Assignment Day 3: Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?
Memorable Music Part 1
(because I may add to this at a later date.)
There are three songs from my childhood that stand out above the others: She’ll be coming around the mountain, Tumbling Tumbleweed, and Mockingbird hill.
My Grandpa Stuart could play any instrument—any. I only met one other person in my life that could do that. Extraordinary musicians. Grandpa once played violin for the great Caruso. In later years, he had two bands, Tommy Stuart’s Lucky 5 and The Sagebrush Ramblers. He also had his own radio program on KTFI Twin Falls, Idaho.
There is a whisper in the back of my mind that recalls him on his banjo playing She’ll be coming around the mountain when she comes—when she comes. . . . But the fun of the song really begins with the chorus, which, in grandpa’s case, began with what some call another song:
“Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah. Someone’s in the kitchen I know oh oh oh. Someone’s in the kitchen with Dinah, strumming on the ol’ banjo.”
And that’s when grandpa would really start to give a show. He’d begin real slow, as folks sang, “Fee fi fiddley I owe.” And the momentum would increase. “Fee fie fiddley I owe oh oh oh Fee Fie Fiddley I ohOOH! Strummin on the ol’ banjo.” They’d repeat this chorus faster and faster and faster and grandpa’s fingers would fly over that banjo like lightning storms on a hot western night.
Not knowing any better, I stepped on his banjo one time and busted it. I must have been a little over a year old. There were a bunch of people over and he’d just set his banjo down on the floor to take a break. I’d been dancing—well, baby dancing—feeling good about my ability to stand up, take some steps, and stomp my feet. Everyone was giving me a lot of attention. I just hadn’t quite finished stomping when Grandpa laid his banjo down. Timing is everything and I didn’t have the hang of that whatsoever.
Instantly, the whole room gasped and became silent. Faces smiling seconds ago were horrified and they were all looking at me. I don’t recall getting spanked or being yelled at. I don’t think that happened. My grandparents continued to love me, bless their souls. However, I’ve never forgotten that terrible feeling of being the center of attention for all the wrong reasons and those awful expressions. Small wonder I’ve suffered from stage fright ever since. Posting something I’ve painted or typed up is even scary.
Mockingbird Hill by the Pine Toppers reminds me of staying with Grandma and Grandpa Stuart. I’d wake up on summer mornings and gather the eggs from the chicken coop in the backyard. The backyard also held grandpas sawmill a garden full of ripe tomatoes and corn, and a peach orchard. There was a bird that would sit on a fencepost in the back of their peach orchard near the irrigation ditch every morning as I gathered the eggs. It would sing, and I just knew that was the Mockingbird of that sweet song.
My other grandparents were no strangers to music. Although grandma preferred playing Boogie Woogie on her piano, she and Grandpa Williams enjoyed all the cowboy songs and I learned them all. I admit my favorite song remains Tumbling Tumbleweed by the Sons of the Pioneers. I like a lot of their songs, especially Cool Water, but the Tumbleweed song is my favorite. My dad grew up with this music of course, and he would often sing them. Daddy had a crooner’s voice.
The lonesome melancholy of vast prairies and simple lives touches a place in my heart with something much more than nostalgia. It’s tangible and real and connected, as if my emotions recall things inherited from places visited in the real lives of yesteryear. Not in a reincarnation-type of way, but inherited. These songs are a part of my heritage.
Happy Trails to everyone!