OLE FIDDLER: SHUCKING CORN
by Wayne Walker - Thursday, November 8, 1973
We called him the Ole Fiddler. Back in the 20's it was a big thrill for us kids when the Ole Fiddler would pay us a visit. He rode an old grey mule, Maude, he called her, with a rheumatic gait. She seemed to kinda stagger along with the old man's weight almost too much for her to bear. I can see the Ole Fiddler now astride ol' Maude and huggin' his fiddle case across his chest like an infant in his arms.
His long, white beard waving in the breeze -- not from Maude's great speed, however, Maude could trot no faster than a man can walk. Before coming to the house the 01' Fiddler would stop and feed, water and put ol' Maude away for the night in a spare stable in the barn. With a stiff, rheumatic gait that was worse than Maude's, he'd come amblin' up the lane, still baby-totin' his fiddle. Us young'uns would dash out to meet him. We'd catch up to him and begin pullin' and tuggin' at his loose clothing for goodies like jelly beans, peppermint sticks and orange gum-drops we knew he had for us.
Teasingly, he would scold us as we felt about his person for the candy: "Git, you young'uns! I ain't got no candy this time. Git along with you now. Stop it. I say – y’all gonna make me drap my fiddle. Go on -- shoo!" We'd get the candy when inside the house and the Ole fiddler got settled down and stated that he had just come to set a spell -- that meant he'd stay all night. Carefully he would place the battered old fiddle case down beside his chair and start the conversation with little unimportant bits of news that was a stall until someone would re-quest that he play the fiddle.
In the Ole Fiddler's estimation, he was a great fiddlin' man; but alas, he could not even tune it properly, and more alas, than that, he only knew two pieces (his word for a song) -- Turkey In The Straw and - Leather Britches. , Finally us young'uns would yell for him to play the fiddle -- he gave us candy didn't he? Talkin' about fast: The Ole fiddler could quick-draw that -fiddle from the case quicker 'n -,, any wild west hired gunman could draw and smoke a 38! My daddy, Doctor Walker, was quite a fiddler in his youth and when the Ole Fiddler held his fiddle up next to his good ear and plunked those out-of-tune strings, daddy would cringe and wince like a dog being whipped.
The Ole Fiddler adjusted a string or two professionally, rosin' up the bow, and Mama, being allergic to bad fiddlin', excused herself, "to fix supper," she said and departed forthwith. After one piece, the doctor would depart forthwith. With a twinkle in his eyes, the 01' Fiddler would chin that fiddle and shout with gusto: "How'd ya'll like to hear Ole Joe Clark'?" Before anyone could answer he'd rack out with (I'm sorry to say) absolutely and positively the world's worst rendition of -- guess what? yeah, Turkey In the Straw. "Look out now! Here comes the 'Yaller Rose of Texas'!"
Shouting the Rebel yell, The Yaller Rose of Texas sounded exactly like -- you guessed it --Leather Britches. After supper, it was a repeat performance same as before supper, only more so. He must have had 40 titles for Turkey In the Straw, and 40 titles for Leather Britches! How I loved to "Watch him go," mainly because of his honest sincerity and the way he stomped his foot, off-beat and also out of time to boot. He wore brogan shoes and when he raised that right foot a foot off the floor, the crash made the floor vibrate and the sound mercifully drounded out most of his fiddlin'.
No. I ain't makin' fun of the Ole Fiddler. He put on a honest and sincere show. I was amazed at how he mesmerized himself with his own fiddlin'. He seemed to go into some kind of trance with wide open mouth, rollin’ his eyes and a lot of crazy head rollin' and shakin’. I know that somewhere in Great Beyond, the Ole Fiddler is playing up a storm out of tune fiddle and out of time stompin'. But maybe, by now, he has learned him a new piece (song) and that will add 40 more titles to his already expansive repertory.