Carrying a tune in a bucket

Published 8:53 pm Friday, August 6, 2021

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Every Saturday night of my young life was spent sitting at Mama’s knees listening to the Grand Ole Opry from Nashville, Tennessee.

We loved country music but Daddy said it sounded like screeching cats and howling wolves. We laughed about that, Mama and me.

Mama’s favorite singers were Marty Robbins, Johnny Cash and Kitty Wells and she liked to hear Chet Atkins play the steel guitar.

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Mama could really sing but I couldn’t carry a tune in the bucket. That’s what I heard her tell Aunt Eleanor. But, I kept on singing right along with the radio.

I liked church music and country music. I even sang in the youth choir at church.

Daddy bought us an upright piano and I learned to play from Mrs. Fox French and played in the fancy piano recital. Mrs. French served ice cream sandwiches cut in half to all our guests.

In high school, I joined the band and found my talent on the trumpet.

I was picked to play a duet of “Jimmy Crack Corn” with my friend, Betty Kay, at an assemble program. She was mad because I got to play the melody so she didn’t come to school that day and I didn’t get to make my musical stage debut.

That marked the end of my musical career until … the year, 1964.

I was working at Yellowstone National Park and found that I had a talent for playing the guitar. I could play the most popular folk songs so I decided to buy my own guitar.

On my day off work, a friend and I hiked to Billings, Montana so I could buy a guitar.

It cost $17.50 which was almost half a month’s pay but it was worth every penny. The rest of the summer, I strummed along around the campfires, at sing-alongs and all alone on a mountain top.

Back home, there was no place for a strummer so my guitar was put aside. Two years later, I was teaching at a rural school in the Florida Panhandle. One of my students expressed his want of a guitar. So, I dusted off my prized white acoustic guitar and gave it to a very appreciative young boy.

I’ve never heard Steve sing on the Grand Ole Opry or the radio. But maybe he learned to play and just sang along with his own music. Or maybe he was like me and couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket but found joy in just carrying the bucket.