"Hey, today's Tuesday! I get to go hang out with those really cool guys in town tonight!"
My 16-year-old son exuded excitement. All teenage boys like to "hang out with the guys," right? Okay, I want you to pause and take a minute to develop a mental picture: a teenage boy, hanging out with a bunch of really cool guys in town on a summer evening. Got a pretty clear image on your mental screen?
I bet it doesn't look anything like this....
The "really cool guys" range in age from their mid-40's to their 90's. And they're not all guys - Mrs. Judy is a tiny woman with bright eyes and a big personality. They "hang out" in a shop Mr. Kenneth built behind his house, next to the garage. An antique Phillips 76 gas station sign glows orange in the evening shadows. The gang starts gathering about 6:30, and by 7:00 the good times are rolling.
Charles and Mike on guitars, Wayne on the fiddle, Judy playing a mean mandolin. Kenneth on the dobro, Buddy on the bass guitar. More guitars, banjos, and fiddles rest on stands and tables, waiting their turn to be played.
"You're next, Kenneth. What'll it be?" one member of the group asks.
"Let's do Working Man Blues," Kenneth answers. He sets the dobro aside. "Here, give me that guitar."
The players form a large circle, sitting in chairs and on stools. Round-robin, each one picks a song as they make the circle....country, bluegrass, blues, rock-a-billy, gospel. And they pass instruments around like peas and cornbread at the dinner table.
"Give me your mandolin, Judy. You take this fiddle and show that little girl how to play a lick."
That "little girl" is new to the group. My 15-year old daughter just sat and listened last gathering, but tonight she's ready to try playing along. Mrs. Judy, her head nodding and bobbing and her elbow flying like a spinning wheel, sits knee-to-knee with Martha and shows her how to bow the fiddle.
Sixteen-year-old Tom is over his initial shyness, too, and he's ready to jump in the water. It's his turn to name a tune. "Well, I've been working on Cripple Creek, but I'm not too good at it yet." He adjusts a string on his banjo.
"Let 'er rip, boy!" the 90-something fiddle-player hoots. "We'll follow you!"
The music, singing, laughter, and fun go on for hours. Sometime around 10:00, us younger folks call it a night - we pack up the banjo and the fiddle and head for home. The older folks? They're still playing, their music following us in the darkness out to the car.
Way out here in the boondocks in the tiny town of Troy, we don't have a Sonic or a McDonald's. There's no mall where you can hang out with your friends. We don't have a movie theatre or putt-putt golf, go-carts or laser tag. There's a LOT we don't have, but maybe we've got something better than your typical teen entertainment...
3 weeks ago