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Friday, July 18, 2014

DONKEY JACK'S BIG ADVENTURE


jenny and jack
 
This morning I woke with the old-time song playing in my head, Rabbit In a Log, Arnold Spangler singing it with the Laurel Fork Travelers. There's a rabbit in a log and I aint got my dog. How will I get him, I know. I'll get me a briar and twist it in his hair. That's how I'll get him, I know. The song has been in my head all morning. I love it when a good song gets in my head and sticks around. Ralph Stanley and Jimmy Martin recorded together Rabbit In a Log in the late 1960s, Ralph's second album after Carter died. But Arnold Spangler owns the song. He does it the old hillbilly way playing his squawking fiddle and Melvin Felts clucking his banjo. Makes me wet-eyed just to remember them. Lord have mercy, how I love old-time hillbilly music. It's the only music I've heard in my life that makes me cry for the beauty in it. I wept all the way through a Ralph Stanley concert, start to finish, for the beauty in the music. I can't play Stanley Brothers or Ralph Stanley much, their singing is so in line with my vibration, or something, that I weep. Carter Family too. When I'd play Carter Family on the radio show, I couldn't talk between songs for weeping and choking up at the mention of the name of any one of the three. My eyes are damp now just thinking about them. I didn't need to say anything about the Carter Family to any of my listeners. All loved the Carter Family, knew a great many of their songs. Never had to introduce anything. Just let it play, the more songs the merrier. And I sat in the chair and wept. It was the same when I played the Stanley Brothers or Ralph. Baptist hymnals have a considerable number of songs attributed to AP Carter. AP was a severely nerdy mountain boy in the time before WW1, who never got into fights, didn't run with the boys, but took all day long walks along the railroad track singing. He had a tremor in his voice the other kids made fun of and he quit school to get away from them. It's the tremor in his voice that makes his vocals AP Carter's alone.  
 
 
jack
 
Their story is told in a wonderful biography of the Carter Family, Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?, told in such a way that when it's over you feel like these are people you have known. Somehow, it brings them to life. And a wonderful autobiography by Ralph Stanley, Man of Constant Sorrow. He took that old, old forgotten song, recorded it and it, too, was forgotten. Then that silly movie about hillbillies, O Brother, and Dan Tyminski's version of Man of Constant Sorrow made the song immensely popular. Then it was discovered that Ralph Stanley has been singing it all along. Ralph Stanley, in his old age, began to get attention and big royalties since the movie made his song so popular. A rock version of the song has been made by the Charm City Devils. They have a great hard-metal version of it on utube that makes me want to see them in concert so bad I may find a way to drive to Johnson City, Tennessee, Aug 26, to see them the closest they'll come to here. I'm ready for another concert. I need a good rock concert every now and again. Looks like a two to two and a half hour drive, same as to Charlotte, Roanoke or Greensboro, the places I have to go to for a concert anyway. But it is so great to drive less than twenty miles to see Ralph Stanley in a place where only hillbillies go, the people who love him in their hearts, and bring out the people homebound in wheelchairs, the people whose bodies are out of control twisted up in knots, strapped into a wheelchair, faces glowing with joy. And the people around them regard them the same as if they're ok. His voice is the voice of the soul of these mountains. He sings in the old Primitive Baptist style like Aretha Franklin sings in black gospel style. I'm not an autograph seeker, don't care about them, but I carried my copy of his book to a concert and asked him to sign it. Only his name. It is one of my book treasures that will not leave this house as long as I'm living. Loaned books never come back. I love that book from my soul. Books are too easy to find on amazon for me to be a lending library. Most recent one I loaned had with it the stipulation I really do want it back. I'll never see it again. It's gone forever. Nobody knows what happened to it. It just went poof, vanished into infinite space. I've found a used copy on amazon to replace it, but would prefer my own copy. The book, itself, doesn't matter as much as the trust that was broken. Trust has a way of not coming back when it's broken, like fine china. Glue doesn't fix it.
 
jenny and jack
 
Talking on the phone this morning with Carole, I saw Jack walk by the windows exploring my territory. I jumped off the phone in a hurry, picked up 4 carrots from refrigerator, went out the door calling to Jack. I did not know what to do. I thought carrot might be an attraction for him. Not. He was on an adventure. I followed him talking to him like I do, called him by name, keeping him knowing I'm behind him and aware of him. He was walking along my rock walkway to the parking lot for one, sniffing every rock. I let him take his time, have his adventure, hoping a car would not drive by and scare him. He was smelling my footprints, Caterpillar's and the possums that walk around here at night picking up bird feeder leavings. He was exploring my meadow he sees across the fence, knows it's the meadow I live in like I see the meadow he lives in. I walk into his meadow. Why not Jack walk into my meadow? I was a bit anxious, because a car always goes by when you don't want it to, even if only three cars go up the road in a day. I didn't want Jack to feel my anxiety. I wanted him to feel that I was walking with him, having a stroll. He sniffed his way along, pulled up some jewelweed and snacked on it, tried some grass, pulled up some plantain, chewed it some and spit it out. He was in a place he'd only seen from the fence. He was up close to the car he sees me ride by in. I honk at them when I drive by the meadow and holler out an open window, Donkey. Today was Jack's first experience with the car up close, to walk by it, smell it, smell the ground around it. He put a front hoof on the pavement and I thought, Oh no, let's not go walking on the road. The new surface, asphalt, his first time feeling it, he pulled his hoof back and would not step on it again.
 
jack
 
Jack made a turn toward the grass in the tracks that lead to the gate to the other meadow. I thought maybe he was heading that way. No. He turned around and walked back to the stone walkway with intent, walked past me holding a carrot, taking no interest. He walked back to the gate like he was in a hurry. He walked to the gate and it didn't move as easily as the other way. It spooked him. He walked a ways to the left and grazed in a jewelweed patch. I gave Jenny some carrot. I went through the gate, left it open and walked out into the meadow along their trail with Jenny following. Jack watched us go away into the distance. He stepped through the gate and came running, ran by us with a big smile on his face like he was having a great time. I gave carrots to Jenny, Jack came around for a carrot. Jack got too close, Jenny swung her ass end around on me, quick as a cat, and I hollered, Jen! She calmed down, I stepped out of her range and said, I'm going to my barn. They went at each other, slinging their heads around each other's necks, donkey martial arts sparring. They even raised their front legs high off the ground, standing on their back legs like pictures of rearing horses. It was beautiful. Their teeth were bared, they came down and Jack went into domination mode. Jenny ran, Jack behind her with his chin on her rump, her kicking him in the chest and neck, running. She came to a flat place by the creek and he ran up, took hold of the back of her neck and walked her where he wanted her to go. She broke free and he took hold of her again, took the fire right out of her. He let her go, they pretend tussled a short bit and both went to grazing. I replaced the baling twine I use to hold the gate closed. It was from last winter and is getting rotten, breaks easy. No problem. Easily replaced. I love the ratty old gate too much to put up another one. The wooden frame is all rotted, none of it would hold a nail, but the wire mesh holds it all together. It looks like it would fall apart from just touching it. I like about it that it's a soft gate, a gentle gate. It was old when I was new.  
 
jenny scratching on the gate
 
 
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