LIFE'S BETTER IN THE MOUNTAINS

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You Just Never Know...

I lived in the country for the first nine years of my life. It was not a farm, but we had a cow and chickens and a huge vegetable garden. Summer days were spent working and playing outside all day. We made playhouses in the woods, carpeting the rooms with moss we gathered. We made buildings from empty cardboard boxes. We built a cemetery and looked for little dead things to bury there. We made elaborate little coffins from matchboxes and conducted funerals with great ceremony. Winter days were spent attending a small rural public school.

My father was a carpenter and also manager of a North Carolina State Fish Hatchery. The students at the small school we attended were pretty much all alike. There were no rich kids and few children of professionals. (Those students went to the "better" school in town.) Our little school was for the "country folks." I thought everyone was just like me.

When I was ten, we moved to Boone, North Carolina. At that time Boone was a sleepy little college town. We no longer lived in the country with a garden, cow, and chickens, but lived in town. Many of my classmates in school were children of college professors, dentists, physicians and other professionals. As I struggled to fit into this new society, I learned that most of my new classmates thought "country music" was somehow not "cool." Country music was the object of jokes. So, at the tender age of ten, I learned to present a different view of myself in order to fit into current society. I pretended I didn't like country music either.

In truth, I adored country music. Late at night my radio would pick up stations far away and I would listen until I fell asleep. (WCKY...Cincinnati ONE, Ohio was one of my favorites.) I loved watching the country music shows on television.

My mother also loved country music. Not as much as she loved the old hymns, but enough. She had a woman (I'll call her Janie) who helped Mom with heavy housecleaning. Janie and Mom became good friends. Almost every week during the summer, Mom and I would drive out to Janie's house in the country and visit in the evening. Janie played the guitar and on most of our visits, her front porch would be filled with neighbors who played instruments. They played and sang country music and folk music and bluegrass for hours on end.

Oh, how I loved those evenings. The music made it worth every mosquito bite I scratched later. One musician fascinated me. He was blind and I loved his music. He wasn't always at the gatherings, but when he was, I sat and watched him all evening.

Never in my wildest imagination would I have guessed that this blind musician would become a legend in my own lifetime. Yes, the blind musician is Doc Watson. And as a child I heard him play with Janie and the others on the porch.

So many years have past. And here in Brevard, the star attraction at the Mountain Song Festival is none other than Doc Watson. A winner of seven Grammy awards, and awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton, Doc Watson still performs, although much less often than in the past. The Mountain Song Festival was held this past weekend and Steve Martin (yes, THAT Steve Martin) made a surprise appearance, playing the banjo with the Steep Canyon Rangers. But the person everyone talked about was Doc Watson.


(Courtesy photograph from The Transylvania Times.)

Doc Watson does not know my name. He does not know how much his music means to me. I'm certain he remembers the evening songfests at Janie's house. And maybe he even remembers a little girl who so enthusiastically sang along and clapped to his music on Janie's porch all those years ago. You just never know...

26 comments:

The Bug said...

Ooh this gave me chills!

When I was growing up in Hickory I thought of Boone as a sort of fantasy place. I dreamed of being able to live there one day. Maybe I can if they ever have an professor of American History opening for Dr. M :)

Cicero Sings said...

What a neat remembrance to share. Great that you could see and hear him once again.

George said...

What wonderful memories. I remember listening to Chicago's WGN Country Barn Dance on Saturday nights. I still like country music.

Busy Bee Suz said...

What a small world we live in!!
Love this glimpse into your early years too. I love Boone!

robin andrea said...

What a fine and wonderful memory that is, to have spent many a summer evening listening to neighbors and Doc Watson sing and play. A cherished pastime for as long as humans could make a sound and turn it into music.

merrilymarylee said...

What a wonderful memory!

I remember WCKY in Cincinnati, too... my grandmother's favorite.

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

What fun to grow up in an area that is full of your kind of music. The porch improvisations surely gave you long lasting memories along with Doc Watson. -- barbara

Vicki Lane said...

Oh wow! How lucky you were! The man is a National Treasure.

KGMom said...

Oh so totally cool--I just heard a Fresh Air story about him last week. Terry Gross was doing a week on country music. He talked about how he first came to play.
What a cherished memory.

Kelly @ The Startup Wife said...

That is so amazing! How great that you share memories with him--that must be really incredible to think about everything that's happened since and where you both are now!

I used to do that with matchbox coffins, too. This was such evocative writing--I loved reading it! Glad I found your blog. :)

"Just Me - NC Beth" said...

How great! To have sat at the knee of someone now so well known for his music..loved the story about your growing up!

SouthernSass said...

Your childhood reminds me of my own, except we never moved "to town." My brother and I did the same thing in the woods with moss and makeshift tents. Oh, how I miss those days! We never worried about anyone bothering us, even - gulp - snakes!

And yes, Country music was (and still is for me) the best! How lucky for you to hear him play!

How cool it must have been for you to listen to

animal lover, quilt lover said...

What a great story!! I loved it !! I am an old Grandmother of one G daughter and will blog about my early early begining one day soon. Thanks for your visit and your kind comment. Do come again soon. I would love to get to know you!!!!!!
XXOO, Bambi & Fern

Karin said...

What a wonderful memory! Thanks for sharing it and the joy country music is to you. Sure enjoy some of it myself!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

What a great experience for you, Carolyn... It's so great to experience something which meant so much to you as a child.

I hated what I called 'hillbilly' music as a child.... When I became an adult, I fell in love with Blue Grass ... Then I met George --who taught me to love country music.

I'm sorry that I've never heard of Doc Watson... As a child and teen---I was into pop music --and broadway show music....

Glad you had such a fabulous experience.
Hugs,
Betsy

Jayne said...

What a wonderful story Carolyn. It make me smile broadly this morning. I am sure he does remember. How wonderful he went on to have his talent recognized. :c)

Jill said...

I live in Boone and also LOVE Doc Watson! Beautiful post. We used to listen to Doc at a little vacuum cleaning repair place in Boone. Watauga Village Shopping Center. It is now gone and replaced with a Wal Mart.

Michelle said...

Awww! Amazing, right?! I, too, enjoy bluegrass! Thanks for a great post--I really enjoyed reading it!

Jen Chandler said...

First of all, thanks for the comment on my blog the other day :) Sorry I don't get around here as often as I'd like.

This post is wonderful! I grew up with country music and, though I left it for a while, I still love some of it. I really enjoy blue grass.

Oh this post made me remember going to the N.GA. mountains with my parents and sister. Such wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing yours with us!

Cheers,
Jen

TaraDharma said...

ah, so many nuggets in this post!! what great memories of music on the porch out in the country...and of a man who 'made it big.' of course, we know you're school friends were just plain wrong. But we go along to get along, don't we?

I would love to have been that child sitting on the porch! Lucky you!

Toni aka irishlas said...

What a memory to cherish!

I had the honor of escorting Doc Watson to the stage here at one of our local venue. He is a man of few words, but, he voices himself through his music.

JeanMac said...

What a touching post.

dAwN said...

Wow...what wonderful memories..and Doc Watson!

Appalachian Lady said...

What a great childhood you had and thanks for sharing with us.

Ruth said...

What a great story. People seldom get together informally to play instruments and sing any more and I think that is a great loss. Music tastes are so diverse and so many popular songs are not really singable. I think one of the best things about country music is that it is tuneful and lends itself to jamming sessions.

Twisted Fencepost said...

I'll bet he does!
What a great memory!!
Nothing like backporch pickin'!!