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Saturday, July 18, 2009


gettin er done

It's fiddlers convention time in Sparta. I've wanted to go, intended to go, was set on going. Now that the time is here, I can't make myself do it. I've tried to convince myself all day I can go for a few hours and leave Jr unattended and everything will be ok. I can't make myself believe all will be well when I return. Long ago I learned never to walk in the door with expectation of any kind. What I expect is never the case, and no matter what I find, it's a surprise.

I've been listening to the fiddlers convention on WCOK that is playing the fiddlers convention live, both yesterday and today. At the station this morning for the radio show I was happy to see Sue again. It's refreshing to have someone in there with an ear for mountain music. She is, in effect, the station manager. Andy told her to call the shots, and she'd doing it, doing it well. She knows what she wants the station to become and she's working toward that with all her might. She wants the station involved with the community of Alleghany and to play the music the people listening want to hear, the way it used to be in the time of Arnold Clodfelter and Judy Halsey.

Sue is having a fit about a preacher in Surry County raising money to buy WCOK and make it into an all-gospel station with nothing to do with the community. I don't worry about it. I see it as a bit of opposition to what she's doing, that threatens what she has her heart in. Nothing worthwhile gets done without opposition. I figure he's helping her out. He can't buy something that's not for sale. And if he does get the money together that could buy it, he'll disappear and turn up in a trailer park in Florida.

This morning I wanted to play some music to the people here for the fiddlers convention from wherever they came here from, a reward for turning the radio on. I imagine maybe one or two might have heard it. It was a welcome to the mountains show, where we have bluegrass, Stanley Brothers and Big Country Bluegrass, and old-time, Whitetop Mountain Band and Benton Flippen's Smokey Valley Boys. Approximately a quarter hour of each in that order. Started with Ralph and Carter playing Little Birdie in 1952, Bristol Va, Fiddlin Art Wooten on the fiddle, Pee Wee Lambert on mandolin and George Shuffler playing bass.

Steve Lewis is playing Bluegrass Breakdown on banjo. Now Eric Hardin is playing bluegrass banjo. Both these pickers are from Ashe County. Eric was Steve's student who has become his most ardent competitor. I'm glad I'm not a judge. I wouldn't know how a judge could say one of them was better than another. Steve's playing was a little more virtuosic, Hardin's was more straight-ahead doin-it-to-it bluegrass. A band is playing I'm Goin And I Aint Comin Back. I asked Jr if his band The Green Mountain Boys played that song. He said they did and started singing his part, tenor, to himself. Enjoying now the band made on the spot; Dennis Joines, Bill Joines, Marsha Bowman, a fiddler named Bill, the only names I caught. A bunch of good bluegrass bands in a row.

Jr slept much of the day. Around 5:30 he was up and thinking it morning. I couldn't convince him it was evening. He wanted to mow the grass. What a thing that turned into. He got the grass mowed, but in the manner of a big adventure. This is why I was reluctant to go away for a few hours today. He'd been wanting to get at something earlier this morning, and I had a feeling that later in the day when he was rested good he'd want to do something and I'd best be here, to be sure he doesn't decide to go down the basement steps, or turn on the toaster oven, or drive someplace, or anything.

First, he had to get to the mower, which was down a short bank to the area that's the entrance to the basement. We went to the car with the walker. He drove from the parking space to where the mower was. I insisted he put on the seat belt. "No. I'll be all right." I noted that he's looking at a wire fence and a bank that goes a long ways down the hill. He consented just to satisfy me. He made it all right. Harry Taylor has a small orange tractor parked down there. Jr wanted to get on the tractor. I couldn't convince him it was not the mower, which is also orange and about a quarter the tractor's size. He tried to climb on and tried to climb on and couldn't make it. I asked him to "just look" at the lawnmower that was behind him. He wouldn't look, because the one he was struggling to get on, but couldn't, was it. When he finally gave out from trying over and over to step up onto the tractor unsuccessfully, I was able to get him to turn his head and look at the mower. He saw it and said, "Maybe it is. Shit fire."

He managed to get it started and I had to move the car, because he'd parked it so the mower couldn't get out. He putt-putted the mower on its way and mowed the grass. I felt like it was good physical therapy for him, turning the steering wheel for wrists, elbows and shoulders. The struggle on and the struggle off were good therapy for leg contortions. It was good therapy for his mind too. He was doing something worthwhile. Finished, he parked the mower, walked to the car with the walker, and again I insisted he put the seatbelt on. "I aint goin nowhere." "If you go down that bank you'll want the seat belt." "I aint goin down no bank." "I know that, but put the seatbelt on anyway." "All right." The attempt to get the car out of there backwards was something like somebody's first attempt at parallel parking.

Walking with him to the car at the beginning of the day's adventure, I was thinking about how interesting it is I don't find him pitiful at all. He says one person's name when he means another, but I understand who he's talking about. It doesn't do to correct him, because that just causes a detour into a futile attempt to convince him he means Jerry when he said Steve, but it's really hard to get it through, and when it does get across, he goes back to calling Jerry Steve.

When he's looking for something, I find it and hand it to him, he thinks it's like a miracle. Like in the night he will take his glasses off and put them on the bed. In the morning they're on the floor the other side of the bed. He'll tell me he lost his glasses, doesn't know where they are. I go pick them up off the floor and he looks at me wide-eyed, thanks me with another, "I couldn't make it without you." It embarrasses him to be so frail and forgetful. Mountain man that he is, he has a sense of style, and pushing a walker isn't it.


  1. I am in awe and somewhat envious of the great relationship you have with this fellow human being. If we all could share just a tiny bit of this compassion with our fellow man what a wonderful world this would be. My wife and I plan to be in Sparta this coming weekend. Maybe we'll meet up somewhere. Tell me again the dial position and time of your Saturday radio show. I don't think I've mentioned it but in my early years I was a radio host and operations manager at a small radio station back home. I did that for 13 years and loved. Never made any money at but had a ball doing it. You take care of Jr. and yourself.

  2. They have conventions for fiddlers? Are there any in Texas? I want to go to one, that sounds like so much fun! I love fiddle music. Thiago |