A thick mist blanketed the valleys below the knoll where a remote residential outpost sits in the depths of some Texas County back country.
Shadows of trees atop the knoll loomed large in the light of a half-moon shining brightly in the late spring night sky, ringed by a double-layered halo.
As the flames danced and crackled inside the circle of large field rocks at the center of attention, six people sat in various styles of chairs strategically arranged on the upwind side.
A young male dachshund mix and a young female Welsh Corgi lay calmly on the grass nearby, dreaming of the day’s adventures.
One of men in the group played a mandolin and sang with passion and precision, the sounds of his instrument and his baritone voice carrying to the far reaches of the surrounding landscape, filling the valleys and bouncing from ridge to ridge.
Other voices rang out sporadically, as members of the group sang along with familiar verses or refrains.
The playlist featured a wide range of songs, by past and present artists like Marty Robbins, The Band and Old Crow Medicine Show. It even ventured off into folk-crafted versions of rock and roll classics like Thin Lizzy’s “Cowboy Song” and the often covered “Me and Bobby McGhee.”
The musical array was continuously augmented by a proficient choir of crickets and multiple species of frogs adding natural accompaniment in a way only they could.
After an hour or so, heat filled the air in the area around the pit as hot coals glowed in the pit as if ready for a blacksmith’s tools.
Two horses and a donkey stood close by in the corral on the other side of a three-strand poly wire fence, not moving to the music, but rather remaining contentedly still as if making sure to take in every note to the utmost.
Two coyote packs chimed in with bursts of yelping cries that carried over and beyond the rural outpost’s knoll.
Memories spurred by decades-old music fueled conversation laced with laughter, amazement and nodding heads.
The temperature dropped and the warmth was even more welcome than before.
The hoofed spectators finally sauntered away to partake of the succulent greenery in the acreage of their eating grounds.
Time rolled on and eventually broke up the gathering.
All involved retired with satisfied hearts and minds.
When the conditions in the Ozarks are right, it’s hard to beat a night by the fire pit.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.