Monday, September 29, 2008

Dueling Banjos

Each region of this great country has its own flavor and characters. It’s what makes us us. The southwest has an Hispanic influence. The Midwest if full of corn fed folks. The northeast has an immigrant Yankee twist, and the south has the country touch. Where I live is the upper edge of the south, so we’re kind of a blend, but we’re more like the folks south of us than the folks north of us. I suspect every region thinks their folks are the most colorful, and we’re no different. Around here we like to mangle the English language, give folks crazy nicknames like “Tater” and “Toots” and wear big hair. We have a lot of “characters”, or as Daddy says, “some real doozies”. I think that’s why I like Fannie Flagg’s books so much. I recognize the people in them as my neighbors, friends and relatives. Idgies, Evelyns and Daisy Fays cross my path on a regular basis, making me smile and sometimes laugh so hard I snort sweet tea through my nose. Real people are funnier than fiction. You just can’t make up people that are any more interesting than the real thing. Like the boy Papa T. went to school with whose name was Sherman Herman Isaiah Tweet so his initials were S-H-I-T. There’s Boss Thweat, the colorful moonshine runnin’ partner of Hubby’s grandpa. And there’s my Aunt Mabel who liked to faint every time she went to the funeral home and looked inside a casket…right after she had snapped a picture of the corpse. In the interest of giving you folks who live outside the fried tater belt a real sense of what it’s like here, I feel obligated to share with you a few of these characters from time to time. Today I’m going to introduce you to Vicki and Wilma. See if you don’t recognize them in someone you know.

These two ladies are pushing 70 years old, and they are on the rim of Mama’s and Daddy’s musical circle. Mama and Daddy started taking guitar and singing lessons several years ago. It’s something they always wanted to do but didn’t have the time for when they were raising us kids. In their retirement years they found the time to indulge those whims, and I think that’s pretty cool. Several of Daddy’s 16,327 relatives play instruments, too, and eventually they starting playing together. They often have potlucks at each other’s houses and jam together after dinner on a variety of guitars, banjos, mandolins and dobros. As often happens when two or more guitars are gathered, they formed a garage band (or barn band in this case) and started playing at nursing homes, senior citizen centers and Dolly’s Restaurant. Their big gig is at the Veteran’s Hospital. I jokingly referred to it as their jug band until they whipped out their instruments at the family reunion a few years ago and started to play. I dropped my tater salad and said, “Hey, that’s my mama playing guitar!” and then, “Hey, that’s my Daddy playing guitar.” The old jug band wasn’t too bad. Others must think so, too because they get invited to play at several places. While they’re on tour, they meet other musicians and singers. Vicki and Wilma are two of the singers.

Wilma has had a bit of a hard life, and it shows. Daddy says she’s rougher than a chapped alligator. It seems she’s always expecting some man in the audience to fall in love with her and sweep her off her feet. “Oh, she’s always trying to get a man fan,” says Mama. Wilma is jealous of Vicki because Vicki is just a little bit younger and sings better. Wilma is always trying to out-do Vicki. They started getting sideways when Vicki showed up at Dolly’s to sing one night in a pink cowboy hat and pink cowboy boots. Not to be outdone, Wilma found a hat and boots for the next show. Then Vicki showed up in some kind of fancy schmancy outfit, forcing Wilma to dig deep in the closet for that big red dress with shoulder pads that she thinks makes her look like Loretta Lynn. This nonsense went on for a while, much to the amusement of Mama and Daddy and their band buddies. It all came to a head when Vicki got a crowd request one night to sing Barbara Fairchild’s Teddy Bear. Well, Teddy Bear is Wilma’s favorite song, her signature song, the song that she likes to belt out best. Vicki won the crowd over, and Wilma was fit to be tied as Daddy says and has been looking for a way to settle the score ever since. She got her chance this past weekend.

Mama and Daddy went to a small town parade in a rural area not too far from here. We used to pick peaches there when I was a kid, and the people who owned the orchards owned the corner store. The store is still there. It’s the kind of place where you can buy a gallon of milk, a ring bologna sandwich and a washer for your kitchen faucet and the fellow behind the counter knows your grandpa’s name. The kind of place with a screen door and a Bunny Bread sign out front. Mama and Daddy sat in front of the store in the lawn chairs and watched the parade go by and then headed up the street to listen to live music. Lo and Behold, Miss Wilma was there singing. And Miss Vicki was not. Miss Wilma got to sing Teddy Bear to a big crowd, bigger than the crowd at Dolly’s, and was dee-lighted to get all of the attention. Mama and Daddy got a big chuckle out of the whole thing and can’t wait until the next gig to see what happens. If I hear something I’ll let cha’ know.

Ain’t that just like two women? I’ll bet no matter where you live in this great country or the world for that matter, no matter the cultural flavor of your community or way you cook your taters, you know of a similar situation. It just cracks me up that no matter how different we may appear to be on the outside, we really are alike on the inside. Some of us just like to wear our hair a little bigger.


Mia said...

My aunt and uncle had a "den band" you know where they sit around on the couch and recliner playing guitars and banjos and such. Well the other couple in the band...the wife was not musically inclined AT ALL but she sure was "easy on the eyes" as my uncle used to say. So just so she could be in the band they let her tap on a pan with little wooden spoon....oh my!!

Trailboss said...

This post is by far one of the best I have EVER read on the internet. I am proud to know you live in the same part of the 'tater country' that I live in.

I laughed so hard MY sweet tea came out of my nose!