I can sit for hours and listen to nearly any kind of music (except Rap or Barbershop) and be happy, but I do not play any kind of instrument. I can play the radio if it doesn't have more than two knobs.
So when I won a beautiful Martin guitar last Friday night at the Courthouse Opry, I felt obligated to tell the crowd to not be alarmed, I wasn't going to play it. I even had to ask one of the real musicians how to carry it! The guitar came with a sturdy case with a handle on what I assumed was the top side.
I only bought one chance, but thought I should, because the money collected was going for music scholarships for local students. Lord knows we need more music in this world!
Having no kind of mojo (unless you count being a 7th son), I just thought I'd help out a little on the scholarships; I had no intention of winning. In fact, I may not be allowed to, since it may be company policy here that a newspaper employee doesn't win stuff. I'll have to check the policy manual, but it's a very thick yellow book, and the guitar will be out of tune before I can find the rules on it.
I've won two other things in my life, both of them from gas stations (something not offered anymore in this age of $3 gas!). Once, I won $50 worth of gas, and I was driving a VW Bug at the time. That was good.
Also, I won a set of dishes from a gas station give-away. This was 25 years ago, and the dishes, delicate things that would break if you stood in the kitchen and yelled at a stray dog in the yard, still take up space in the cabinets. The pattern is some kind of little green leaves bordered in silver and so faint and small that you need a magnifying glass to see the pattern. Just wipe off the dust.
I've bought one lottery ticket in my life, and didn't win a dime. After reading how winning big in the lottery has ruined the lives of most of the winners, I've never bought another one.
But I bought a chance on the guitar, too, to support the Friday night Bluegrass groups that pick and sing as long as people want to listen. They come to the free concerts after long days at work because they love to play the music and need somebody to listen, even though some listeners aren't demonstrative with their appreciation. I've never seen a standing ovation at the Old Courthouse Opry, and some of the bands have deserved that.
A short example would help. A cousin of mine hosts a classical music program on National Public Radio in Madison, Wis. He understands classical music and is a whiz at radios and computers with dozens of knobs. I took him to one of the wintertime sessions at the courthouse. He just kept shaking his head and muttering, “It's beautiful, simply beautiful!”
Bluegrass is this region's classical music. Its rhythms, close harmony and complex arrangements often make it more difficult to perform than what passes for classical. Bluegrass is the sound of lives as they are lived here. To call it playing music is wrong; it is very hard work. On cold Friday nights, the musicians are sweating while those of us in the crowd often sit on the radiators to keep the radiator warm. The music, though, is warmth for the spirit.
I don't know what I'll do with the guitar. I don't want to sell it. If I could find a kid who loves the music and the instrument, somebody who could make the guitar do what it's obviously built to do, some kid who could make it ring, not from the strings but from his heart, that kid would have a good guitar. It would have to be a kid who only dreams of the cash it takes to buy a Martin.