Chapter 8

Chapter 8
from COUNTRY, a forthcoming novel
A banjo is the loudest drum strings numb.
Brother Brown played one: he’s a singer now:
real name?Marshall: I call him Brown, couldn’t
say Marshall: when I was a tot, “Marshall” came out
“Barty.” He was just enough older, a year and
seven days. An African-American lived on
“our place”: his name was Marshall Brown:
Fred Thomas Langdon lived across the field. His
nickname was “Thread.” Thread started calling
Marshall?“Brown”; when our mother walked
out on the porch to draw water from the well,
sometimes calling “Marsh…shallllll,” lingering a
yodel for that last abiding and echoing syllable,
Marshall Brown might appear; Mama started
calling her son, Marshall, “Brown”: the rest is a
restlessness, an indirect, path-o-slippery-reaching,
for Barty-Brown-William would play Daddy’s banjo, a
Leo Master, and one time, seventh grade, he played a
chapel program at Cleveland and the best
part?entertainment?turned out to be Leo Master’s
slipping bridge: Marshall would say in his
stage-voice?teacher coached him?“Seems like
my bridge wants to slip today”: how we boys
and girls in the audience giggled and sweated
too for the situation, wanting to raise him from the
moment to a position holding his years we could
hold on to: I mean the stories: Brown plays mandolin
some: started out on fiddle, a ten-dollar one we
went to Uncle Baldy’s to buy: the new naugahyde
on Daddy’s 3-quarter-ton ’37-Ford pickup
smelled up the Sunday we bounced over the dikes
down the lane to the house. Uncle Baldy’s
Grandpa William’s brother: Grandpa’s my father’s
father. Brown’s a whim-banging supremacy attired in a
brief of authority on musicians: says he’s got an
“image to uphold.” He puts it on and Image
disappears in a car, concentrating on carriage,
fictions and our disbelief: name “Marshall”
comes from Mama’s side of the family:
her father, Marshall Perry Johnson, tied a rope
around a mulberry limb there near St. Mary’s
Free Will Baptist Church, in Elevation Township,
looping part around his neck; Orby, his
wife, sent son Orron?Uncle Orron?twelve
years old, to check on him, thinking he was at the
hog-parlor: the boy saw his father dangling there:
Uncle Orron never married: I wonder about
that: Mama was six, waiting to go to school: the
year was 1913: my brother Brown’s a cranker-outer
of myths, “tells stories,” loves pawn shops: his
Mastertone Banjo? Where O where are you
tonight? At the Gold-N-Pawn? Think of these
connections: I wish I could venture into the lore
of the banjo, eschew the bad jokes, salute its ancient
lineage. “Banjar,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in
Notes on the State of Virginia: slaves
knew the difference and their descendants do,
too: maybe someone in Europe somewhere
played a “bandore” or maybe a troubadour in some
lost land crossed a drum with a set of wires and
got that sound we hear Scruggs play, that fifth
string blending in the plucked, ingenious, busy other
four: America’s popular: baseball’s big, football, and the
five-string: the four-string tenor’s especially good for
ragtime and jazz: I used to hear Uncle Dave Macon and
Grandpa Jones play their Fives when I was
knee-high to a dirt-dauber: Uncle Dave would
frail his banjo and kick that foot out,
wailing, “Lleven cent cotton, forty cent
meat, how in the world can a poor man eat!”
Macon and Jones played banjo before Bill Monroe
and the Bluegrass Boys came along; or Earl Scruggs,
Lester Flatt and the Foggy Mountain Boys;
Don Reno, Red Smiley and the Tennessee
Cut-ups; Ralph and Carter Stanley and the
Clinch Mountain Boys, and many others, including
interim, Pete Seeger during the folk-era: How the
strings fasten at the bottom of the head and
ride over that supporting bridge which provided
comedy for us in grade-school at Cleveland High!
“Bridge” is a wonderful word, isn’t it?
Country music may come and go, but the
bridge is here to stay: “Burning Bridges,” “Bridge
Over Troubled Water,” “Another Bridge to Burn”:
one of my favorite lines: “Darling, while you’re
busy burning bridges, burn one for me
if you get time.” “Does Forth Worth Ever
Cross Your Mind?” Entertain time where clusters
meet: the band-members tune their instruments: letters
rip from fans: I want to get lost in a rock?and roll: give
me beets to eat; then let me tell you “sun-thing”?you
got to have a microphone if you sing much with a banjo-picker!

0 thoughts on “Chapter 8

  1. Mmm. Vernacularly endearing–I love the redneck speak! Perhaps this is a paragraph from an actual novel set to poetic couplets. I have no problem making a poem out of an otherwise novel, short story, etc. It’s the power of form. I used to rail against that sort of thing as if I had an anal literary compliance rod stuck up my ass but you free your mind of ‘correct’ requirements and it opens up the world.
    Loved it, sir! Keep it up!
    naugahyde:”Naugahyde (sometimes abbreviated to Nauga) is an American brand of artificial leather (or “pleather” from plastic leather). Naugahyde is a composite of a knit fabric backing and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic coating. It was developed by United States Rubber Company, and is now manufactured and sold by Uniroyal Engineered Products, LLC, a privately held company. Its name, first used as a trademark in 1936,[1] comes from the Borough of Naugatuck, Connecticut, where it was first produced. Uniroyal asserts that Naugahyde is one of the most popular premium pleathers.[citation needed] Naugahyde is manufactured in Stoughton, Wisconsin.[2]” Wikipedia

Leave a Reply