"Momma, There's Commies In The Barn!"

by Calendar Hacksaw

I imagine that if I took the time to search around the house, I’d find at least two guitars, one fiddle and one banjo, all in excellent shape, and all safely tucked away in their cases, idle for many a year.

Oh, yeah, and one ukulele, too. Hell, everyone’s entitled to make a mistake now and again; even ol’ Calendar. I’d gladly trade it for a Dobro or pedal steel, though.

The banjo is Betty’s baby, and a fine one it is. She took lessons from a guy whose sole purpose as a music instructor was to prove to students that they would never be able to play their instruments. I thought about kickin’ his butt, but banjo players usually have pretty strong arms and some come with lofty ideals.

I think my life has always been ruled by emotion, and nothing fuels emotion more than good, acoustical music. Unfortunately, I’m just not able to create it. My ears can certainly hear it okay, but something happens after that and it’s proved to be too long a haul to the mouth and hands.

In spite of my inability to create anything resembling music, I do enjoy strumming a guitar and working the frets a bit, regardless of the negative effect it seems to have on Betty and the dogs.

I got addicted to music during my rebellious teens, joining up with my hometown’s "Young People’s Folk Song Society," a budding socialist organization which lacked any unifying political philosophy. In the absence of ideology, we’d gather at a different member’s home each month for the express purpose of drinking Fedco beer and proving to each other how little we’d practiced during the preceding thirty days. Oh, yeah; we also went there to meet girls; mostly aspiring Communists trying to shed the trappings of their upper middle class roots. There’s a lot to be said for Communist babes, regardless of what you might think. Especially when everyone’s young, loaded on Fedco Premium, raising their voices in song and calling on the workers of the world to unite and overthrow their capitalist oppressors.

Actually, these monthly folk music fests were very well organized and brought forth a lot of talent. Sometimes we’d have as many as 50 "musicians" show up, and we’d go around the room twice with a nice, long Fedco hour between the circuits. The first round would involve a particular theme announced the month before, such as "overthrowing capitalist oppressors," and the second round would be an "open" one to allow the participants to showcase whatever music they’d been working on lately. Kind of like Karaoke Day at TOGS.

As a result of these sessions, I came to learn a lot more about appreciating music, and a lot less about playing it. I think that’s an important distinction to make; there’s nothing wrong with loving music, especially when it’s done on such a high intellectual plane.

Anyway, I grew up with a strong taste for folk, bluegrass and country music; a habit I ain’t gonna kick anytime soon. When I hear a good band like what we had at the Team Penning dinner last year, my knees buckle and I just can’t seem to get enough of it.

Needless to say, music plays a strong role now in the planning stages for any trip to Walker Basin. Even when I’m out in the garage packing, I have to listen to Merle and Emmy Lou and George, or the stuff just won’t get packed right. And having the correct tunes is absolutely essential during passage through Caliente Canyon, so I make sure I have all my cassettes and CDs lined up before I leave the toll house. Jeez, ain’t that road paid for yet?

The old gut string guitar deserves a better life than it’s getting down here, so I think I’ll re-string it this spring and take it up on the mountain. Hell, even if some lowlife steals it, it might end up getting played. And it doesn’t get lifted right away, maybe I’ll tune it up and serenade the bats at sundown.

Tuning instruments has always been beyond my ability, being tone deaf and all. But now they make these neat little electronic gizmos that do it for you. "Hacksaw’s Tuners," they’re called, "So foolproof even an idiot can do it!"

I strongly suspect there’s a good number of "closet pickers" scattered about Walker Basin; folks as young as 10 and as old as 80 who live in fear of what the neighbors might think if they found out who was responsible for all that late night strummin’ and pluckin’ and cussin’. But believe me when I say it’s better to share that secret than to keep it bottled up. When others learn what you’re trying to accomplish, with or without lessons, your image in their eyes tends to skyrocket. It’s like you’ve suddenly added a new dimension.

Maybe an informal Walker Basin club will evolve from this column; who knows? It would sure help to pass the long, lonely winter months, and outdoor meetings on summer evenings would be a sound to behold. There’s ample talent out there, I’m sure, and a good amount of secret desire as well. All it takes is for one person to stand up and say, "I’ll host the first one," and a second person to say, "I’m a communist."

Now if we could just get some Fedco beer.

Calendar Hacksaw hangs out at http://www.calendarhacksaw.com, and he has a mirror mounted above his computer monitor, just to keep him honest. But sometimes when he looks in it, there’s no reflection.

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