Welcome to Skippin' Rocks

I originally Started a blog to run off at the mind on politics, hopefully witty and humorous ramblings, and just random thoughts. But, I'll make a new one for that and stick to short stories here. I hope you liked what you've read so far.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Music Faded and the Dance Ended --- Part 6 (Home Brew)

The weekends off were great. I did my best at making up for lost time with my high school friends.

Dave, Rick, Craig and I were either fishin, huntin. Dirt biking, or just down on the Luckiamute, skippin’ rocks.

Music was still very much a part of my life. Pat and I were best friends and I continued to hang out at his place and play the guitar and bass. There came a point when the student was teaching the teacher. We would take our guitars to backyard gatherings like BBQs and birthday parties and on occasion, we’d be over at Beau’s playing bluegrass.

I really loved the down home feel of bluegrass music. I went ahead and bought a banjo from Ray down at Music West and set about learning some songs. Pat, of course, could pick a little banjo and taught me how to play ‘Cripple Creek’, ‘The Ballad of Jed Clampet’, and ‘Dueling Banjos’. I never took the time to go further with the banjo, but I did have one fantastic experience playing those three songs.

Craig was in the drama class in our senior year. Rick and Dave and I gave him so much crap about that, too. “Whatcha takin’ next semester, Craig, --sewing –knitting? Hahahaha.”


Craig enjoyed his drama class and somehow roped me into playing a bit part in the senior play. The play was called “Hillbilly Weddin’,” and the only reason they wanted me in the play was to have me pick the banjo just before the last act.

There was an underclassman that played a real kick-ass bluegrass acoustic. His family had cut some albums and they were very good. I had to demand he play with me in order for me to even attempt this thing. I got my way, and Jim played backup for me.

Randy was a senior along with me and was a part of that trio, playing rhythm guitar. Randy didn’t quite fit with the feel of the music but he was there just the same. His folks bought him a new Martin D35 acoustic guitar with mother-of-pearl inlay. My God! That was a beautiful box. The solid spruce top was flawless and the solid rosewood on the sides and back were among the most stunning pieces of wood I’d ever seen. That guitar sang sweet music!

I don’t know whatever became of that guitar, but I do know what became of Randy. He parked his car one day, wondered out into the woods, and shot himself in the head.

I was terrified to sit on that stage with the spotlight right on me. Jim sat next to me and Randy was on the other side of him. There were nearly a thousand people in the bleachers and on chairs in the school gymnasium. With the lighting set the way it was, all I could see were the first two rows. The microphone must have been three feet away and behind it was a video camera. The pressure was intense. I was trembling on the inside like an earthquake.

I had chosen my own words carefully and practiced them for days. My voice quivered on that first line, but then the sound system was so high quality that it helped me relax. I finished the introduction to the song and we kicked-it-in with ‘Dueling Banjos.’ When Jim and I got to the pickin’ part of the song, I could see the folks stomping their feet and clapping their hands to the music. A feeling of euphoria rushed through my body and washed all of my timidity away.

It was just a twenty minute gig and I had great fun doing it. When we finished and the crowd applauded, --I can’t even begin to describe the thrill I felt. I rode on that high for days.

When I told Pat about it, he smiled big with pride. He couldn’t have been happier for me. I also think he was a bit jealous.

When God puts a golden nugget in your mouth and says, “Go forth and use my gift,” you ought not spit it out.

Pat missed the lime lights and the folks. I sensed his yearning; and it nagged at him more than Sharlene ever could.


Rick, Craig, Dave and I graduated high school and Dave went on to college. He worked odd jobs on weekends to help himself through. He went to work for a logging company doing fire watch. Basically, he would go out to the operation after the loggers went home and stay the night to make sure that no rouge spark from a chainsaw smoldered in the underbrush and caught fire. He had access to a radio and a fire truck (just in case).

He would also stay from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. It gave him a lot of time for study, but the loneliness and boredom sets in rather quickly.

He called me up on the phone one day and asked me if I’d spend the weekend with him. Nobody wants to be out amongst the cougars, bears, and Sasquatch; who wants to die alone? I figured, "sure, why not?"

Dave brought a book for me to read while he was hitting the books for school. He’d already finished it and wanted me to check it out. It was called, ‘How to Make ESP work For You.’ It was an easy read and I got through it in no time. Dave and I thought, ‘why not give this a shot?’

Now, I pride myself on having fairly decent reading comprehension skills, so I must’ve missed something in there. Danged if that stuff didn’t work at all! I tried and tried to have an out-of-body experience, but for some reason, it just didn’t happen. Monday morning came around and Dave drove me home.

We rounded the corner before my place and I couldn’t believe what I saw. There were four-foot flames dancing on the embers of what used to be the home I’d spent my whole life in.

Everybody was safe, but very little was saved. The old house went up like a match. I lost my acoustic guitar, my electric, and my banjo. One of Pat’s guitars was also a casualty, and Rick lost his set of drums. My bass, amp, and some other stuff had been up at Pat’s; so it wasn’t a total loss.

I had gone to work for Brothers Builders (the guys that built Beau’s house) and learned to frame houses. We built custom houses, and a lot of love went into that work. We cut every board down the 1/64 of an inch and we hammered every nail by hand. I enjoyed it and looked forward to going to work everday.

I drove an old 68 Ford Falcon with a 6 cylinder engine and three-on-the-tree. It had a bad clutch and there was a blown exhaust manifold gasket on it; so it sounded like hell, drove like hell, but it always started and got me back and forth to work.

I’d been looking forward to payday because I was in a position to put some of my paycheck toward a hollow-bodied electric guitar.

After work I chugged into Ray’s parking lot. I went into the store to see if Ray might have a decent used hollow-body.

Ray was behind the counter doing paperwork. He gave his usual greeting as I approached him. I told him about the house-fire and said I was there to see what he had in the way of a used guitar. Ray came out from behind the counter with a grin; and we headed for the guitar racks.

The racks were set up with the electrics on the top and the acoustics on the bottom. The used guitars were on the left and the new guitars went from cheap the more expensive, from left to right. I headed for the left side and Ray went straight for the right end.

He pulled a guitar from the wall and said, “Charley, I just got this in today and you really have to see it!”

I’m the kind of guy that admires beautiful things; so I went over to take a look. He held in his hands, a brand new Gibson ES335TD with a walnut finish. I didn’t know whether to take into my hands or bow before it. It was gorgeous!

When I wrapped my left hand around the neck of that guitar I knew I was holding something special. It was like taking a bite out of the sweetest, juiciest, shiniest, red delicious apple you’ve ever seen. I looked at the price tag and handed it back to Ray, and said, “Ray, I can’t afford something like this!”

I’d done all my business with Ray for many years I’d bought two basses, three guitars, two amps, and a banjo. Ray had a ledger that kept track of my payments over the years. He still had it although, at the time, I owed him nothing. Ray said, “Sure you can! What did you figure on spending on a used one?”

I said,“Between a hundred and a hundred fifty, I suppose.”

He said, “Charley, your credit’s good here. I’ll write this down on the ledger, you just write a check for a hundred dollars, and you can owe me six-hundred fifty. – and I’ll go get the case.”

I walked out of that store feeling as though I’d just taken out a 15 year mortgage with an ARM. I was ecstatic on one hand and was scared s**tless on the other.

I snuggled that guitar up to me in the seat of my ole car and grinned ear-to-ear all the way home. On the way home, I was thinking to myself, “wait ‘till you see this, Pat!”

I got home and called Pat right away. “Hey! I got something to show you! –you busy?”

PAT: “naw, just come on up; you know you’re always welcome. Besides, it’s been a while, and I’ve been wanting to talk with you.”

“okee doke, I’ll be up in a minute.”

I was in a hurry so I stopped my old falcon about 50 feet from Pat’s gate. I put the car into first gear and dropped the clutch; and that worn out old clutch plate allowed my car to creep along on its own.

The car started to chug its way toward the gate. I ran to the gate, opened it, and my car, chuggity-chug --chuggity-chugged, its way through gate by itself.

Once the car was in clear of the gate, I hustled to get it closed and locked, then ran to catch up with the car. I then, raced up to the house.

I couldn’t wait to open up that case. When I did, Pat’s jaw hit the floor. It was almost as though there were beams of divine light emanating from the case.

Pat pulled the guitar out of the case and wrapped his hand around that neck, and felt the same rush I got over at Ray’s.

That guitar was as quality as quality gets. It was the type of guitar that can make a mediocre guitar player good, and a good guitar player, a musician.

We broke into song after song and loved it. Pat set there for a moment, staring into space, then turned to me and said, “Chazzly! I can do this!” I just smiled real big.

We smiled at each other then looked at Sharlene, she looked back at us, and we looked at each other, then back at Sharlene, (who, by the way, had a look of surrender on her face.) --I said, “I’ll call Rick tomorrow” and Pat said, “I’ll call Chuck at the Eagles, to see if has any openings.

Pat cased up my guitar and handed it to me. I took it from his hands and then made an appropriate decision.

“You know what Pat? I think this beauty is safer up here with you; besides, you need to practice on your lead licks; --if I want to play it, --I know where it’s at.”

He smiled a big smile and then kissed Sharlene. I noticed him reopening the case as I was headed out the door for home.

When the three of us got together at my folks place to practice for the first time; we knew, on-the-spot our polish was still there. We weren’t worried about the job.

Now all we needed was a name and a logo (eh, and a PA system). We kicked around some ideas for our band name and nothing was ‘floating our boat.’ Then my dad suggested, “Peter Payne and the Shots.”

I giggled my butt off, but Pat stood there with a ‘not too impressed look on his face.’ He was an ex Navy man and probably had some painful memories that cut a little too close to home. I doubt it, but who knows?

Brevity is the soul of wit, and I liked the idea of a one-to-two word name that would reflect our music and our lives. Our music had a down-home feel, and my dad was brewing home-brewed beer, at the time. Pat had a still cooking in the old house on his ranch.

“How about if we call ourselves ‘Home Brew’” I asked. --It was a fit with all of us! I drew up a logo later that night.

We went to Ray and worked a deal on a PA system; then went to the lodge to set up our equipment. That first Friday night, we played our hearts out.

We were home. Home Brew


aA said...

Very VERY good! You have some classic lines in here, bro!

I don't see any digressions; you chased a couple of rabbits, but there was some meat on them!

HOME BREW...smooth!

aA said...


I need more.

Who do you think you are waiting so long? Me?

Diane said...

good stuff chazz