Why I Am Not at the Heartland Festival.

Amtrack's Southwest Chief in southern Colorado. By Steve Wilson - Flickr (Wikimedia Commons)

Amtrack’s Southwest Chief in southern Colorado. By Steve Wilson – Flickr (Wikimedia Commons)

All day I had been tracking the progress of the eastbound Southwest Chief, the Amtrak train between Chicago and Los Angeles. It was slightly late out of Gallup, N.M., but on time into Albuquerque.

Then something happened to slow it between Lamy Junction and Las Vegas, New Mexico. The estimated time of arrival at my station (La Junta, Colo.) kept sliding back.

Just as well.

With the train fifteen minutes out from the station, my phone rang with a Kansas City number that I did not recognize, but I ended up talking with Sean, one of the Heartland Pagan Festival organizers.

I was supposed to give two talks there this weekend: one on American nature religion and one on my flying ointment research.

Things were not good: a dam had overflowed, the access road to Camp Gaea was blocked, and the person who was to pick me up in Lawrence, Kan., tomorrow morning (Friday, May 27) was trapped (along with everyone else) at the festival site.

It was questionable if I could even get there tomorrow. He spoke of reimbursing me for a hotel room. Would I even be able to do the scheduled Saturday presentation?

It’s not that I dislike Lawrence — it’s an interesting town — but did I want to ride all night just to go there and then, perhaps, stay a night in a hotel and then come back again, if I could get my ticket changed?

And what about all the people who paid for the weekend, were they getting in? There was a strong vibe of chaos and confusion, and I did not envy the organizers one bit.

Meanwhile the train was getting closer. “Maybe I had better abort this mission,” I said.

As I turned onto the highway home, the silver cars of the Southwest Chief were rolling beside me. I was going west, and they were going east.

So here I am, after two hours’ drive back home. After having sweated numerous bullets trying to put two talks together, packed, gotten everything organized (notes, handouts).

At least some of the work will transfer to other projects, an article and a book.

3 Comments

  1. Turtle (Kris Holmes) says:

    Would you consider perhaps doing a video presentation and putting it on YouTube or any other form of access? I know the audience response and participation would be missing, but…think about it, anyway.

    • Chas Clifton says:

      That’s an interesting thought. I would need to team up with someone who knows a little bit about videography, work out a script, rehearse, etc. I have seen too much crappy amateurish stuff on YouTube!

      It was sad unpacking this morning. I still don’t know if I made the right decision, avoiding a miserable muddy experience, or if I could have salvaged something from the weekend and given at least one of the presentations. (I do not think that the festival was cancelled, although some people posted on Facebook that they were turning around and going home.)

      • Satyr Magos says:

        The festival was not cancelled, though there were points where we were afraid we might have to.

        The weather cleared up throughout the day Friday and was sunny, even hot, Saturday and Sunday. That, however, was NOT the forecast, and the amount of continued rain it would have taken to keep the road closed was not great.

        While we were sad to miss your presentations, everyone on site understood and empathize with your decision. We were just grateful that we were able to get a call out so that you could make the decision, instead of finding yourself stranded in Larryville at dawn, wondering where your ride was. It was around noon before we were able to get anyone in or out the gate.