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Wednesday, March 23, 2011


the carter family

I had to open the door a little bit to listen to the rain. It's 54 degrees and falling. The heat will come on soon, but I don't care. This winter has cost so much where heating is concerned, I don't care any more about leaving the door open an hour or so if it costs a quarter in kerosene consumption. I'd rather listen to the rain. If it costs a quarter, that's not much for the price of admission. It's a gentle rain, the kind that soaks into the ground and hopefully adds some to the water table. The rain falls on last year's leaves, the carpet of mulch to be topsoil by end of summer when the new carpet of leaves cover the ground. The wind chimes are ringing lightly.

In last week's paper was an obituary of one of my faithful listeners on the radio show. Loyd Edwards, 79, died a week and a half ago, Saturday, March 12. His mother was a Todd. That stopped my wandering mind for a few moments. Loyd sometimes called on the telephone during the radio show to ask for a song. He loved to hear Norman Edmonds the fiddler play Train On An Island. He liked old-timey old-time, the funky old clucking banjo and rough squawky fiddle. He loved the Carter Family and all the rest of old-time music. He listened closely, had a good ear for the music.

A couple times when I had the store, Loyd wanted in one case a cd by the Galax old-time band The New Ballards Branch Bog Trotters. He bought the cd, asked me to make a cassette from it, told me the song he wanted me to play 3 times in a row and left the cd with me. In the radio station studio playing the music of these hills for my listeners, I would see in my mind's eye the different people along the way who have told me they listen every week and value what I was doing. It was an audience of about 20 that I felt like I knew were listening, so when I talked to the black mic, I was talking to them individually.

Another time, Loyd asked me to put Norman Edmonds onto cassette and play Train On An Island 3 times in a row. Only about half the tape would be taken up by the cd, so I filled in the last half of the tape with a variety of old-time fiddle tunes and banjo tunes I had an idea he'd like a lot. An hour and a half of my radio show without me talking. He liked to listen to the tapes driving his pickup, making the rounds, coffee at the Pines and other stops. He used to stop by the radio station from time to time. He was among the station's greatest supporters of the people who listened to it.

When his grandson, Chris Johnson, took up old-time banjo it was just about the joy of Loyd's life. He loved it that his grandyoungun not only took up the banjo, but was good. Loyd wouldn't brag on him for the world, but it felt mighty good to him that Chris would carry the music on. It was satisfying to him as almost nothing else could have been. Loyd was a retired farmer who didn't talk much and when he did, it was short phrases. Sometimes it seemed like he didn't have much sense, if you went by how he talked, but he had a brilliant mind that didn't function in words. His was a farmer's mind, good at figuring things out, working alone. Yet, he could sit and talk for hours about the Bible and old-time music, two subjects not many people talk about any more.

I never saw a great deal of Loyd, him being someone I knew when I saw him a time or two a year for a moment at a time, a brief conversation about old-time music. Even though I don't see him, I miss him. I missed Roy Boone, the janitor at the courthouse, someone else I knew when I saw him. Every time I think of Roy, I miss him and think of him as one of those souls this world we live in needs more of, not less. Loyd Edwards was one of those people we need more of, not less. You might say he was just who he was. That was it. Buried in Mt Zion Primitive Baptist cemetery. I may stop by to visit his grave one day when I'm on hwy 18 N. It feels like Alleghany County is one candle light dimmer than it was when Loyd was living. Loyd was one of many people I've known in these mountains I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to know, a truly humble man who lived his life with integrity and in truth. Loyd was one of the people I look up to.



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