw him perform a couple of years ago and was moved to portray the tremendous energy that he and his band, the Soul Searchers, expressed that night.  I took a lot of photos but didn’t have the technical knowledge to adjust the settings on my camera for good lighting and focus for the detail I needed. Fortunately, a real photographer, Paul Carter, gave me permission to use his photo for reference. The painting was successful, as I retained the energy by referring to my own blurry photos.  I had exhibited it several times, and now it was time for me to let it go.  What good is a painting filled with energy if it’s stored in a box where no one can see it?  
The plan was to quietly go to the door, hand the painting to the doorman, and return home to paint the night away. I called the number listed on the post to let them know that I would be dropping off the gift for Little Jake.  The man on the phone (who I later learned was one of the Soul Searchers) said he would tell Prophet, the doorman, to expect me.
When I got there the performance had already started.
I’m looking for Prophet. I thought he would be outside. I thought I wouldn’t have to go inside. He must be the man sitting at the table just inside the door. The music is loud and I can’t hear the woman who is pointing to a paper with my name on it.  And she couldn’t hear me tell her that the name she’s pointing to is indeed me and that I’m just here to drop off the painting.
After a few  awkward moments, I finally figure out that Prophet wants me to pay admission. Sure, I’ll gladly support another artist and panic when he refuses my debit card.  I fumble in my purse to find the right amount, hoping I hadn’t spent it all at the farmers market this morning;  fumbling because a line is forming behind me and all I want to do is leave the painting and go home. Prophet gives me my change and hands me a wristband.  I put the wristband on, The people in line behind me can’t hear me apologizing for taking so long.
I follow the woman, expecting to leave the painting in a back room somewhere. But no! She leads me across the front of the room, in front of the whole crowd, to a table two feet away from the stage where Little Jake and the Soul Searchers are showering their energy over the happy crowd. I quietly put the painting under the table and look up at Little Jake who looks straight into my eyes, even as he keeps on singing, and I am magically transformed from a fussy old lady artist approaching her own 75th birthday into an 18 year old girl, swept away by the perfect harmonies of the Soul Searchers, who not only make magic with guitars and brass and keyboard and percussion but with perfect harmonies of their voices, all channeled into and through Little Jake himself as they lead us on a journey through the very best classic musical creations of the ’50’s and ’60’s. Little Jake’s performance makes every person there feel as if he is singing directly to them.  He gives us no choice but to follow him with our eyes as he makes his way, slowly, deliberately off the stage, singing through the crowd, shaking hands, touching shoulders, and making eye contact. “Are you feeling good?” “Yeah!” we answer. “Are you feeling good?” “Yeah!!”
And we do feel good.  Everyone is dancing –  if not on the dance floor, we are dancing in our seats.  Every muscle in our bodies is dancing in harmony.  There is no idle chatter in the house. We are one with the music. The vibrato in his voice stirs the energies and makes us remember how it feels to feel good.
“you know what?”  “What?”  You know what?”  “What?!!”  And then he sits down at a table next to me, takes the hand of the woman sitting there and sings to her and to me and to every person in the crowd:  “I don’t even know your name . . . All I remember is that smile on your face . . .”
An hour or two of nonstop, perfectly synchronized performance . . . maybe longer, who knows? who cares?   Then there is a break.
The woman who led me to my seat is now sitting at the table next to me.  “You have a gift for Little Jake?”  I pull the painting from under the table and remove it from its box.  Suddenly Little Jake is standing by me, accepting the painting, holding it up for the crowd to see.  I’m suddenly self-conscious again, remembering that I did not want this attention.  I just wanted to leave the gift.  Little Jake invites me to have a piece of birthday cake.  His beautiful daughter sings “Happy Birthday Dear Daddy . . .”  Her voice is magical too.  They place the painting on the table next to the birthday cake.  I ask if I can take his picture with the painting.
“Post these pictures on Facebook.”  he says.  “My daughter’s name is Keisha.”  I hope I got the spelling right.
As it turns out, I am the one who received the Gift.
(These photos were taken with my iPhone.  I’m still not a great photographer, but I believe they portray in a blurry way some of the energy I experienced last night.)

Down on the Farm

My little brother’s name is James.  I wanted to name him Pete, but Mother and Daddy didn’t like that. “Where did you hear that name?”  Maybe he told me before he came to us from Heaven, but I didn’t tell them that.  I just shrugged and wondered why he couldn’t be Pete.   Mother says both our names come from the Bible and they both start with the letter “J” -James and Judith. Only they call me Judy so I guess I could call him Pete if I wanted to, but I won’t.  Not out loud, anyway.

1949 Oklahoma Judi Jim

My little brother James is building a road for his little cars with the help of his dump truck.  We are playing in the cool morning shade of the house.   His dump truck is filled with sand scooped up with one of Mother’s metal spoons.  The dump truck is still shiny blue except for the few rust spots where the paint has worn away. The dump truck has a little seat on the top, just the right size for his little 3-year-old hiney,  but he’s too busy building roads to ride on the truck.  There was a thick wire handle attached to the front for steering, but right now he’s using it as a hammer to smooth away at the clumps of clay where the sand got washed off by the rain.. “Rood’n, rood’n” he says.  That’s what he thinks a dump truck sounds like.  “Rood’n, rood’n, rood’n” the dump truck gets louder as it climbs the little hill where another load of sand was dumped.

I’m busy making mud pies, like Nannie taught me.  I mix the sand and powdered clay with water in my little toy mixing bowl. I pack the mud into my little toy pan.  The mixing bowl and pan are part of a little toy cooking set I got for my third birthday.  It’s pretty fancy.  Besides the bowl and cooking pan I have a little toy egg beater with a red handle and a little rolling pin  Poor Nannie.  She only has coffee cans and mason jars to make her mud pies.  But she has lots of pretty flowers in her yard that we use to decorate the pies after they’ve baked.  And I have my very own pretties that I can use for decorating!  Yesterday when we went to get the cows, I filled my skirt with treasures!  I have three smooth acorns with the tops still on them, and two locust shells that were stuck to the tree, but I got them off without breaking any of their legs! And I found four shiny rocks by the creek!

I set my pie in the sun to bake. By tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain, it will be hard and I can gently take it out of the pan so as not to break it, and then I can put frosting on it.  Nannie gave me a piece of her old red brick that I can grind into a powder by rubbing it against a big rock, then mix it with water and spread it on top of the pie with Mother’s spoon. It surely makes a pretty frosting.

Mother only has four little spoons – one for each of us – and four big spoons that she uses to stir things, or to scoop mashed potatoes out of the big bowl.  We have four plates and four cups and four saucers.  My Aunt gave them to us because she didn’t need them any more and we did.  Mother is a little embarrassed because the dishes don’t match.  I like the bright yellow ones and James likes the blue ones.  Daddy gets the green ones and Mother gets the orange ones.  She says the dishes have a name and that’s “Fiesta” because Fiesta means “Happy!”  And they’re all happy colors so it doesn’t matter that they don’t match. Anyway, we don’t have company for dinner very often.  Our house is too little for company and anyway, where would they sit?  We only have three chairs and James’ high chair.

In the front room is where we sleep.  Mother and I sleep in the big bed on one side of the room and Daddy and James sleep in the other big bed.  In the winter we have a stove in the middle of the room.  Daddy gets up early in the morning and puts wood inside the stove and makes a fire and soon it’s warm enough that the rest of us can get out from under the heavy quilts and put our warm clothes on. I can stand close to the stove to make my clothes feel warmer, but not too close or I might burn myself.

I like to peek out the window when it’s cold because Jack Frost leaves pretty pictures on the glass while we’re sleeping.  If you blow your breath on the pictures they will melt into water that runs down the glass and ruins the other pretty pictures. I tried it a couple of times but decided I like the pretty pictures to stay as long as they will.  We can’t see him do it because of the quilts hanging in front of the windows.  But we have to have them because it would get too cold for us to sleep at night after the fire goes out. But in the summer Mother takes the quilts down and we can see outside again.  I have to stay inside a lot in the winter because I might get the croup.  Sometimes I cough so hard I can’t sleep so Mother puts liniment on a rag (it’s really one of James’ old diapers) and pins it around my neck with a big safety pin and it burns my eyes but feels good on my chest and I can breathe better, but I still have to sleep propped up with a pillow because if I lay down I’ll start coughing again.  Anyway if I run outside in the winter the cold air gives me the croup.

Our other room has a much bigger stove because it has to have room for Mother to cook our food. In the summer she has to go outside to get wood to build the fire in the cook stove, but in the winter we keep a pile inside so she doesn’t have to go out in the cold so early in the morning. One time in the winter, Daddy found a snake in the wood pile!  He must have brought it inside while it was sleeping, but when the room warmed up the snake woke up!  You can be sure he put that snake back outside where he belonged!

There’s a tall table by the back door where the water bucket goes.  Mother draws water out of the well to fill the big bucket.  Sometimes she lets me let the well bucket down the round pipe that goes down into the water. If you drop a little rock down the pipe you can hear it splash when it hits the water.  You can also holler down into the well and Little Sir Echo will answer you!  I have to be careful to hold tight on the rope because if it slips I’ll get splinters from the rope in my hands.  When the bucket is full it’s very heavy so Mother has to help me pull it back up.  Then we empty it into the house bucket and take it inside and put the dipper in it so we can get a cold drink of water whenever we’re thirsty.

This morning when Mother made biscuits and gravy for breakfast we had fresh butter that she churned yesterday and it was fun watching it melt into the hot biscuits.  it took a while for it to melt because it was in the ice box and the big block of ice that the ice man brought kept it nice and cool and fresh.

James has been using the spoon for a long time and I think it’s about my turn  “No!” he says.  “It’s my turn!”

“No!” I say.  “It’s my turn!” and I grab the spoon from his chubby little hand and right away start mixing my frosting.