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Laurie Lewis grew up in the Bay Area of California and became a fan of folk and bluegrass music at an early age.  The California music scene was much more open than in Nashville, so she was exposed to a wide spectrum of folk, bluegrass and pop music. She learned to play several instruments as she grew up. She studied the singing styles of the bluegrass founders Bill Munroe and Ralph Stanley and fashioned her own vocal style. The result was that she was named top female vocalist in 1992 and 1994 by International Bluegrass Music Association and had one of her songs named top bluegrass song of 1994.

She wrote and first recorded her song “Old Friend” in 1989 as her career was on the rise.  In 2020, Lewis released an album titled “And Laurie Lewis.” As the name implies, all of the tracks are duets with various performers.  “Old Friend” was included with Lewis and her longtime friend, Kathy Kallick, blending voices like two old friends.

Old friend, you just grow dearer

The lines grow deeper, the paths grow clearer

I recall your every look—

Each of them an open book

I’ve heard several people say that an MDS project is like a family reunion.  If they repeat as short or long term volunteers, they often encounter people who’ve served on prior projects with them.  Conversations are renewed as if they had only been paused the previous day.  The many voices talking about family, health, jobs and travel quickly fill the MDS dining room.  It is a sound I enjoy and regret having to quiet so we can get job assignments or daily reports started.  It is the sound of old friends being together.

In Bastrop County on the MDS Elgin response, “Old Friends” was a good theme for this past week.  It was the final week for the January long term volunteers. All but one of those had served on prior projects with Laura and me.  It is very comfortable to be with this group of old friends, Plus, we got to know a new friend.

The short term volunteer group from Virginia included many who had served in Mariana, Florida in 2019 and 2020.  One of their drivers had lived in La Junta, Colorado when Laura and I met.  He attended our wedding almost 50 years ago.  Another driver for the group is the father of a member of the Steel Wheels, a music group we’ve seen perform many times.  A couple from Illinois had been best friends with two of our best friends during our years at Lombard Mennonite Church.  Old friends abounded.

And though long miles may separate us

My love for you endures

With warm regard and in fond affection

I am truly yours

It was good that these friendly connections were in place last week.  The Texas weather did not cooperate with our house building plans.  The cold weather included freezing rain which shutdown work for two complete days.  Falling tree limbs woke some of us up through the night.  We wondered if the electricity would fail.  It never did, but there was almost an inch of ice everywhere.  Days were filled with singing, playing games and reading, instead of being able to work on the houses.

Old friend, we’ve seen so much together—

Stormy days and windy weather—

And like a cloak against the cold

I wrap myself in friendship’s folds

We did actually get a fair amount of work done on the houses during this fourth week, just not as much as we’d hoped. Our first house passed the open wall inspection, so insulation was completed and hanging drywall was started.  At our second house, the electrical and plumbing rough-in progressed and insulation was started in areas that would not obstruct the planned Monday inspection.  For our third house rough-in electrical and plumbing progressed quite well, but lacked a few connections to be ready for testing.  It was a cold, muddy task to crawl under the houses but the hardy volunteers tackled that with determination to get as much done as possible.

Only a little framing on the third house was done before the ice came, but a big push on Friday left all the exterior walls up, sheathed and house-wrapped.  The sub-floor at our 5th house was originally a major goal for the week.  The work began pretty well, then on Tuesday morning, ice was forming on top of the floor joists.  It is really hard to glue and fasten down the sub-floor on top of ice, so work was stopped for the week.

Old friends like warp and woof entwine,

Each crossing defining the design

And though in places frayed and worn

The fabric remains untorn

Our interactions with friends, old and new, shape and define us. As when weaving cloth, a little of each friend becomes part of our design.  We get older and have our difficulties, but the fabric of friendships remains.  Next month promises to have opportunities to renew more old friendships as well as make new ones, but for now we bid farewell at the end of a difficult week.

From Bastrop County, Texas:

Andrew, Laura and Carl saying farewell to the long term volunteers who’ve left….    Leroy, Doreen, Ellen, Rose, Janey, Daniel and Elsie.

We’ve also said farewell to Jordan and Joyce who helped enliven the past four weeks.

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