At midnight the air was sizzling with lasers and thudding with music. The dance floor was elbow-to-elbow, and I was watching from the balcony, ready to head home. It had been one of those odd weekends I never saw coming when I left the farm for nursing school. Thirty-five years after cleaning my last calf pen, I found myself working at a two-day festival with and amongst musicians and dancers and sound engineers and caterers and roadies and fashion designers and composers and famous bass players, and if I did the full and deserved list we could fill the rest of this page and the entire dance floor.

My job was to write some things and speak some things and occasionally run some guitar slinger and his or her gear to an outlying venue. At one point I lugged a drum kit. I also gave a handful of performances in which I read excerpts from an essay about my truck while sitting in my truck. This is the sort of meta-mind-bending conceptual art that could really kick my career into high gear although the size of the cab dictates that the audience never exceeded two people, so I’m gonna have to pick up the pace bookings-wise. Also the very elements of the truck that render it charming also render it in no shape to travel more than 15 minutes from home, so a lot of profit from the nationwide tour is gonna get eaten up by a tag-along tow truck. I would be remiss not to thank my 12-year-old daughter who assisted the art project by unloading all the firewood so I could park in front of the art center without tempting firewood thieves.

The truck sessions were a late addition. I hatched the concept on Saturday morning while sneaking a couple of hours in my deer stand before soundcheck. I wasn’t sure how they’d go.

Register for more free articles
Stay logged in to skip the surveys

After all, you’re taking three people — a minimum of two-thirds who don’t know each other — and jamming them shoulder-to-shoulder with their knees to the dashboard while one of us reads from a book. In the end it went great, and I would do it again if the passengers would.

But that had been hours ago, and now the week was catching up with me. When the laser band finished its final song, I went backstage, fetched my backpack, and returned through the venue toward the exit. The last of the dedicated attendees were clustered up around the stage. A new group of musicians were huddled over a table covered in laptops and other electronic gear at the center of a thunderous buzz saw of noise. I went out to my truck, started it up, drove home, and got my best night’s sleep in a week. In the morning I walked out into the woods and just sat there. It was earthy and quiet. Somewhere the musicians were on airplanes and the late-night dancers were yet to rise. An hour later there was venison in the freezer. Been decades since I cleaned out a cow barn, but I’d grab a pitchfork tomorrow just to keep this weird little life rolling.

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

Subscribe to our Politics email!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

An original “Roughneck Grace” column exclusive to the Wisconsin State Journal. Audio versions may air on “Tent Show Radio”(tentshowradio.com). Read more from Michael Perry at www.sneezingcow.com.