Gary Harrison stumbled into quite a gold mine for old fiddle tunes in its twilight, a weekly gathering of old musicians and people who came to listen, in a one room school house in a little place called Bible Grove (once known as Georgetown). There was always quite a crowd, though they were nearly all elderly. We drove down there quite often and learnt quite a few tunes.
One evening we found the place more packed than usual, with folks milling about, having pie whilst waiting for the musicians to get settled in their circle of chairs with their instruments. Since I grew up on a dairy farm with fresh skimmed milk in my tea, I passed by their smelly fat homogenized stuff and got a Styrofoam cup of black coffee and sat down with it next to Fletcher Fawkes, an old bald headed fiddler known to everyone as Guy. Guy gave me a nod from behind his crooked spectacles as he shifted a fresh chaw of tobacco around in his mouth, spitting into a Styrofoam cup of his own. As usual, he had his fiddle all wired up with electrical tape to a dinky little speaker which always made his instrument sound shrill. He would have been much better off without it, but I always allowed that it made him feel up to date.
The music began with a flourish of microphone feedback as Bud Ingerham with his flattop and brilliant red bow tie played a boisterous Dixieland rendition of Wabash Cannonball on his tenor banjo as the rest of us followed along the best we could. The next tune, Natchez Under the Hill (Turkey in the Straw) was led on the fiddle by old Benny Sutton who sat in the chair to Bud’s left.
On it went chair by chair, until it got around to Guy. He bashfully beamed, spit in his cup and shifted about on his seat as he thumbed his strings and raised his fiddle to his collar bone. He began playing Town Hall Jig. I would be next.
I picked up my coffee from the floor beside me. “Funny it’s gone cold, just like that,” I thought as I took a swig. “Better drink ‘er down quick.”
Suddenly, I could see how it all was. “Holy rollercoaster in a cup! God forbid!” I thought as I spied my hot cup of coffee on the other side of my chair whilst vomitous waves played up and down my throat. “Mercy, mercy! You putrid old grasshopper! You ghastly foul old fart!” I thought as I considered the gustatory nuances of his sputum, his overpowering bouquet of fetid, sugary rot clinging to my lips. “Oh how could I already have it swallowed…!”
Guy gave me a gentle poke. “Look alive Tom,” he said innocently enough. “It’s your turn.”
As a rush of prickles came up my spine, I raised my banjo in my cold sweaty hands and played an urgently feeble version of Silver Bell.