Of movie memories, cars, quilts & ‘Melissa’

Rambling through central Illinois, pondering thespianism.

• • •

While knee-deep in prairie Tuesday morning admiring monarch caterpillars and flowering fox tongue beardglove, the phone rang with Amy Davis on the other end.

“Um, I didn’t know if you would be interested, but there is a crew shooting a movie in Elmwood today,” Davis said.

The caterpillars didn’t mind my rapid departure. Two vivid childhood memories are watching “The Natural” and “Best Friends” being filmed in my neighborhood in Buffalo, N.Y. But I never expected a Los Angeles crew to show up in Elmwood. And I wasn’t going to miss it.

The good news is those who might be similarly interested will have more chances to see the independent movie “Wardcliffe” being filmed in the next 10 days. All but one scene will be shot in Elmwood and Producer Roger Mayer said they may solicit help from locals for a few scenes, including one that will be the climax of the film.

I just hope this film winds up better than “Best Friends,” featuring Burt Reynolds and Goldie Hawn, and can stay truer to itself than Hollywood’s version of “The Natural,” whose ending bore no resemblance to Bernard Malamud’s sad but touching novel.

• • •

Maybe it was the heat, but this year’s Strawberry Festival offered a revelation.

Not being a car guy myself, the whole allure of driving to a random town to sit in the baking sun had eluded me until Saturday. Same is true for gathering in a church hall to display quilts. Turns out, the attraction is really quite simple.

People enjoy hobbies. Spouses tolerate hobbies, at least good spouses do. But even the good ones only want to hear so much about your 1966 Mustang or exquisite Quilt of Valor.

So hobbyists flock together at car shows and quilt shows to swap stories with like-minded folks who appreciate what it takes to restore and maintain an antique car or to sew and stitch a quilt.

For part of Saturday, I sat with Terry Grandt of Yates City, who showed a unique, black-with-gold-stripes, 1966 Shelby GT350 Hertz Rent-A-Racer car that attracted plenty of gawkers. The history of that car is fascinating.

But Grandt was no more proud of his slick ride than was Matt Guppy of Elmwood, who looked like the proud father of a newborn as he stood near the sweet blue 1965 Mustang he has worked hard to restore.

And Best of the Fest winner Joe Westart of Wyoming (pictured above, courtesy of Walt Avery) had to smile to hear all the kudos for his 1965 Chevy Impala SS.

A nice thing about being a car hobbyist is that moving from show to show is fairly easy. Quilts move easily, too. Pondering that made me curse myself again for always making life harder than it needs to be. My favorite hobby – growing trees – doesn’t travel well.

With that in mind, here’s another plug for the seed and nut exchange we’re planning this November at the Salem Township Library in Yates City. All are welcome. Ahh, the stories plant nerds can tell. … Parting shot: Perhaps it’s the heat again, but this for me is looking like an Allman Brothers summer.

Contact Jeff Lampe at (309) 231-6040 or jeff@wklypost.com