The Pickin’ Place

Published 8:58 pm Friday, August 14, 2009

Harwood Daughtry brushed aside a cluster of bright yellow four o’clocks and tugged slightly at the sliding glass door to his music place.

In just a couple of hours, the now empty converted garage would be filled with fiddlin’ friends and pickin’ and grinnin’ buddies. Their music would be way too much for the four walls to hold and it would come “bustin’ out” from every crack and cranny and fill the outside darkness with old time music.

“When I decided to turn the garage into a place to play music, I went around to my neighbors and told them what I wanted to do,” Harwood said. “They all said to go right ahead. They might even come over and listen. I didn’t want to disturb anybody. We just wanted a place to play music.”

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Every Wednesday night, Harwood slides open the door to his music place and anybody who wants to come and join in is welcome.

“Some nights, we have a few pickers, some nights you can’t move for folks but we always have somebody,” Harwood said. “I just get it cool in here and they come. We all like to play music.”

Harwood busied around mainly getting his own “music” ready. He opened one of two guitar cases.

“This is a fine guitar,” he said. “It’s a Martin and plays real smooth. I bought it cause I don’t want to take this other one out to festivals. Don’t want it out in the weather.”

He opened the other case.

“Now, this is a real special guitar. I got it from Flattops and Fiddles. Don ordered it for me. It’s a Martin, too, and you won’t see a prettier guitar. It’s made of Indian rosewood. Martin & Company only made 500 of them. It’s a DVM Veteran’s Model guitar. These buttons on the neck represent the different branches of the service.

“Me? I was in the Army. World War II. Served three years in the South West Pacific. I stayed in the combat zone continuously….”

Harwood rested the DVM Veteran’s Model guitar on his lap and plucked a string or two in recalling a distant memory.

“Our port of debarkation was San Francisco,” he said. “We were headed to Australia. For a few days, the seagulls followed us but we got out so far, the seagulls turned back. I knew then I was a far way from home.”

The “line of duty” for Harwood and other “grunts” was making amphibious landings on New Guinea. He was in involved in five major landings on New Guinea and earned five bronze stars. He had his pack shot off his back, a hole shot in his helmet and his pants ripped to rags but he was one of the blessed soldiers.

“It was as bad as it gets,” he said. “Everybody was scared to death. Trying times. You didn’t know from one minute to the next what was going to happen but you knew the next minute might be your last.

“It was so bad that I didn’t have any hope of getting back home. I didn’t think I ever would.”

Harwood had reason to believe that he wouldn’t come home.

“On our first attack on New Guinea, we went in with 217 men. We came out with 29,” he said. “They sent in replacements for those men we lost and we went back with 205 men. We came out with 35. Why I was one of those … I don’t know.”

Harwood’s voice quieted almost to a whisper as he told of being in a foxhole with comrades who were riddled with bullets.

“The blood from them soaked in on me and, when it dried, my clothes were stiff with the blood and crackled when I moved,” he said. “I can still hear that sound and remember how it was – all the dying. Death all around. And, I came home from that… I was so blessed.”

Harwood said it was the prayers of his mama and daddy and the grace of God that brought him home. And it was music that brought him some measure of comfort amid the horrors of war.

“At times, they would pull us back from the combat area to get a little rest,” he said. “There was this boy from Kentucky that had a guitar and I’d play it and he’d sing. Now, that boy could really sing. There was this one song that I remember – A Cabin at the End of the Lane –something like that. It was about a mama sitting by the window in a rocking chair waiting at the end of the lane. A lot of mamas were waiting like that.”

Harwood’s attention came back to the music playing on his CD player.

“You know that song? ‘One Has My Heart the Other Has My Mind.’ That’s it. Know who’s playing? That’s Carter Rushing, Reynolds Rushing and that bunch. Good music.They could play.”

Harwood listened and identified the songs like “Sweet Bunch of Daisies” and each of the players in turn.

“That was back when we were playing out at Gussie Gibson’s,” he said. “Gussie got all this started. All of us old musicians would go out to his place every week and sit around and play. Talk. Just have a good time being together and playing music.”

After Gibson died, Harwood said he missed getting together with friends and playing music. He also missed the fellowship that comes when friends pick and grin together.

“One day I was thinking about it and thought that I could get out there and clean out the garage and everybody could come over here and play,” he said. “First, I wanted to make sure it was all right with my neighbors.”

So, for the last several years, people have come. Most of them come to play. Some come just to listen.

Some, laughingly, say they come “just to eat.”

“Alma (Bodiford) is about the best cook in the world,” said Jack Perkins of Ozark, who is a regular Wednesday night picker and singer. “She always brings something good to eat.”

On Wednesday night, the pickers had put their instruments down long enough to dip a bowl of Alma Bodiford’s made from scratch banana pudding. There was lots of chatter and plenty of laughter but it wasn’t long before someone started taking their licks and the others joined right in.

They played tune after tune. Some tunes were polished to perfection, others they “Slaughtered, didn’t we?”

Harwood had traded his guitar for the Dobro and was “sliding” right along.

“I’ve been playing a long time,” he said. “I started when I was 17. Played a lot with Clevester and Horace Senn and we were pretty good. We played on the radio and went around to different places playing. I enjoyed playing no matter where but there’s no where I’d rather play than right here in this old garage with my friends. Here … and at Gussie’s. That’s the best.”