Sherry & I are not big landowners. We have one and one-quarter acres. And you should see where we live. We have this place loaded up with all the things we like. We have a rose garden, fruit trees, and flowerbeds. Our Rhode Island Red hens are happy in their big fenced-in area. There are a lot of things for the grandbabies to play with when they come. That oak tree out front sports 2 tire swings, and that’s generally where they head first. My girl and I can get us a cup of coffee and sit on the park bench out in the front yard. If we want, we can sit on the swing in the rose garden, or the bench under the grape vines. Or we might just stroll around the property.
But alas, my shop is on the same property as our home. I was talking with a kindly old gentleman who was a Volkswagen mechanic. His house and shop were on the same property. I told him I had the same sort of arrangement. He told me I would live to see the day when I would be sorry my shop and house were so close to each other. He told me that even when he closes, people come knocking on his door. Day and night and even on Sundays, he never gets a break. At the time, my business was so embryonic I couldn’t wait to experience what he was talking about. Well, I have lived to see that day. February will make 17 years that I have been building and repairing. It is an absolute struggle to ever get any alone time with my girl. We like being here, but the phone doesn’t stop ringing, and I can’t bring myself to ignore it. There is always something in the shop needing to be done, and I can’t get it out of my mind. Folks are coming by and there are email responses to be made. So the only thing to do is get out of town.
One day, she asked if I wanted to go to Ferriday. Right away I started into my big whining act. I didn’t want to go there. I had heard of the town, but never heard of anything real eventful. Well, being the kind of person she is, she had already guessed that I would resist. As soon as I started making excuses, she told me, “They have a Music Museum.” “Really?” And I was hooked. I won’t get into the details. You can go see it yourself. All I’ll tell you is that it is about the great singers and musicians from Louisiana. And we have a lot of them to our credit. I was unhappy that they didn’t mention Tony Joe White, and very happy that they didn’t mention Brittany Spears.
When Sherry got ready for us to go to Clarksdale, MS, I was in the truck blowing the horn and telling her to hurry up. Man, oh man! That place has it all. I don’t exactly know how this fits together, but I love the Mennonites and Blues Music. Well gosh dog! They got a Mennonite bakery, and more blues music than you can take in. And you guessed it! They have the Delta Blues Museum. That thing was fun and educational. It was so completely stuffed full of old guitars of different descriptions. I had heard of John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, and Muddy Waters. But it’s amazing how little I actually knew about them before I went through that museum. And Sherry and I don’t rush through a museum. We stand there and read everything that can be read.
Then a guy from the Netherlands had a place down town in Clarksdale. It was a Rock & Roll and Blues Museum. I guess we spent about 4 hours there. When we left, we knew we had only scratched the surface. I guess it would take going everyday for at least a month to get a good grasp on all that he had. The owner stayed out of the way, but would answer any questions we had. And that old boy knew some stuff.
The years have kind of snuck up on me. I’m amazed that I have been able to build stringed instruments for a living. In the back of my mind there were lots of doubts. I thought I might not actually be able to understand the laws of physics that make an acoustic guitar work. Maybe nobody would like the way I built. The hard times might make me abandon the dream. Now that I’m closing in on 2 decades of building, it has occurred to me that I need to organize something to leave behind. C.F. Martin IV said in the early years they didn’t know they would endure and be so well liked. Finally one day, they saw the need for a museum. He said they never held any instruments back, so they had to go out into the public and buy back some of their instruments.
Knowing what the folks at Martin Guitars did has caused me to remember to hold something back. I have made sure to build as many instruments for my family as they want. I know they won’t ever sell them off, so they will remain as a body of work. Also, I have built myself a lot of instruments. Contrary to common belief, I don’t sit around all day sipping coffee and picking a guitar. I’m so busy building and repairing for others that there is not much time left for me. My personal instruments are going to be in almost mint condition.
I really would like to be remembered after I’m gone. And I want to be remembered in a way that is as complete and honest as possible. I think I should not leave it to others to do, so I have been making preparations myself. Now, my life is not defined by the way I make a living. I am defined by my walk with Jesus, and the way I love my family. Still, my job is a part of me, and I want it to be known after I’m gone. I hope my grandchildren and great grandchildren, and so on will like enough of what they heard about me to say that they are proud to be related to me.
Makin’ sawdust & Diggin’ the music