Saturday, June 03, 2006

Resounding hills

Dad broke his thumb in two places. Because I was around him this past week, I heard him retell the story over and over again (you don't want to hear it) to the concerned. Of course, his stories are told with a mischievous light in his eyes, which makes the story less of pain, than one of ironic triumph. The victory occured an hour later when he played his banjo at a country restaurant and sounded "new and improved".

We were supposed to go jam together with other men at an old RV park. He loaded up his instrument, and I threw in my guitar. We drove about 40 minutes down windy, hilly backroad blacktops, speculating on whether there'd be any sign of life once we finally made it there. Sure enough, we spotted a few campers; we drove in and saw four or five men staring down at the inside of someone's pickup truck. Their legs were propped up on the tires and bumpers. Women have tables, country men have trucks for congregation.

I tried to fit in, but I couldn't talk their talk at all. So, I grinned at their typical Ozarkian one-liners as they jabbed at whatever the other one said. Finally the men deemed that it was time to make a chair circle and get lost in the tunes. Dad decided he couldn't play, and so there I was in the middle of these strange guys who could pluck their strings like angels. While the bug zapper was exploding behind me, somehow I got up the courage to play and sing "Brown Mountain Light" right off the bat. They nodded approvingly at me, and the next guy lead off. I was in.

One old man who barely spoke or moved and looked yellowish with liver issues had an exquisite Gibson banjo on his lap. A boy player explained to me that the old man's banjo is the one heard in the movie "Deliverance".

There we sat, grinning men with hands meticulously flashing, an old fiddler with an oxygen tank, one savant boy banjoist, the Deliverance banjo on the lap of a man who looked like he could die before the morning was up, my dad with a songbook, an occassional wife who scurried over to play the bass when the mood struck her, and me, a brownhaired Ozarkian turned city girl -- there we sat in the night among the trees, calling up the musicians of old, retelling the lyrical stories of the hills. Rare sight, rare sounds, rare gift I won't forget.

The next day, a man called my dad and told him to bring me back. Two days later, I saw the boy and his dad at the country store; we talked like buddies. The dad encouraged my husband to start playing too since he has a wife with a "purty voice".

While I'm home in the hills, it's like being another person for a while. Someone with a purty voice, which I don't have here in my town. Strange.

Well, Dad's thumb hurt him more and more as the week went by. We never went back to play music at the old RV park. Those boys, though, have plans to get a regular festival revived there, and it may be in a week or two. Not long to wait for those who need their regular fix of it. I hope the old yellowish man makes it. He sure could make that banjo ring out into the quiet, dark, wooded, hilly night.


Cindy said...

Teri--Hope your dad's thumb heals quickly and well. I really enjoyed this post. Very much.

Fieldfleur said...

Thanks, Cindy. I love the sights and sounds of the Ozarks. Hope things are well there for you and that you're enjoying the summer so far!