Every time “Wagon Wheel” is played, my mind wanders back to memories of camp: the green grass, the wildlife, and especially the people. One day a couple of my camp friends and I were just hanging out and chatting around the kitchen table at a camp reunion. It was the fall right after a very fun and eventful summer at camp. The light above the table gave a warm, comforting yellow glow. My friends faces were hazily illuminated, creating an almost dream-like atmosphere. A familiar smell filled the air. Pizza was being baked with a variety of spices, meats, and cheeses. We had been talking for some time and reminiscing fond memories, so I got up and began to roam around the house. I wandered into a dark room filled with dusty guitars and a large variety of acoustic instruments. In the corner sat an old piano covered in some cobwebs. It reminded me of one of those old-time western pianos, just sitting in a bar waiting to be played. The wooden floors creaked under my weight as I approached and picked up a guitar and blew the dust off of it. I plucked each string, surprisingly in tune. I began to play a few chords, when I felt the urge to play a song. I started playing the four magical chords of “Wagon Wheel.”
As I was playing the intro, each of my friends came and joined me in singing the song:
Heading down south to the land of the pines,
I’m thumbing my way into North Carolina.
Staring up the road and pray to God I see headlights.
One of my friends, Alex, picks up a stand-up bass and lays down a nice mellow beat. His brown hair bounces up-and-down with the bass line: bum, bum, bum, bum. Everyone begins mumbling the rest of the phrase but then crescendos into the chorus: “So rock me momma like a wagon wheel. / Rock me momma any way you feel. / Heyyyyyyyy momma rock me.” The words of the chorus attract the rest of my friends who soon join the ensemble. Their eyes look at me like, why didn’t you tell us sooner? I just shake my head with a grin and continue on with the song. Sean, Joshua, and Elliott are swinging their heads to the beat, drunk on the good memories of camp. The singing was drowning out the sound of the guitar and bass, so everyone picked up an instrument and contributed to the rich sound. My friend Daniel sat down at a piano and played in harmony with the guitar. The piano completed the old-timey antique, rustic sound with the plunking of the old keys.
Running from the cold up in New England.
I was born to be a fiddler in an old-time stringband.
My baby plays the guitar; I pick a banjo now.
The whole house is now rocking, shaking, and humming to our collective, robust music. Everyone’s favorite part is coming up, and the emotions are erupting! Everyone suddenly stops playing the instruments. I look around at all of my friends who are smiling with big grins on their faces. Our voices stand alone: “Walkin’ to the south out of Roanoke.” Everybody crescendos and then shouts, “I caught a trucker out of Philly; HAD A NICE LONG TOKE!” The instruments kick back in and carry our voices to the end of the song like an ocean wave. “So rock me momma like a wagon wheel. / Rock me momma any way you feel. / Heyyyyyyy momma rock me!”
With a final strum of the guitar, everything comes to a halt. Silence fills the air. The only sounds that are present are the walls, which are still vibrating from the rhythmic tunes. The silence is bland without the strumming of guitars or the beating of the bass, but it is the most prominent aspect in the moment. The room suddenly erupts with emotion as we all began laughing and hugging each other, with tears in our eyes, in a state of ecstasy. Never had I felt more happy and secure with a group of people in my entire life. The only thing we could manage to say was “One more song!” And like that we were off again: singing and reminiscing about the sandy shores and the olive green ocean bay of Echo Hill.