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Saturday, July 31, 2010


willard a-pickin and a-grinnin

At the Front Porch Gallery tonight was Willard Gayheart doing most of the singing, Scott Freeman playing mandolin and fiddle, sometimes singing, and Mike Gayheart, son of Willard, brother-in-law of Scott, played bass. Dori Freeman, Scott's daughter, sang a song and played guitar. She told me Wayne Henderson is working on her guitar right now. It may be done by the time she goes to school, a month from now. She's leaving the Henderson at home for weekends, and will take her Gibson with her to school to lessen the possibility of the Henderson being stolen.

Quite a crowd showed up tonight. Some of the people met Scott and Willard at the Blue Ridge Music Center on the Parkway where they play Mon-Thu. They came to the music tonight for more of what they heard before as they're passing through. Good feeling among everybody. Willard and Scott both have a very receptive vibration that makes them easy to talk with and enjoyable. There's no foolishness in either one of them, though I doubt their wives would second that, and they're just straight-on who they are. They make everyone feel comfortable and at home.

I almost went to Boone tonight to see Ralph Stanley. It would have been a great show. Cherryholmes was with him, and I don't get too excited about them. They're top of the bluegrass charts, slick, professional bluegrass. They have good drive and good musicianship. They sound just like Rhonda Vincent. Ultra slick. Then there is Ralph Stanley, the voice and the sound of these mountains. The only thing slick about Ralph Stanley is he's sung every one of his songs at least 10,000 times. He's been singing them a long time. It would be an interesting show, two eras of bluegrass, the original and the contemporary. I feel like when I see Ralph Stanley I want it to be at Fairview Ruritan, at home among the people who love Ralph Stanley. At the show tonight in Farthing Auditorium in Boone where I saw George Clinton's Parliament/Funkadelic. I imagine Ralph Stanley folk music in Boone. At Fairview, he's the same as Elvis, better. I like being in an audience that is there because everyone loves Ralph Stanley, not where he's a novelty. Tell you what, he'll rock their world. He already has by now. Nobody there will forget Ralph Stanley.

I did not want to miss the night at Woodlawn. Whatever is happening there, it's good music. Really good music. Good company. Good friends. Small, the way I like it. I always get good pictures and good videos. If you'd like to see some, go to YouTube and write in the search box, hobblealong1. It will bring up all of them to pick from. I can't recommend one over any other. They are all excellent music, each a beauty in its own way. The music is good as it gets and the sound quality not bad at all. It's not perfect, but YouTube isn't about perfect. It's about the moment. These videos are records of moments in time.

Willard sang a good bit tonight, songs you don't hear much, Don't You Dare Love Anyone But Me, Sweet Virginia, Coney Island, When The Roses Bloom Again, The Salet Song, I Only Want A Buddie Not A Sweetheart, Blue Bonnet Lane and My Henderson Guitar. I believe he sang a few others, but these are the ones I remember. Scott sang a few and sang tenor sometimes with Willard. Scott played Sally Goodn on the fiddle. Foot tapping was going on all over the place. Sometimes people were clapping with the rhythm. The evidence that music is present. Their concert tonight would be the musical equal of a Stanley concert. The musicians at Woodlawn are equal with the Clinch Mountain Boys. Good mountain music at its best.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


airbellows outdoor art museum

Driving up the mountain this evening a doe standing by the side of the road caused me to slow down. It dark with headlights, there was no guessing which way the deer would run. She turned and ran back away from the road. I spoke to her in my mind, calling her Beauty. Hello, Beauty. She has her herd of a few more does and a buck, some little ones. She has a life. She's not just a deer by the side of the road bewildered by headlights, she's the same as a person to me, somebody with a vision problem blinded by headlights, somebody not accustomed to our human world of unforgiving machines, except to stay away from us.

I felt my heart go through what it goes through when I see a deer or one of the wild critters like a fox or a hawk, I feel sorrow for them having their world taken over by lawns and roads. The same sorrow I feel for the mountain people losing their heritage and their land. I feel the same sorrow for the Indians in concentration camps called reservations. I can follow that on down until I'm so depressed I need a nap, thinking of how little regard our civilization has for life itself. I can follow that on to our taxes supporting the Death Star that will be destroyed. Babylon will fall. Then I have to pull myself back to perspective, reminding myself that this ideal of beauty I hold so high is something to keep to myself, something I've known since childhood. I don't live in a world that shares my appreciation of what I think of as beauty. It has to do with life, life energy that is everywhere at all times. It's the life energy in others. I find where I hold highest appreciation is with the life energy, the soul in people I know, the animals I know. When I see a deer I see a consciousness exactly like mine that sees through the eyes, hears through the ears, learns by experience, and the best part, has a heart at peace.

That's a beautiful being to me. A psychotherapist asked me once why I want to know the varieties of people I know. It's because all people are unique like all basketball games are unique. Some people like watching basketball games, I like knowing people, knowing people well enough to sit and talk at ease, laugh, talk about whatever comes up. Each individual, to me, is the size of the universe. So much is different from individual to individual, it's like different movies. There is such a wide breadth of possibilities, that all are interesting to me. Some are a bit difficult sometimes. But that's just who they are, the sum of their experience. I don't believe we're born bad and made good. I believe we're born good and made bad. There are so many different kinds of people only God can see the complexity of humanity, so desperately in need of ongoing forgiveness, each one of us with our own experiences, and a whole world of each one of us with our own humanity. Every individual on earth the center of the universe. That would include individuals from other star systems as well. I believe it boils down to consciousness itself is the center of the universe.

I often think about the time in Jr's fade when his mind went away, didn't work any more, was all the time blank, his consciousness was there, as was what is called the subconscious. I didn't realize how well I connected with Jr's subconscious and how dominant the subconscious is. The missing mind part was the file cabinet of information, memories, things we think about. All the rest of Jr was there. He was completely there, as far as I could tell. His mind didn't retain more than a second, but he understood things like before. We could talk clearly with understanding. When his mind was gone, I felt he was still there. We communicated as well as before. Explaining anything to him was hopeless, but it wasn't such a great option before. It seemed like it was just details that dropped away. The big picture was still there, just couldn't zoom in on any one place or another. I felt some understanding of his condition. Some, several, would have said he was being crazy. I saw he was doing what he had to do, like the time he spent all night changing clothes and ended up with both legs down one leg of a pair of sweat pants and his head through an arm hole in a tshirt.

I helped him get situated and set him back in the wheelchair to return to changing clothes all he wanted to. He went back to bed and a couple days later was gone. In that time his mind was useless as a ship on the bottom of the ocean. Yet we were able to communicate. It was basic, but he was there. The nurses said Alzheimer's is most often accompanied by a radical personality change. Jr's cheerful nature I saw went all the way to the core of who he was. He was open and caring with everyone, same as he was when he had mind. He was easy to get along with before, and the same degree of easy to get along with after. The experience with Jr gave me insight into the nature of consciousness, the subconscious and the conscious in ways I don't understand from reading. I'm closer to able to identify them in myself. It turns out, this many months later, I remember the weeks when his mind was gone quite a lot. And his life story, joys and sorrows enough for 5 lifetimes. Perhaps it interested me most to see that when mind went away, the same Jr was present as before. It told me he truly was who he was. Nothing was being held down or bottled up waiting for a chance to explode. I felt he went out as innocent as the day he was born.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


the doors

Hearing Howard Joines play fiddle and Jr Maxwell banjo. It's a jam at somebody's house. No idea who is playing guitar and bass. Both are good. Jr had told me he'd made a lot of music with Howard. Here it is. Probably it's Clifton Evans on guitar. I believe it came from his reel-to-reel tape Lucas Pasley is transferring to computer. Evans went to see as many musicians in the county as he knew of who made music. Fortunately, his tapes found Lucas. Jr is now playing banjo Bear Tracks. Bass and guitar are going along with him. Next, he plays one I don't know the title. It's really a beautiful banjo piece. Good bass and guitar with it. Pardon me while I sit here and listen to the music. Howard's fiddle is playing something I'd love to be seeing him play. Sounds like his bow is bouncing on the strings. Mandolin came in playing with the fiddle. Might have been Richard Joines. They're layin it to it, whatever it's called and whoever they are.

Howard's fiddle is going all over Bill Monroe's Just Because. They're tearing it up. Howard Joines is fulfilling every praise I've heard of his fiddle over the years. This is some dynamite music. I want to play it Saturday morning so bad. But I'll do better than that. Don't know what it will be yet, but it will be. I'm not going to stop searching for music of our county. I am painting portraits of these people. From here on I pay tribute to the music of Alleghany and surrounding counties. It will manifest in different ways over time. At this moment Howard's fiddle is illustrating for me what Richard meant when he said of his dad's fiddle, "bears down on it, gets it out of it, doesn't just tickle it." Suddenly Lucas has tapes from different sources of Howard Joines and the different musicians he made music with over time. Quite a lot of the songs have good sound quality. The musicianship on everything is good as it gets.

We have been talking about putting together a cd of Howard Joines to get several copies printed and out in the world, like with Jr's, to family, friends and musicians. At least get a cd of this music to the library for their regional music collection. I'll put together something from what I have and get it to the library as first step. I like making the music videos too for Youtube. There is some really good music in every one. One of my ways of making the music here available to as many as want it, these videos are a testament of a moment. On Youtube anyone who wants to download it into their own computer is welcome to it. Wide open and free to the world. I want this music available to the people who need and want to hear it. I'm not looking at making anything from it. My reward is this music out in the world. That's it. Just because is what they're playing now, just because the purpose and the reward are the same. These musicians are too good for their music to go to the grave with them. I can't do a lot, but I can do a little bit. Lucas does a little bit. Two of us gets two little bits done. That's better than none. Keeps a momentum going that is already in motion.

Involvement with getting this music out into its own world has become important to me. Alleghany County having a rich musical heritage that continues to the present day has a need to be heard by people of the county. The Crouse House Pickers on Monday nights is a place to hear music by musicians of the county and nearby counties who drive to Sparta on Monday nights to play. The Jubilee Tuesday and Saturday nights. Mountain dance music is what it is. What Jr and Howard are playing is dance music. It's meant to make you move. Them playing Sally Goodn together is a hard one to follow. Richard had told me Howard's playing of Sally Goodn was just right. It was. Jr's rolling notes weave in and out of Howard's long fiddle notes like duck feet splashing over the water, wings flapping taking off. Hearing this music takes me to the radio station studio where I had a ball every Saturday morning. Good associations. Good music. Good vibes. It's music from a time when the notion of being an individual was held to without question. As I heard an old feller say one time, "in them days people thought somethin of one another." It's true. They really did. Seems kind of inconceivable there was such a time.

It's also inconceivable that I'm listening to Howard Joines and Jr Maxwell making music. Just as inconceivable as it was hearing Cleve Andrews and Art Wooten with Jr. I never dared dream there'd come a day I would hear any of them. These recordings are surfacing a little bit at a time. I regard every one a treasure. On the radio show I would introduce this music I'm hearing as one of our county's treasures. It is, indeed. The best part is I'm not pushing it. This is really good music. Music so good it needs to be heard for the music itself. That it's people of our county makes it all the better. I might look for a place online to put some of it, just to give people who chance upon it an earful of the music of Alleghnay County. It's the real deal, hillbilly as hillbilly music gets, from up in them hills. Mountain goats. A billie is a goat, like in the fiddle tune, Billy In The Lowground. It's a billy that aint in the mountains where a billy belongs.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


orson welles and joanne woodward (hairdo alert)

joanne woodward and paul newman

Summer heat brought the movie title to mind. I'd always associated it with Tennessee Williams. Looked it up at netflix and it's made from Faulkner stories. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, I'd been thinking Elizabeth Taylor, in the time when they were discovering each other, late 50s. I was a little apprehensive to see a 50s Hollywood movie. But I remembered Tennessee Williams' Baby Doll made on film around the same time with Carol Baker, and it was an excellent film like Streetcar Named Desire made an excellent American film in that time. Thought I'd take a look and see what this is I've missed all these years. It came out when I was in the 10th grade, not yet aware of film beyond US Army and Indians, early Elvis movies, The Girl Can't Help It, Jane Mansfield and Little Richard.

Long Hot Summer I'd always heard of, but evidently nothing about it except it had a Tennessee Williams kind of title. In a preview I saw after the movie, somebody said it was the sexiest movie-drama of 1958. That gave me a good laugh. It was the first suggestion to me there was anything sexy about the movie. At the moment, I thought, how sexy did it get in 1958 for this to be called sexiest? I remember Tobacco Road was from that time. 50 years into the future, looking back, I can see late 50s was a time for pushing the envelope where censorship was concerned. A couple fully clothed, even shoes, fell laughing on a bed. That's about as close to sexy as I can see in it, sexy only by suggestion.

That part is neither here nor there. It was just shocking to me hearing it called a sexy movie. I thought it a brilliant film all the way around. What was taken for sexy was just telling a story closer to the way we live the story. They were adults talking the way grownups talk. It was so Southern, it was Suthun. Rural Mississippi where the town and county are ruled by the man who owns all the businesses in town. Orson Welles was a Faulkner Big Daddy. I was anticipating something about like Splendor In The Grass or A Summer Place. It was closer to Cat On A Hot Tin Roof than any of the others, except Baby Doll, banned for a very long time. Long Hot Summer was William Faulkner's story telling, so there was no way it could be a simple-minded movie I can leave to go to the kitchen without putting on pause.

Going by publicity, it is a romance between Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. It is indeed that, and a a good one too. It's also the story of Orson Welles' story as much as it is theirs. It's a love story between his woman, Angela Lansbury, and him. It's a love story between him and his 2 daughters and his one son. The long hot summer is a difficult time for all of them in the energy that runs between them. In a way, the entire story was everybody's redemption. This particular cast was able to work with each other like musicians in a band. Lee Remick when she was young. The Fifties. Big skirts. As a result of the ill ease of the summer heat, everybody gets to rubbing around on metaphorical cushions like cats.

These were all actors and actresses, that's what they were called in the 50s, able to become the character they're portraying. I felt like I was watching a tour de force of great acting, great directing, great script writing, great story telling.
The interiors of a south Mississippi rich man's home. The interior photography was as beautiful as Woody Allen's. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the movie was the very human dimension of the story, the characterizations by actors of people with complex relationships and issues that were never resolved until the long hot summer when it was all brought to the surface for everybody at the same time. The Welles character is the most complex, as he is the hub and the other actors are the spokes of the wheel that is their story. It's everybody's story, and everybody's story is in relation to Will Varner (Orson Welles). I loved that his name was Will as his will was the dominant characteristic everyone knew in him, and Welles could work his eyes talking to somebody in ways that amplify his meaning. He knows how to make the character come from inside himself. His character carried several levels of understanding.

Makes me want to examine my head for not reading any Faulkner in an obscene number of years to say such a thing. He tells a fully satisfying story. You get real people doing what real people do. Often I had to remind myself this film is half a century old. The story itself kept reminding me it was Faulkner. Faulkner is the American Shakespeare. Will Varner was a certain kind of Southern man that everybody in the South knows about. Dennis Hopper played this kind of man in the Southern movie, Parris Trout. I felt like Faulkner enjoyed writing the Welles character most of all for his full, rich life, rich in a lot of ways besides money that no one much had ever seen in him since his wife died some years before. He was the Old South whose importance faded, but he was intelligent enough to place his legacy in the right hands. A character of many facets that were largely unnoticed until that summer when he showed up in the sexiest movie of 1958.

Monday, July 26, 2010


flying shovel bird

Another warm day. Upper 70s here at the house. That's not bad at all. Everybody is complaining about the heat. I'm thinking this is what I was wishing for last winter. Enjoy it while I've got it. The people who want it to be the same temperature year round, comfortable between 70 and 74, every minute of day and night are simply out of touch with their world. In this Age of instant gratification and everything a commodity we spoil ourselves. Outdoors the temperature is always objectionable except for a few days a year and they go unnoticed. Nothing to complain about.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


rising moon yin yang

I think of the Fifties movie title, Long Hot Summer. It might do to see that. I looked it up at netflix thinking it was a Tennessee Williams story. Not at all. William Faulkner. Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, 1958. Yes, indeed. That could be quite a film. Ran it to the top of the Q, ready to see it right away. In my mind Elizabeth Taylor was in it. So far from "remembering" it, I decided it is time to see it. Director Martin Ritt made Sounder, Hud, and a long list of movies. These are 2 I've seen, and liked them quite a lot. Sounder is a beautiful dog story. Faulkner tells a good Southern tale. This is Newman and Woodward in the time they were discovering each other.

It's been steadily warm this summer like it was steadily cold last winter. I hear a lot of complaining about the heat. In the 80s. Summer. At least it's not in the 90s like it is in Winston-Salem and other places in the flatland. I have no problem with it. I have no air conditioning. The air as it is suits me. I'm comfortable. It's not winter and it isn't costing anything to keep warm. I have known a few people who keep air conditioning cold in the summer and the heat hot in the winter. I think, suppose I enjoy the heat in the summer and the cold in the winter. That way I pay less utility bills. I can't imagine paying for heat all winter and cold all summer. I can see heat for winter, but summer is never too hot for me. May be in a few years, but we're not there yet. A hit song when I was 16 by the Jamies that became the the quintessential summer song of all time. It's still being played on the radio and in my mind.

It's summertime, summertime,
sum, sum, summertime,
summertime, summertime,
sum, sum, summertime....

Today I spent uploading some of yesterday's videos and some from the day before onto Youtube. It's a slow process. Click the button and wait an hour, more or less. Take a nap, whatever. A quiet, slow day of rest. Not much occupying the mind. I follow the mind now like watching a movie. It's slowed down enough that I can witness it in action. Not that anything profound happens, but it is kind of interesting to witness one's own mind working. Whatever is going on in it, it's the most familiar, my own thought, familiar as it gets. The videos I'm uploading to Youtube are all music videos. The place is hobblealong1 . That little camera I'm using picks up sound exceptionally well. Gradually I'm learning how to make moving pictures of a band. Several ways are good. A tripod would make better visuals, but I like the hand-held nature of it, drifting here and there, jerky, but very much alive. The hand-held camera makes it feel like it's happening right now. Like bad acting in Prince's movie, Purple Rain. The acting was so bad it seemed like it was more real than if the acting were good. The bad acting made it seem like a documentary, like it was happening unplanned and spontaneous before our eyes.

The same applies to the radio show. I was told so often and convincingly that when I made mistakes, like played one song after introducing another, poking the button to pick the cd when I mean to pick a track, the mistakes make it seem like I'm right there in the room with the listeners. Brought to life by mistakes. I incorporate the same in my paintings. I'll let a guitar be a little bit off what a guitar is really shaped like, or I'll let the banjo head not be perfectly round, let the fret board not be perfectly straight, allow the imperfections that indicate a human put this together, humans are not perfect, we make mistakes, a lot of mistakes. So I take mistakes to be signs of human life.

A flawless computer generated portrait of somebody on the cover of a glossy magazine makes them look like mannequins or plastic flowers. In my paintings and all my art projects I allow imperfections. Not too many. Too many is too many where anything is concerned. An imperfect circle or a not perfectly straight line are signs of life visually, or so they appear to me. It could be people seeing my pictures zoom in on a mistake and see imperfection. I'm ok with that. Imperfection is the quality of anything human made, but the hand-made quality of something is closer to the heart than a machine made quality. Machine perfection is cold and hard edged. Flaws characterize the man-made with their softer edges. I actually believe allowing flaws visually gives movement to a still picture, if no more than the sense of someone breathing who is standing still. I heard Willard Gayheart tell of a saying among musicians, when you hit the wrong note, hit it again and everyone will think you meant it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


chris johnson and justin willey


At noon the old-time band Borderline played at Crouse Park for an hour. It was Blue Ridge Mountain Fair, I think. With the outdoor bandstand, it seems the town has found a place to gather people for these outdoor events. On a weekend parking is every place and in easy walking distance. I wanted to see Borderline do a whole show. I'd seen them play at the Jubilee several months ago. I learned that night they were quite a band, good drive. I wanted to be sure to make it to the park by 12. Found a good place in shade under a big tree. Brought the fold-up chair that slips into a carrying bag with a shoulder strap. Ideal lawn furniture. I took the camera with video feature to get videos of whole songs. Got 7 or 8. Also several stills.

The band is Chip Moyer playing rhythm guitar, Jerod Willey, bass, Lucas Pasley, fiddle, Chris Johnson, banjo, Justin Willey, mandolin. Chris, Justin and Chip learned their instruments and the music in the Junior Appalachian Musicians after school program in the schools. It doesn't seem right to call it a program. Helen White set JAM in motion bringing in regional musicians to teach the kids that wanted to learn after school. JAM has been teaching the young of Alleghany to play old-time music very well for several years. Chris Johnson took up banjo about 7 years ago, when Justin Willey was taking up mandolin. Their band Borderline has been holding together with different fiddlers and different guitars, Chris and Justin the constants in the band. The band was out of a fiddler. Lucas, teaching with JAM took note of how good these fellers had become. His band, The Old Town Revellers, never got a real groove going and faded away. Lucas has been looking for a band to play fiddle with.

As Mr Pasley, he is their English teacher at school, their music teacher with JAM, and friend. Lucas regards the kids with respect, doesn't talk down to them, listens to them, is fair with them and above board. I can see how popular a teacher he is when I am talking with someone in high school and mention his name. In every case their eyes light up hearing his name. Lucas cares about being a teacher, believes in education as the glue that holds civilization together, wants to be a good teacher, give his students some understanding they didn't have when they came into his class. He is a good musician on all 4 old-time instruments, plays all of them with ease and mastery. His great uncle was fiddler Fred McBride of Stone Mountain Old Time String Band. His great great uncle was fiddler Guy Brooks of the Red Fox Chasers, the first to record from this county. Fred was Lucas's mentor on the fiddle, banjo too.

It came to Lucas that the JAM band Borderline needed a fiddler who could stay with them at least as long as they're in school. He's also their teacher in music. He can help them with playing in public, playing in a band. And they can help him with their energy. They get a good drive going and make it work. Lucas's fiddle floats right along with the rhythm they're putting down for him. The bass player, Jerod Willey, is Justin's dad. Chip Moyer has been playing guitar about as long as Chris and Justin have been pickin. As soon as the band started, I could hear that Lucas had found his band. They have no problem delivering the drive. It's like that's the only way they want to play, get it going and keep it going. The band backed Lucas allowing him to open up and let the music out of the fiddle. They made some music that kept the audience listening from tune to tune, and liking what they were hearing. I was happy to hear how good they had become as a band. Glad to see Lucas has a band that can support his fiddle like a good wave a surfboard.

After the band had played out their time, Lucas came by to talk a bit, just home from at two-week drive to Canada in a van. He told me of some music he'd found by Howard Joines from Clifton Evans' reel-to-reel tape which Lucas transferred to computer, then to cd. He's in process of going through the tapes that were almost too old to do anything but dissolve, cataloging them, treasures in Alleghany County music of the time, the mid 60s. Lucas found a lot of Howard Joines and we talked of doing the same with Joines as the cd with Jr, make a hundred copies and give them out to individuals concerned, relatives, friends and musicians who know him and made music with him. Get them out in the county.

Later, after getting a few videos of the next band, Mountain Park Old Time String Band, Johnny Gentry's band, went to the stage to play. Gentry plays a guitar to get the music out of it. He plays so audience can hear it and makes music first. I've heard some guitar players who play with artistry but lose the music in the forest of the artistry. Willard Gayheart plays his guitar with the music the number one priority. It's immensely enjoyable to watch a musician who is a master with his guitar or whatever it is, playing music that makes a body want to dance. Getting up to fold my chair and pack it for the walk to the car, I saw Lucas had left his camera and a photograph someone gave him of the band. I drove it by the house and he wanted to give me some cds he'd made from the Evans collection; 2 of Howard Joines, 2 of Lucas's great great uncle, fiddler Lon Brooks, brother to fiddler Guy Brooks. And one cd of Mack Brooks.

I carried home these treasures of the county. I don't need them for the radio show any more, but, since my regional collection will all end up at the library upon my demise, I'll certainly get these to the library before closing time. Finding music of our county by people no one knew ever recorded anything, even a cassette at home for practice, has become something we're attuned to like metal detectors combing the beach. I believe and Lucas believes it is important to have everything that can be found by musicians of the county. A lot of them are in boxes in attics, basements, garages, forgotten. Since the 4cd set of Alleghany music Ernest Joines collected last year, it seems like the county is taking an interest in its own music. This was the unfortunate part about the radio show being over, that more and more people were taking an interest in the music that's all around us close to home and doesn't cost a lot for admission. The music today was free. Quite a lot of people came out to hear the music. I believe everyone was well satisfied.

Friday, July 23, 2010


at the Front Porch

Skeeter & the Skidmarks played tonight at the Front Porch in Woodlawn. Edwin Lacy, banjo, is visiting from Indianapolis, Sandy Grover Mason, bass, came up the mountain from Pilot Mountain area for the get together of the band, Skeeter & the Skidmarks, with Scott Freeman, mandolin and fiddle, and Willard Gayheart, guitar. They made 2 cds called "projects" in the mid 90s. They were called a progressive old-time band. Hay Holler was the label, in Roanoke. After their 2nd album, Edwin Lacy had to move to Indianapolis and that was it. Scott and Willard got another band together called Alternate Roots after the name of Skeeter's first album.

They thought the band was dead and forgotten. But queries started popping up from time to time, fans wanting to know when they'll make the next album. They didn't even know they had fans. Scott told tonight of a Swedish band I think called Black Dog, that recently recorded his composition Jill's Waltz (Jill his wife and Willard's daughter) and sent Scott a copy of their cd. By now, they've had so many requests for a new cd, they're putting one together. Tomorrow they'll be playing I think at Blowing Rock for a music fest there. Last time Edwin Lacy was here they played at Blowing Rock too. They also recorded some titles in Boone for next Skeeter cd. Since they were all together for the show Sunday, they came together to play tonight, good practice. They haven't played together in quite awhile. Though they didn't have a difficult time finding their connection. These are people who not only enjoy making music together, but need to make music together.

This is like the return of rock bands when everybody is grown up with gray hair, like Velvet Underground, the Eagles, Traffic, and a long list of others. The return of Skeeter & the Skidmarks. I made a dozen videos tonight. Several of them will be on Youtube in a few days. Every one was good. My name on Youtube is hobblealong1. Search at Youtube for hobblealong1 and 4 videos will come up of Scott Freeman with Steve Lewis, Willard Gayheart, Edwin Lacy, his brother Mark Freeman. The first ones were jerky and wavered all over the place. I had just learned the camera had this feature. Since then I've been holding camera still. These guys can really make some music together. They started off with a bang and ended with a bang tonight.

It was good to have Edwin back playing his banjo where I could hear it. I'd never seen Sandy before. She's the bass player. Edwin will know August 1 if he'll be moving to Bristol, confident he will be. With Edwin back, they could be a band again, do shows from time to time, certainly play music together more often. These people are partial to each other to make music with. They have a similar enjoyment of the music, an artist's enjoyment. When I paint now I am aware of what good times they have making music, thinking I want that kind of enjoyment in my painting. I think I have it. With the one I'm working on now, I like the process of applying paint, mixing the colors. I'm not a good mixer of colors, but I manage to find some super beautiful colors to play with. I'm not ever interested in reproducing any colors exactly. Their art form is a social art, and my art form is solitary. Their practice is solitary, which is a great deal of time.

I'm liking my solitary time quite a lot. The time goes by fast. Not enough hours in the day for my projects. I'm on the verge of needing to schedule the days so I'll waste less time loafing about. The sorrow over losing Jr and TarBaby has subsided and I feel able to get going in my own direction. Dipping into solitude I like the people I know in town, like to see them, visit from time to time. Lunch. Drop by the office and talk a spell. I like these small gatherings to hear music at the Front Porch. Last week, it was the big crowd of people at the fiddler's convention that I didn't want to get in among. I like small parties, not big parties. I like a party of 3 to 6, where everybody can talk freely and conversationally over drinks. A big party where people are packed in too tight to move, or even if there's plenty of space between people, I tend to think about anything is better than that. In other words, I love visiting with friends, spending time in conversation with people I know and have known for a lot of years, talking back and forth conversationally. Where it's a whole mess of people interrupting, talking over each other, jabbering nonsense, making sitcom wise cracks for self amusement, where words just fill the gap of silence, are noise to keep silence in the background, I'd rather be at home in silence.

The situation at the Front Porch tonight was ideal. The seats were full. I sat up front because I wanted to get some videos of the band for Youtube and some stills for here and for Scott. Got some good videos. The whole band with Willard singing Yellow Rose of Texas. I have him now on video 3 different times singing Yellow Rose. One was just Willard and Scott, making it a kind of folk song, something like songs Doc Watson sings with just guitar. Then full band tonight, an entirely different way of singing it. This way with drive that keeps it moving along. Beautiful song when Willard sings it. Got video of him sing Robin D, too, the West Virginia river boat song he wrote. Scott playing fiddle and mandolin and Edwin the old-time banjo, Willard rhythm guitar and Sandy's bass made a good full-sounding band. I noticed it especially when they started off Yellow Rose of Texas. A very different singing of it from sitting with a guitar singing it. I never liked the song til I heard Willard sing it. Now it's one of my favorites. Seeing Skeeter & The Skidmarks in concert tonight was as extraordinary to me as paying $150 for the worst seats in the Charlotte mega autidorium to see the Rolling Stones in their 60s, and possibly at their best in musicianship. For me, $5 to see Skeeter & The Skidmarks in a frame shop in Woodlawn is the ideal. The music was fabulous. Four master musicians layin it to it for 2 hours.

Thursday, July 22, 2010



It's that time of year, turkscap lilies are opening up around in the mountains. Mid July, the green world is at the turning point where you might say it's "over the hill," growth is winding down to an end, holes appear in leaves from caterpillars of a wide variety, a few leaves turn yellow, Queen Anne's lace in full flower, black eyed susans also in full flower. Grass stems stand tall in the light, a tan haze over the green meadow, gone to seed.

Remarkably new feeling about what I'm up to and where I belong. As long as the people of Whitehead will have me, this is where I belong. No more do I carry belief that where I am is never as good as where I'm not. I've an idea I was raised that way, a kind of cultural belief in the land of television that it's always better someplace else. It evidently goes way back, the saying, the grass is greener on the other side, illustrates a characteristic of humanity, of animals, probably even butterflies. It relates to everyone in the same manner as parables about sheep have meaning in a time when all we know about sheep is lamb chops and children's cartoons. It must be, then, that I've possibly broke through, at least a little bit, that motivation for a great deal of our behavior.

It's like a sudden shift, I don't want to be anywhere else. It's been closing in on me over the last several years, not wanting to cross the county line unless I'll be back home to sleep. I've zoomed in to the place that I don't want to go to Sparta for any reason. I don't want to leave my mountain for any reason. The car is my home pod that transports me hither and yon. As long as I'm in it, I'm at home. A fun irony, the song Home Sweet Home I thought sentimentally insipid. Not any more. I often wondered what it was about the song Jr liked so much that it was the song he was known for, his fiddlers convention winning tune. When he walked in the house with his walker after escaping from the Sparta nursing home, crossing the threshold while I held the storm door open, he said, "Home Sweet Home."

I've always felt when I was at home I needed to be someplace else for reasons I didn't know, just an ongoing compulsion. I think I can look back from this far away and see easily that in the early years of life I wanted to be anyplace but home. From there, wherever I lived I wasn't satisfied, like I belonged someplace else, but didn't know where. When I came here, I didn't believe this was it either. I came here to do some outdoor work that comes under labor, believing 5 years of labor would work the foolishness out of me. It took a lot longer than that. It's still going on, the foolishness, that is, but less than before. It seems like that voice that was not a voice calling me to someplace else has changed its location and is now calling me home. It's like this is where I want to be every minute. It's as strong a draw as a magnet to a refrigerator door.

I have another way of looking at it that settles it for me fairly well. Wanting. Evidently, my own wanting, wanting experience, wanting objects, the ongoing wanting that makes the familiar never good enough. There's always something missing, something I don't have, something somewhere else, love, whathaveyou, ideals, fantasies, an endless list. When I get one, like a book of Andy Warhol's art, that's just one checked off the list that goes on forever. The satisfaction is minuscule. It just switched over to the category of something I don't want any more. I look at it once every how many years, it takes up space, it cost a fair amount, I can't throw it away, can't sell it. There it is. As Malissie Pruitt would say, another dust catcher. I can google his name right now, click on images and see everything that's in the book. My house is full of stuff I once wanted, but don't want anymore, because I have it. It's hard to throw things out, because everything is something I once wanted, like a Velvet Underground cd I've not listened to in several years, but am satisfied that I have it. Don't need to listen to it when I have it.

Complexity and confusion in abundance. I'm thinking it's wanting, itself, that went away. I don't mean the totally of it, but a big leap like in the children's game, May I. There's nothing I can think of I want, that is in such a way to leave me with a need to get it or go there or whatever. I'm seeing that what I want is right here at home. I want to paint. This is where I paint. I want to watch movies and read. This is where it's done. This is where I listen to the music from my lifetime's collection. The museum of things I've wanted all along the way. It needs a curator, bad. I'm wondering if the couple years sleeping on the floor at Jr's and my only possessions with me the clothes I'm wearing and the book I'm reading. The monastic nature of those years, little of my attention on myself, all attention given to keeping Jr comfortable as possible. It was a kind of meditation. Now the abbot is gone. It's like the mantle he left me was freedom from wanting. I accept. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


trees hugging

Hearing NPR today, a talk show called Here and Now, after the Diane Rehm show. I like to paint in the morning while these programs are on. I like to listen to them and painting allows even talking on the phone. It's a right brain activity, and listening to talk on the radio is left brain. They don't interfere with each other. I can pay close visual attention and close audio attention at the same time. Sometimes I use NPR talk radio and music with vocals. Painting with people on Diane Rehm show talking about the Swedish writer with a NYT best-seller now, not something I want to read. I refuse to read books about old, deranged white men kidnapping and torturing, etc., white teenage babes. Of course, the point is box office. To scare the hell out of teenage girls is the next best thing for their dates as getting the girls drunk. Evidently, this new Swedish thriller fiction, soon to be a film made for box office and tv, approaches the subject from a feminist point of view, to point to why we don't need this kind of entertainment. I already agree, I don't need to read it to convince myself. In the true spirit of democracy we allow such to circulate, which I believe is a good thing. I don't need to partake if I don't want to. It's all on me, my decision, not the author's, not the publisher's, nor the film director's.

The other day I saw on facebook something about banning pornography. What? Hasn't that been tried, like throughout the history of civilization, then we got the internet and everyone has access to any kind of pornography they could want to see. All ages. However many years later, nothing has changed. People have not become more depraved than ever before on account of it. We might have people more depraved than ever, but more is going on to influence depravity than looking at naked people who get a kick out of having their pictures taken nude. Big deal. What kind of crime is that? Something to trap a politician with is all it's good for as a crime. So what if grandma saw Deep Throat in her hippie years. I was about 15 staying with my grandparents in the summer when one night after I'd gone to bed, grandparents sat up playing poker with grandmother's sister and her husband. They were drinking too. Getting loud. It turned into a circus for me. They got to talking "dirty," the women showed their boobs, all of them laughing. Grandma and grandpa came alive for me that night. They were just plain folks, real people. I appreciated them a great deal before, even more afterward.

The conversation about the book I found worth paying attention to, at the same time advising me not to have a go at the book. I have a problem with living in a society that rewards writers with riches for thinking up these horrid stories of old white guys going at the cheerleading squad. It tells me the society we live in hates women and likes to see them die slowly. That aint right. But it satisfies something in the average human mind. It might allow some to get that kick subliminally, thus preventing action. I heard a few years ago on NPR of some reasearch that found in the big cities there is less crime the weekend of the release of an Arnold movie or some other killing machine mayhem. Maybe this kind of entertainment, and the music that goes with it, sublimates tendencies toward violence in some. Hooray if it does. If films of this nature prevent at least a little bit of same behavior, who could ask for better than that?

The last 10 minutes of Here and Now was a short audio documentary about slow reading, like it's something new. Maybe it is. I've always been a slow reader, from first grade on. I have only been able to read one word at a time. I like to read at the rate we talk. When I'm reading what somebody is saying, I read the words at the rate they're spoken. I've always felt like it was a deficit. Sometime along in the 50s maybe came this passion for fast reading, seminar courses on how to read fast, speed-read. Get ahead. I knew a guy who labelled himself dumb because he couldn't read fast. So he became dumb. I liked to read anyway. I just figured everybody else could speed-read, so everybody else had a head start on me. In college, it's learn to speed-read or else. I took the or else path. I didn't mind my slow reading. It put me out of competition, but I don't care to read for competition anyway. It kept me from even thinking of applying to graduate school, because there was no way I could read a mound of books a day. The courses I'd want to take would have a lot of reading. I'd like it all, but couldn't keep up.

I refused to take up speed-reading because I enjoyed slow reading. I don't know that I have more comprehension than someone who speed-reads, or less, don't care. People I know who speed-read come out of it with tremendous comprehension, at least as much as mine, possibly more. I don't care. When I try to do anything fast it disorients me and I lose all comprehension. Out of school, I'm out of reading competition for grades, can read at my own leisure, when I want to, and no pressure to read when I don't want to. Like half way through a 500 page biography with writing I enjoy reading, I felt like I've spent half my life reading in this thing. I put it aside to let it rest, read something else. But I don't want to read something else. So I don't read. No big thaing. The same happened with a long biography of Patrick White, and I never went back to it. Took a month break in the middle of War & Peace. At the same time, I'm not drawn to short books.

I loved about Ralph Stanley's memoir, MAN OF CONSTANT SORROW, that it rewarded slow reading with subtle nuances of his meaning I can understand now that I have a fair acquaintance with the culture he's coming from. I didn't want to hurry through it. I wanted to savor every word as spoken onto tape by Ralph himself. I knew the rhythm of his speech, the sound of his voice, and much of the time I heard him talking it. That happens frequently in my reading. I wouldn't miss it for the thrill of reading the book in a tenth of the time it took. When I try to read too fast or do anything too fast, I get the nervous jitters that expend a lot of energy and wear me out in a hurry, such that I need a nap, now. I knew once somebody who speed-read and told me he'd read the Bible 13 times. I couldn't help but question silently his comprehension. I thought, if he doesn't get it after 13 times, he'd just as well give up, or maybe read slower. And I have friends who can fly through a book in a few hours that takes me maybe 40 hours to read. And with good comprehension, way better than mine.

Two kids in school were talking on the radio show about slow reading, like this is a new movement. An adult who is in the education field and promoting slow reading did the narrative. I had to remind myself he was talking to people my age and younger who have felt backward all the way along for not being able to speed-read as school, even high school, requires of us. You know by the time you're out of high school a slow reader doesn't have a chance in the world of speed-readers, believing there were probably millions more than there really are. These kids are growing up in a world that doesn't give any credit to slow reading. They were talking about it like tv commercials on Nickelodeon, savoring the language, feeling the emotional content of the words, hearing the rhythms of the words as speech. These and many more reasons they cited to promote slow reading. These were all aspects I enjoyed about slow reading, but still felt like it was a backwards sort of thing. Now it's forward thinking. Reading for me has always been a rich experience, and as I listened to the kids talking it up, I got a look at the various reasons I appreciate good reading. It was an interesting non-judgmental overview of what I enjoy about reading spelled out as the side-effects of slow reading. My friends who read fast enjoy it too, and feel at least as much or as deeply or as much as I do.

I'd never entertained a notion that slow reading was anything but down the ladder from speed-reading. If I'm climbing an academic ladder, fast reading is essential. But I'm not climbing any ladders except to clean out the gutters on the house. It continues to ring unbelieveable in my head that throughout my lifetime speed-reading has been held up as the only way to go, better comprehension, the works, and maybe so, for all I knew. Now they're saying slow is best, for the very same reasons.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


by alberto giacometti

Alberto Giacometti was an Italian artist who went to Paris young, fell in with the Surrealists, then after WW2 when Surrealism was over, he changed everything about what he was doing as a sculptor. He started making these long thin figures of clay that his brother, Diego, cast in bronze. During the war years, which he spent in Geneva, Switzerland, he wanted to get down to making figures as if no one had ever made any kind of sculpture to date. Carving bars of soap with his pocket knife, he made his first figures small enough he could carry them in his pockets, the size of a match. He returned to Paris after the war with a new way of making sculptures and painting.

Today's film was named for him, Alberto Giacometti. French made, it is an hour long documentary about his work. His life and his work were the same. The 2nd part of the film was an hour long conversation / interview with him, which was made in the year he died. He lived 1901-1966 the same year Carter Stanley died. Some years ago I read a biography of him by James Lord, a beautifully written biography. One thing about it, Giacometti's work cannot be confused with anybody else's. He lived in a tiny 2-room place in Montmartre, then where artists lived, low rent. One room was his studio where he did his work, the other room his bedroom. That was his space. He was one of the respected intellectuals of Paris, an existentialist. In Europe in that time existentialist and intellectuals were 2 words with the same meaning. To say someone was an intellectual, you'd say he's an existentialist. The ist on the end is pronounced east. Existential-east. The existentialist writer's name, Albert Camus, is one of the first a lit student must master. It is Ca-moo, accent second syllable, not Kay-mus. Very important to know, like where not to wear white socks.

In my college years when I was wanting to learn about everything going on in international art, though the school had no art department, I took an art appreciation class, but it was so easy I got little from it, and especially so artless. It was all about IMPORTANT art. Learning to be a Wikipedia for information on what's important to know about. Giacometti was the big dog in the world of artists living. Very important to know about Giacometti. Such an exotic name, too. Just right for a Surrealist / existentialist. His name was a great one to toss around at cocktail parties. Have you read...? Have you seen...? Did you know...? You gotta read...! You gotta see...! He's so awesome, a Surrealist AND an existentialist! How much cooler does it get? Like Miles Davis, the essence of cool.

Giacometti was essential knowledge of the time. Then, Picasso was an important name to toss around like you know something about it. DeKooning was the ultimate artist of all time. Then came Warhol debunking abstract expressionism which believed itself to be the highest of the high, pure art. Pop Art came along like a dog, lifted its leg and peed on it. It turned out abstraction was just another way to paint, not necessarily the ultimate. It did seem, however, that every "movement" after abstract expressionism saw itself in relation to abstraction, a new way of seeing abstraction. Art since then appears to me to be working in abstraction, much of it using what we call realism, but in abstract ways. I believe Giacometti's work will appear contemporary for a long time in the future. Not only did Giacometti live simply, his only tool was a pocket knife. No hammers, no chisels. A pocket knife. And not even a Swiss Army pocket tool drawer, just a plain one that looks like it might be a Case. It looks like one he probably carried before, practical size for the pocket, no more than a 3 inch blade. One day it came to him, that's all he needed.

He reduced his figures to the bone, stick figures, the very first way we draw people. He made standing stick figures with fairly detailed faces. When you see who his models are, you can recognize the faces. One was his wife, another his brother, some were friends. Giacometti took everything he did to its simplest possibility and continue to represent the human form. His paintings, portraits, take some getting used to. Masses and masses of scribbles in the face, geometric lines, looking scratched on in a rush, but in fact each line was placed by intent. He painted the entire structure of the face and emphasis on eyes. The eyes are alive in all of them. It's like the eyes are alive and can see, but they're locked onto the canvas by thousands of lines of paint, something like the way a spider wraps a bug like a mummy. Consciousness captured can never be set free. Tied down by all those lines. The man had a great deal to say. What he had to say he said as simply as he lived and did his work.

Monday, July 19, 2010


bend in the road

The news says the oil leak is capped and stopped. For now. The enormity of it is such that it makes me question what is real and what is unreal. Millions of barrels of oil spewed into the ocean currents, destroying marshes all along the Gulf coast from Louisiana to the everglades, all the marshes and swamps in between. The whole stretch could become a dead zone. I wonder why I think about it since there is nothing I can do but get worked up. It's so vast it dwarfs the digit that I am. It's as far beyond anything I could do about it that it may as well be an earthquake in China, or Haiti, or anywhere. Before news went everywhere instantly, news like the Titanic was put into song, stories of murders were put into songs, "He took her by the golden curls and dragged her round and round," and by the time it got around it was history instead of news. News is always history the next day.

This 4 dvd set I found at Walmart for $5 of USGov promotional films about the war in Vietnam. Never do you see an American soldier shot or plane shot down. Quite a lot of aircraft carriers and jets landing and taking off. Helicopters shooting rockets and machine gun bullets into thick jungle. They show medics treating the people of villages with basic medicine. One of the films on the Montangnards was exceptionally good. Interesting small documentary of the mountain people of Vietnam who were still tribal. The most recent one I've seen had John Wayne narrating. He was the voice for that Southern California Xtreme right wing of the wealthy who think Ayn Rand a visionary. Charleton Heston took John Wayne's role for that voice, and now it looks like Sarah Palin is being dressed for the post-Charleton Heston rallying voice for a certain way of thinking.

John Wayne said Communist and Communism so frequently it was comical. He brought up General Mark Clark to talk and Communist was about every tenth word he said. Another General sang the same song. I remembered the time, late 60s, the news we were getting was no more news than the news we get today. Communist this and Communist that. Tom Pruitt told me back in about 1978 that there were 57 Communists in High Point. I about fell out. Heinz 57. All through the 50s to the 80s Communist was the most loaded word there was. It carried more fear value than the F word and the N word together. I think with shame of how much we the public were manipulated by propaganda using fear of Communism to keep wars going. Good for the economy. USSR returned to Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Chechnya, the -stans from Afghani- to Khazak-. The Silk Road carried the plague from China to Europe and everywhere along the way by fleas on the yaks. The Silk Road of bandits, a caravan needing an army escort, and that was never a certainty. The poorest part of the world in semi-desert, living today as they lived in the time of Genghis Khan whose Mongol hordes destroyed what civilization there was along that region.

I grew up in the world of the Communist threat, huddle down under desk-chairs in First grade, ready for an atomic blast. The building was made of big carved stone. The little desk wouldn't protect me very well if the entire wall of huge stones broke apart and flew a me in a thousandth of a second. It was concluded by all the kids I knew that if the bomb came we're dead. No two ways about it. In the 50s and 60s the Communist threat kept the population afraid not to turn over the tax dollars to equip the Death Star. We didn't know whether or not to believe the government, but were still of the traditional belief that we could count on the government to legislate in our interest. By now such a belief is naive. Now we're kept afraid of Terrorists instead of Communists. The fear of Communism has lifted so much we're not getting any propaganda about China as Communist. They're doing better than we are in the economic arena. I'm not saying this like I want to go live there. No way. Just looking at the landscape around where I stand.

I don't particularly like living in a propaganda-created reality, but I've done it all my life. It's of the mind, a reality created by the mind, a video game inside the head. Creating for us a common enemy to fear, our government corrals us together and keeps us manageable holding our focus on manufactured fear. In a way, it was refreshing to hear John Wayne getting pumped up over the word Communism after several years of it not being an issue and hardly ever used. Refreshing to know how seldom I hear the word any more. Now the Terrorist enemy is hiding in caves in a country with nukes. The reality propaganda has created by repeating lies until they became the truth is one more level of illusion in our lives we tend to think of having substance, when it has none at all. Another mansion in the mind. Another house of cards to fall to the floor when the wind of change whips around the corner. Time to start over. It looks like Democracy done half way breeds enemies within. Communism done half way did too. I suppose every government has to protect itself from its own people vigorously. It's ongoing in Latin America. Might be getting that way here. The youth of the world now are subject to every kind of drug experience there is. They don't care about isms. They just want to get high.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


elegy by robert motherwell
thank you Moma

The application of today's paint has brought the negative space, the space between figures, background, to about where I want. The 4 figures are dressed in black and near-black. All have white hats. The proximity of black brightens the colors in the zone of the suits. Above, all their hats are white. That darkens the color above their shoulders. When it's all one color, the upper part is darker than the lower part. Bright yellow light, though more white-yellow, like it's light. White above. They seem to balance each other, give the sense that it's all one color when it's slightly not. When it's time to paint their clothes, I want a lot of light reflecting off the clothes, the folds in shiny black cloth, a mirror for the light. I want to get the musicians covered up in light like they are on stage.

It's been awhile since I've painted. A few years. Before, I never knew what I was doing from one to the next. Now I do. Now I have purpose. It's settled that it's not about money and attention. It's about mountain musicians, like the radio show was. What time I have left in the body will go to painting mountain musicians. That's a done deal. My retirement from society will enable the painting. I see a long line of paintings I want to make. If I were to have a show sometime, I'd want it in the new Alleghany County historical museum. All Alleghany musicians. That would work. I want to wed my art with the county. I suppose what I'm doing is declaring purpose at the beginning. I've never had the light of purpose in the painting before. Before, I felt like everything I did was about learning. Now I feel like I've gone through the learning and it's time to proceed with what I've learned.

I know that seeing documentaries about art are inspiring, so is reading books. I may pick up my David Hockney book, That's The Way I See It. I have a book of Larry Rivers paintings. His images inspire me. I have a book of Brancusi I haven't looked at in awhile. Robert Motherwell. I know Motherwell inspires me. When I'm in a modern art museum in a city, whatever Motherwell hanging there is totally satisfactory before my eyes. I've been interested in 20th century art along the way as it was happening. I don't feel compelled to paint abstractly or minimally. That's city art. I don't live in the city. In the world I live in, people watch television. They do in NY too. But I don't watch television, so that's not my world. My world is the people I know and the people I live among. I'm happy with my world as it exists at this time in the life. All is apparently friendly in my world. I'll paint musicians who are friendly, intelligent people. Artists is what they are.

Jr was an artist. That was another realm we communicated well in. When he first saw my paintings he was intimidated. "I don't see how you can do that." I told him I figured it out the same way he figured out the banjo, and I don't see how he can play the banjo like he could. He got it in that moment. From then on he was comfortable with my paintings. Until then, he felt sorry for me because I couldn't weld or operate a bull-noser or shoot a grouse. He understood I get the same kick painting as he got pickin. I think of Jr one hell of an artist, among the better ones in his place and time, where the bar ran way high. There is no visual art tradition here in the mountains, such as painting. Quilting is a visual art form, but it's not painting. Music making was the only active art form I found in the area. Jr would roll on the floor laughing at being called an artist.

Scott Freeman and Willard Gayheart, excellent musicians, both good song writers, both good singers. Bobby Patterson of Heritage Records in Woodlawn is an artist. Like I've had to find intelligence manifested in mountain culture differently from in city culture. I've known several people here from other places who can't find intelligence outside their own box of beliefs. That's ok. It took me a long time to get over my own belief systems from my life in the flatland. I wasn't a bit slow at seeing intelligence in the mountain people. It's the first thing I saw. Next thing I saw was they were all philosophers. My grandmother was a philosopher. She's where I got it. When my parachute landed me here, I fell in among philosophs, though you might not want to call them that. I find it a good thing the mountain people are largely ignored as a culture by newcomers. No sentences that start, "You know what you oughta do?" "You need to get those rusted pickups out of your yard, to start with." "What'r'ya keepin em for?" We've had so many of these people coming into the mountains that counties are passing laws saying you can't have rusted pickups and cars in your yard. Totally absurd. Years ago, nothing told me better that I'm in the mountains than a yard with cars and pickups that didn't run, and an engine block hanging from a swing set by a rusted chain. Not everybody wants to be suburban middle class. Sameness might be model living for some, but not for all.

The light fades. Looking at the paint applied today, the upper color and the lower color look the same, have the same intensity. In half light the contrast of the dark and the light stands out even bolder. I'm seeing painting the black suits with the light reflecting off parts of them in a mildly cubist kind of way. I want to get patches of reflected light on them to the point they appear flooded with light, which they are in a concert. I can use the light reflections to place the figures forward or back. I have the thrill of anticipating putting microphone stands around in front of the musicians. That's one of those things like a fiddle bow that I study the entire time working on the image. By the time it needs doing, I'm ready. It's just a mental readiness, seeing how to do it, seeing I can do it, seeing it's the same as done.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


maple tree projection

Another day of skipping the fiddler's convention. When it came time to go out the door, I couldn't do it. I've been on the go so much, the last couple days at home where I want to be have been happy days. Didn't cost anything in gas to get here. Spent the day painting on the new canvas. Painting the background, negative space between the standing figures. Put several thin coats on it, different tones of a color each coat, going after depth in the color itself. I'll continue tomorrow. Putting the coats of paint on top of each other wet blends the colors a bit and makes a patina on the color below it. I'll put on some more coats and get it where I want it or an approximation thereof. I needed a boost to get going. Another ART:21 disc today, #4, every bit as inspiring as 1, 2 and 3.

I wanted to go to the fiddler's convention, knew where I wanted to sit. But it required effort to get from here to there. I was in a groove with the painting and decided it best to stay with it while I've got it. It felt good not to have to get in the car and drive someplace for one reason or another. It was funny to see how much I expected it of myself to be there. That must have been my public self. My private self said stay home if you want to. I would like to see/hear it, but wanted more to stay home. I know I would have enjoyed seeing whoever I might run into to stop and visit for awhile. If I'd been home so much lately that aching for someplace to go had set in, I'd have been there.

The oil spill is finally capped after how many months? I don't think about it much, but when it pops into mind I'm possessed with an enigma. What can I do? Nothing. That the source of the oil is stopped is a good thing, but far outweighed by the oil that has already been spread through the Gulf heading for the Atlantic. Out of sight, out of mind. Al Quaida would do best to sit back in their caves and watch CNN. They don't have to do anything to us. We do to ourselves better than they could ever pull off, even with the help of the CIA. Alice's Tea Party is looking like a homegrown terrorist outfit Tim McVeigh might have dreamed of in his prison cell. In the childhood years reading and seeing movies about cowboys and Indians, pulling for the Indians even though I knew they'd lose, I wondered if an entity as big as a country paid for its crimes against humanity as individuals. I decided a country surely would pay in its own ways. I think about the American murder rate, by far the most in the whole of civilization. Is this our return for attempted genocide and keeping survivors in concentration camps policed by the FBI? I have a feeling it is.

Yet, at the same time, attempted genocide tends to be an American propensity. Take a look at what has happened to a lush 2 continents that had people living all over them, but the integrity of the natural world was left intact. The people lived within its laws. Then along come Americans, initially British, much as they'd rather deny it, and we're hard at making both continents into oil slicks. I've wondered all along in my lifetime when it will come time to pay for all the issues politicians never address that need immediate addressing, are glossed over and put aside. They continue to grow. It's like dealing with our own issues. When one comes up to be dealt with, we stuff it back down saying, later for you. It's looking like it's time to fix all the institutions, etc., that have fallen down like old barns. One thing after another is facing the consequences of dodging real issues. I used to think of it as a jet plane flying straight at the side of a mountain full speed ahead. It seems like where we are in that way of seeing it is the nose of the plane has made contact, is crumpling from impact, the shockwave just beginning in the first nanoseconds.

I can't help but think it's a good thing we have an intelligent man at the helm in DC. Intelligence in our government is a rare phenomenon. I say value it while we have it. It's looking like Alice's Tea Party is making over Sarah Palin, NRA Barbie, into presidential candidate. What is their obsession with idoicy? Reagan, Bush1, Dan Quayle, Bush2, McCain. Now Palin being positioned. Puppets? I'll always remember the Jane's Addiction song, Idiots Rule. They win elections because stupid trumps intelligence on tv. I like being old enough that it doesn't matter. I like it that in this time of my life I can only name one tv sports star. That's Tiger Woods, and only because it's such an easy name to remember. There is bound to be some power in being Indonesian by heritage and named Tiger. Bold name. When you get to be top dog, the next step is the dethroning by the media. Fame and money turn out to be as fickle as the people that value them.

Friday, July 16, 2010


summer fog

It's the Friday night of the Fiddler's Convention in Sparta. I intended to go right up to time to go out the door. That's when I decided to get some painting done I'd been aiming to get at all day. That told me I'd rather paint than go to the Friday night fiddlers convention. I painted about as long as I'd have stayed at the convention, about 3 hours. It felt like staying home from school sick. About the time school lets out I started feeling better. By the time daddy got home from work I was feeling better yet, but there was hell to pay for staying home from school when I wasn't sick. Whatever. There was no incentive to skip school to stay home, because I liked school better than home.

Starting a new painting is always deceptive and often in the same way. I sketch the thing out on the canvas and it has everything I want the final picture to have about it. Then I start painting it and paint away what I had in the sketch. From there it's a long, slow process getting back to what I had initially. Looking at the dvds of the PBS series on contemporary art, the cutting edge, ART:21. Art in the 21st century. A lot of them are philosophers of art and expound on what they're doing philosophically in whatever their art form. The interviews with the artists, watching them in the studio, hearing what they have to say in relation to what they are doing in their art. They're inspiring. They take my mind to a place it hasn't been in a matter of years, and charge up my art eye/mind with some new ideas to consider. Much has changed in New York art since I last paid attention to it, when I let my subscription to Art in America go, twenty-plus years ago. Paying too much attention to what was going on in NY inhibited my own painting. I'm a provincial painter, not NY.

I'm setting out on a need to paint more and more. This series is of 16 artists per disc. I've seen 3, the 4th is coming tomorrow and the 5th some time in near future.
Every artist in the series is refreshingly unique in art form and in personality. They are very different people from each other and do very different art forms. The abstract expressionists said their paintings were the only form like what they painted on earth. It's no copy of something like a barn. Every one of these artists in the series is unlike any other. Each disc is about 3.5 hours long. Evidently it is a series on PBS-TV that perhaps is still running. It's called ART:21. Every one of the discs is as much a gem of art cut loose from all but the basic principles that determine what art is. The 20th century deconstructed art a step at a time, an ism at a time, breaking down color, form, all the way to conception, down to the conception itself and no art object following.

Entering a new spell of painting regularly, the inspiration from these various artists and what they're doing is soaking in. I won't be painting any way I didn't before. Mountain musicians is my theme from here on, so I suppose today. These mini-documentaries on the different artists are all saying to me that I may choose to paint the really old-fashioned way, that's as legitimate a form of painting as any.
It's not cutting edge. So what? It's what I want to do, portraits. That's every bit as ok as a black line running vertically on a tall and narrow white space. These aren't to attract attention at art shows. They're just to portray particular musicians performing their art form. To me, they're artists the same as any other kind of artist. I've been writing these blog entries for practice in self-discipline. Next step, now that the blues over Jr and TarBaby has lifted, I'm feeling ready to approach my last series of paintings, musicians on canvas. They play old-fashioned music and I render them the old-fashioned way. They do old-time musically, I do old-time visually. Works out just right.

This is the direction I am coming to believe the new cycle is going. I started paying attention because new cycles, like the sun going into a new house, the character of the new house manifests right away at the start. It seems reasonable to me for an hypothesis to what I'm feeling most strongly in this new beginning. It's what's next. Who knows what will happen? Maybe I'll drill holes in boulders, run a thin cable through each one and suspend them from an overhead structure so you have to walk under them. That's a little too much expense for my means. My means are oil paints I already have on canvases I have, with brushes I have. Ready to go. Let's do it to it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


joines cemetery whitehead

Stopped by Jr's grave yesterday. The death date still has not been put on the stone. I'll have to take care of that myself. I'll go to somebody who does that and get it done. Fell through the cracks, as they say. In the photo above, the view from Jr's grave, the mountain on the left is the Peak. It's on Blum land. Jr's homeplace was to the left of the Peak. The little white church in lower right that looks like it's sitting on the tombstone is Liberty. Over the last years they've been doing quite a lot toward the restoration and upkeep of the church Jr and Elvira Crouse grew up in. Thanks to the churches keeping records of baptisms we were able to find the date in 1935 Jr was baptized, meaning he was saved, which eased the minds and hearts of many of his friends and relatives. When I learned the date and was able to tell it, the relaxation that came over several was visible. It was a measure of how much they cared.

It's odd to think of Jr in the grave. While he was living, we didn't know which of us would go first. Whitehead without Jr is a very different Whitehead. I delivered one of the cds of his music to Ray Wooten today, visited with him a little bit. Ray plays bluegrass rhythm guitar, used to make music with Cleve, Jr and Art. At the dump, I ran into Doug McMillan, guitar picker and country singer at home and with friends, someone I know now because I knew Jr. Jr's friends have added quite a number to the people I'm happy to know in these here hills. I often think of what Elvira said the day Jr died, "Now Whitehead knows who you are." I thought I understood what she meant, more or less intuitively. Since then, I've seen what it means. All the ones I know in Whitehead are as wide open friendly with me like they were with Jr. I treasure it. Part of what I was doing passing around the cd was thanking my new friends for their consideration. It gave me reason to go around and see them individually.

Conversation with nearly everyone I saw today on a run to town was curious about the new radio station owner, wondering what was going to become of it. What I piece together from what I read in the paper and have heard, they'll continue with the obits, but probably not get any closer to the community than that. That's entirely uncertain. I'm thinking if they want to reject participation in the community, they'll go the way of the last bunch, a long, slow decline unto nothing. It doesn't matter to me what they do. I'll never listen to any of it, anyway. Probably will never turn it on out of curiosity. My feeling of the new owner is he likes to see himself in a corporate light, like CEO. I don't know. Don't want to know. I'd rather listen to NPR when I turn the radio on during the day. I won't pay enough attention to the station for what I think or don't think of it to matter the most miniscule iota. I don't even know if I wish them well after what I witnessed second-hand of the takeover. I remember listening to Tom Pruitt on money preachers. He spoke my own thoughts and feelings in eloquent brief. I asked him for what he thought of the radio preacher, George Farmer, who preached on WCOK every day. Tom's answer, "Money preacher." The money part voided the preacher part. That was all he had to say. It brought to his mind memories of other money preachers along his way.

I came to these mountains with that way of seeing it. It was such an unpopular concept to disregard preachers who do it for pay, favors, wealth. There again, in America the measure of the value of what you do is the money you make. The preacher that makes the most money, Billy Graham for example, is perceived as the best, which increases his following, especially after he counsels presidents, and fattens his coffers. I was surprised and heartened the day Tom let me know his views on the matter. As I've lived in the mountains, the number of people I know who disregard money preachers is quita a large number. That's the old-time way. And it's gone away. We're in television culture now and tv culture is all about money. This is a major reason I don't cohabit with tv. When it gets down to it, the more money a preacher makes, the more fraudulent his status in my way of discerning trees by their fruits. Jr didn't have any use for any of them. I'm inclined to that direction, myself, but have known some I know in my heart were true and actually were called by the Holy Spirit. Millard Pruitt, primarily. His power in the pulpit was the truth that borrowed his vocal chords for a little bit. He was not uncommon back in the old days.

I paid a great deal of attention to Elder Millard Filmore Pruitt. I saw him an old-baptist monk. He was hard shell in his beliefs and I was not. But it was no problem for me that he saw it the hard shell way. I just don't see anything that way, I hope. One doesn't meet many people whose every moment is in the presence of the Lord. Millard was. Tom was. Bessie Brooks was. Malissie Pruitt was. These people were examples to me that the mountain old-time religion is a true path up the great high mountain. These are some of the characteristics you hear people bring up when they remember grandma and grandpa, the most devout people you could ever know. At the same time grandma was just a woman and grandpa just a man. They went about their lives here on the earth with the spirit as their guide, neither above nor below anyone around them. Good neighbors. They lived good lives. They lived through deep sorrows. Death was not kept out of sight in their world. It was right there with you all the time. Graves were dug with picks and shovels. The bodies were cleaned and dressed at home. They lived so much closer to the bone than we do now, their way of living can't even be imagined for comparison. I tend to find tv culture lacking, considerably, in relation to the old-time ways. When it's gone, books, movies, what have you, none of it will have It. Thanks to old-time fiddle music and hymns, some of that old-time spirit continues to live as a subculture in the new culture guided by tv.

The devotion I saw in the old-time mountain people during my early years in the hills, the late 70s and the 80s, was such that it put me in awe of the culture that had in its people so many brilliantly lit-up souls living in the light. I don't mean anything less than that. They know what they believe through experience. Jr carried the tradition in himself. He stayed away from church, however, drank to his own satisfaction, lived his life to his satisfaction, not to some preacher's judgment he doesn't even respect as a man. He went his own way. He carried his devotion in his heart. I always saw it. It's part of what I most respected in him. Jr's heart was right. He spoke through the heart to everyone. He lived his life in the light, too, though kept his spiritual beliefs entirely to himself. He said the Ten Commandments were his guide. Enough said. It's all there. Jr lived a devout life while allowing himself to go ahead and be who he was, play banjo in a bluegrass band, keep his blood purified with the best white liquor around, he was definitely particular about the quality, and live his life the best he knew how. I saw in Jr a man like myself going his own way, making his own decisions, not adhering to anybody else's agendas, walking his own path. In the time I took care of him I saw him the brother monk in the monastery of our way of living in relation to the Most High. If I were to write of the time with Jr as a play, it would be 2 monks in a modest country house, the older one dying, the other one making it possible for the older monk to die in his own bed, which the care giving monk believed was as important as the older monk held it to be.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Halsey drug drivethru

This morning making a drug buy from my dealer, Chuck Byers, who's been my dealer for many a year, sitting in the car at the driveby window, I saw the 2 yellow posts, the silver post and the dark brown parallel line that runs up the side of the building. In the frame was 2 views of the brick wall, lines running in different degrees of slant in harmony with the others. It's good nobody was behind me. A minor suggestion of deChiraco in one moment in time. I was so excited and so in a hurry to get to the camera, get it ready, get the picture, the only thing that mattered was nobody was behind me, allowing a moment to see it. Plenty of time. Tina inside was probably wondering what that nut's doing. She already knows I'm nutty. No surprises. If a car had been behind me, I'd have been too inhibited to take the time needed. I drove out onto Main St satisfied I'd successfully made a picture with a rearview mirror in it that works as a complete composition. Too often when I see something like that, no camera is near or there's no easy place to turn around and go back. I've been thinking about driving from one end of Sparta to the other taking pictures out the front window, side windows, Sparta the way we see it, from the road in traffic. It would make a good video, too. Personalize it with your own soundtrack as it would be riding in the car.

The soundtrack in the house this evening is Fred McBride playing fiddle and Lucas Pasley picking banjo. Lucas gave me 2 cds of him and Fred from tapes he made of the two of them. Lucas was doing with Fred what Clif Evans did with several of the musicians in the county of his time. This is Lucas getting Fred recorded. He was getting old, and died not long after. They sat down and jammed, Fred going at the fiddle his own way that's the same as a signature, and Lucas right there with him on the banjo. There are moments the banjo and the fiddle blend their notes together making it sound like one instrument, neither banjo nor fiddle, a sound that transcends both. Then they separate and go back to their own sounds in harmony. Too, Fred is Lucas's mentor fiddler and banjo picker. From time to time Fred picks the banjo. He's like Esker Hutchins and Benton Flippen, plays both fiddle and banjo very well. Lucas plays both. Lucas plays all 4 old-time instruments well. Fred is Lucas's great uncle, his grandmother's aunt's boy, something like that.

They're picking Mississippi Sawyer. They play it especially well together, because they've played it probably several hundred times together. In the playing of old-time music this is right there with Tommy Jarrell and somebody like Andy Cahan or Blanton Owen on banjo, not Fred Cockerham. Cockerham's banjo is his own and nobody else comes near it. Jr used to say Fred couldn't play the banjo for shit, and my jaw hit the floor. I didn't test him or challenge him, accepting that's how he hears it. I think what I heard as artful playing Jr heard as sloppy playing. Jr's banjo ear was with an entirely different sound, though not entirely disregarding old-time which he first played when it was all there was. He told me Cockerham's nickname everyone knew him by was Chiselchin. He had a square, sharp chin. Jr also said once Ralph Stanley couldn't play banjo for shit. If it wasn't Ralph Stanley doing it, it probably wouldn't place at fiddlers conventions. I knew Jr was of the generation and culture that used exaggeration for humor and a measure of how something feels. If he liked somebody's picking especially, it was the best pickin he ever heard. It didn't matter that he might say that once a week about somebody different each time. It's a measure like giving it 5 stars. He didn't like the Stanley brothers, either one of them. My feeling is they were too much show people for his style, the kind of musicians who are on stage all the time, even when you're jamming with them. I don't know that. I wasn't able to find what it was he had against the Stanleys.

He told me Carter was mean and arrogant. Jr didn't value either quality. They were in the same extended music community. It could be the same thing I have with Willie Nelson. His singing largely makes me barf and I never enjoy seeing him. I have no reason to put my finger on. No bad experience around him. It's nothing I heard about him or any of his pop eccentricities or anything. Glen Campbell too. Something about his voice grates my nerves. And I can't find reason why. We all have our own wiring, nearly all of it unknown to us. One evening Ralph Stanley came on Blueridge Backroads on WBRF playing something like Backstep Cindy. I said to Jr, this just doesn't sound like bad banjo pickin to me. It sounded awfully good. He listened setting aside his prejudgment and agreed when it was over that was some good pickin. He could listen to Stanley with no problem, he just had that something unexplainable, possibly some tales on Carter he didn't want to pass on. I was with that.

It didn't mean he didn't like it that I disagreed. He couldn't see what I liked about Carter so much. I said I didn't know him and didn't travel in the same music world. I may have disliked Carter too. I don't know. I'm clear of impressions where Carter and Ralph were concerned. All I know is Carter can sing a bluegrass song and Ralph can pick a bluegrass banjo and sing to my complete satisfaction. I'm not carrying any of that baggage.

Fred and Lucas are at Cluck Old Hen now. Both know the song well enough to have their own ways of playing it and they flow like musicians who have made a lot of music together. Lucas accompanied Fred with stunning grace on that one. He does on all of them. I may be the only one that would ever think so, but it seems to me a good master for the Rounder label. None of that is my concern, however. I have a copy. I'd question it being able to sell enough cds/downloads to meet the expense of production. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter. I'm enjoying it, loving it. Thanks to Lucas, who thoughtfully made a copy for me of a record of Fred's fiddle. Fred's one cd, The Stone Mountain Old Time String Band, continues as one of great old-time albums with Jarrell/Creed's June Apple, Laurel Fork Travelers, Whitetop Mountain Band. Anyway, to my ear, the only ear that's listening, besides Tapo and Caterpillar, and the toad on the wet rocks outside the door where bugs are attracted to the light from inside.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


found installation

Hearing an old-time banjo picker from the eastern part of North Carolina, Walter Babson. The man can pick. This is one of the cds from Ray Alden's releases on the field recorders collective label, a labor of love he gave his life to, publishing more than 50 cds of old-time musicians of Southern old-time. This banjo man is from Brunswick County. I believe Andy Cahan did the recording and accompanied him on guitar. Babson also plays fiddle. One of Tommy Jarrell's albums is with Andy Cahan playing banjo and Chester McMillan guitar. Babson's style is quite different from mountain picking. It's not something I can name, maybe a folklorist could, that tells the difference between there and here. The difference is merely in personality as from one person to another. He's actually quite an amazing picker. This cd has sat here a year or two. My immediate concern was mountain pickers. That's relaxed now and I decided it was time to hear how a man picks from that part of the state. This is pickin I believe Lynn Worth would love. She's an old-time banjo picker and fiddler of the county. A good one, too.

Lunch today with Jim Winfield at Mis Arados where we discussed Buddhism and Christendom. A friend of his recently discovered Christians don't necessarily live "Christian" lives, love your neighbor, etc. I remember when I was discovering the same, how disappointing it was, how it twists one's own interpretation of reality into question. It's the same in all the world religions. Islam has its shyster zealots and its social mosque goers the same as we in Christendom do. It's the same in all the religions. We're human beings. We all have different interpretations of reality. We agreed that the core of all the religions is the same, like beads on a string, love God and the people around you. From there you get cultural customs shaping the teachings into what works best in a given group of people. Over several centuries the customs of a given religion become particular to the region and nowhere else. For an American to jump into Hinduism is a major cultural shift as well as faith shift. Ultimately the same, but from the core outward to the present day surface is a radical change.

I had to give up religion for several years to take a hard look at what I could find, such as reading about other religions. They all seemed so much better than Christendom, because it was writing. It wasn't the living. The living of religion is the same in Bangkok as it is in any American city. Winfield was in Thailand a few years ago and devout Buddhists there told him the people closest to the religion have left the cities and gone to country villages. The cities have become corrupt there like here with every kind of crime there is, people rushing headlong into the frivolous life of buy everything you can afford and then some, cheat everybody you can, take all you can get. That's not Buddhist living any more than the same here is Christian living. But, in both cases, it's ok if you're making money. Doesn't matter how you make it, how many people you give cancer to, how many people's lives you ruin if you're making money doing it. Money rules everywhere, not just America. After WW2 when the Europeans were in the poverty of reconstruction, they smiled and greeted Americans like their best friends, because Americans had money. Now that they have money equal to ours and better, they don't even see us, except to laugh at the cliches about us, like the way we waddle when we walk. It's called the American waddle.

I went through this period of time that lasted about 15 years of doubting a great deal of what I'd been taught growing up in church. I thought I was being an atheist or an agnostic, sometimes one, sometimes the other, until the day God put his hand on my shoulder and said, You're mine. It's then I realized I had shed the falseness that is in religion and had found the core of who the Christ is. I had shed my baggage of cultural beliefs attached to religion down to what's real. I hadn't realized that's what I'd been doing. I thought I was throwing it all out, but saw one day I had held to the core truths, the red letter words in the NT. When the Master said, Come with me, I was ready. Once I saw the Truth / Way / Life I couldn't do anything but go with it. In fact, I see now that He was watching all along and undoubtedly encouraging me in my search which I perceived as rebellion. One thing I love about the old-time mountain religion, Primitive Baptist in particular, Regular Baptist too, is the acceptance that an individual man's way of seeing is his own, and is respected as such. Another man might not agree with it, but they're held together by the core that each member is there for. I don't go much, but have found in the Primitive Baptist churches what in my experience for my own way of believing satisfies my inclination to worship with others. A lot of people believe the Primitive Baptists jump up and down, roll on the floor, holler and flop about. That's as far from what the old-time religions are about as can be thought up.

I'd been in the mountains a year when Tom Pruitt took me to Laurel Glenn Regular Baptist where his brother, Millard, was the preacher. I heard Millard preach and went back for more. A lot of people didn't like Millard, the man, but everyone who respected good preaching respected Millard. My attraction to his preaching was his only subject in the pulpit was love. His only subject. The only of several preachers I'd heard who touched the subject, the subject that God is. It's what I believe God is about, too, so I kept on going back, because his preaching was the tail end of the old-time tradition, giving me a peephole look into what it was. Thousands of hours of conversation with Brother Millard over several years taught me the history of the Regular Baptists and Primitive Baptists of the mountains. He had no problem with the Primitive Baptists. He talked of them with such praise it instilled into me confidence. I didn't want to switch over, because the difference was so little. But when it came to grace, I tended toward the Primitive.

I believe the Regulars split off from the Primitives after the Civil War. My feeling is the Regulars were Yankee sympathizers in that time. I don't know that. Just feel it. The primary difference between the two is the Regulars use notes in the songbooks and the Primitives do not. The Regulars go with free will, while the Primitives go with pre-destination, grace. I've never been able to say I could swear allegiance to either way of seeing. I tend to see it both. Brother Millard once confessed to me in conversation he believes it's both, but can't say it because it's against doctrine. As a preacher he was an upholder of doctrine. The only problem I have with going to church now is I'm in a time of my life when I don't like being expected of. Like if I want a drink, I'm going to have a drink. If I want to go to a biker roadside bar to hear a rock band a friend plays in, I'm going. It doesn't mean I'm out to commit mayhem and end up dead in the parking lot or converted to a life of sin. 2 beers, listen to the band, watch people dance. It's just folks to me. God is everyplace. One thing I know about people who frequent dance joints is when one is hurt or in trouble, the others are there to help out any way they can. When it comes to supportive of one another, they have Christians beat coming and going. And in such a place if somebody started making noise slandering and cussing Jesus Christ, he might not make it out the door in one piece. The disregard for so-called sinners was one of my problems with Christendom in my questioning years.

Anymore, I don't care what Christendom does or doesn't do, is right or wrong or anything. I'm on my own path, my concern is for my own footsteps, not somebody else's. I do the best I can in my own way and have learned to accept that's enough. I'm remembering when I was first knowing Bill Pruitt in my first year in the mountains. I worked with Bill on the farm. He told me when he dies he doesn't want the preacher saying he was a great guy who loved the Lord and all that. All he wanted the preacher to say was, He done the best he knew how. Bill died a year or more ago, and I didn't learn about it until after the funeral or I would have gone to see if that's what the preacher would say, knowing he would not, because Bill had been in the Sparta nursing home with old-timers, and wouldn't have been able to make such a request. If I'd gone, I might have spoken with the preacher to tell him what Bill said. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. But not necessarily. When Jr's mind was on its way to wherever it went he was entertaining fears Ross wouldn't be able to handle the tractor shop and would have to shut it down. I said it doesn't matter when he, Jr, is not here anymore. The immediate response, "Yes it does!" And I understood. In fact, it caused me to revise my own thinking, so quick to say something I really didn't know anything about, just automatic verbiage.