(Audio only; recorded and edited by Bruce Thorson)
This is a 60-acre lake located on Shawn Cole's property located several miles west of DeWitt.
(Photo by Patrick Breen)
Shawn Cole (left) and Charlie Partin
(Photo by Clay Lomneth)
(Photo by Kyle Bruggeman)Story by Kyle Bruggeman, Clay Lomneth and Patrick Breen
June 16, 2009, DeWitt, Neb: It's been said Nebraska doesn't have a landscape. Instead, because the sky is such a dominating force in the state, people refer to it as a "skyscape", an un-interrupted beautiful spectacle of nature. And as the night grew darker, and a local named Travis became more and more intoxicated, the night Nebraska skyscape was lit by a small fire and entertainment.
A campfire. Sitting around a campfire is a pre-historic pastime. It's been done by every culture throughout every part of the world for as long as we've been able to harness the flame. A place to share stories and sing songs. A place where you don't mind getting dirt between your toes as the fumes from burning wood permeates your clothes.
The night started the same way others had for us on this trip. We would head into a local bar and meet more Nebraskans. They would tell us a story or two and we would get names and numbers for future stories. By the end of the night, we were invited out to the side of a lake. Bruce told Clay once on a trip to Kosovo: "If you think you'll regret not doing it, just go ahead and do it." And we couldn't pass up an opportunity like this.
Ignited by a douse of diesel fuel, the night began.
Two men sat outside the flames and had the perfect ingredients for a campfire euphoria. Guitars. Bongos. And beer.
But this wasn't a typical boy-scout campfire, for singer and songwriter Shawn Cole, the spiritual song of Kumbaya is not exactly a favorite. Cole would rather sing his own blue grass songs about love, liquor, and everyday life. A true Nebraska story.
The one man band was joined by long time friend Charlie Partin, a retired brick sculptor and architect with a love for playing a banjo.
Alongside the men, the 6-acre lake sat peaceful and quiet. Together they sang a few tunes and drank a few beers and spoke of days gone by as the Milky Way shimmered above their heads.
The Milky Way was gorgeous. And there wasn't anything to interrupt its beauty. No mountains, no city lights, no houses. No sounds of the interstate, no neighbors arguing in the street. We were a long way away from anything else, but a song and a smile stayed near.
Partin, who is moving to Canada said to Cole, "I'm sure gonna miss jamming with you this summer." Cole agreed.
There wasn't a single tear shed, but we knew it was true. We knew these two friendly musicians were going to miss each other's melodies.
As the stars seemed to grow brighter, and the fire seemed to dim, Cole lifted his guitar and Charlie, his bongos, and another song drifted into the early morning sky.