Banjo Man

Banjo Man

Sometimes the most beautiful things in the world are never heard or seen by other humans. There are rare times, when you stumble across them accidentally and they are so fleeting and unique that they can never be replicated.

I have written many times about my Grandfather, and how as a child I used to sit on the porch of his old house and watch and listen as he played his banjo. It’s one of my best memories.

The other day, one day this week, I was walking my regular route through town. It takes me past one of the town’s unusual resident’s house. He’s a man a little older than me who lives up on the hill behind the ballpark. He’s different. I was rounding the curve in the hill when I heard it…the banjo playing. But it was not just ANY old banjo playing. This was the Flat and Scruggs kind of banjo playing. This was blue grass roots. This was great playing. This playing made the leaves swirl in little circles in the air, and the needles of the pines lean in closer to hear.

At first I thought it was a professional recording, but then realized it was coming from the little white house on the hill with the name “Earp” on the mailbox. It was somebody playing live. Probably…most probably it was V.W. Earp, that different little man who lives there alone. I stopped there and eavesdropped on this playing. I don’t know what song it was. It didn’t matter. It was heavenly. Complicated, fast. The type of playing you wish you could do if you were a pro. I moved on reluctantly after five minutes, finishing my walk. I shook my head in wonder at the savant like talent of this man.

I had seen some of the other things he had done in the past. My good trade day friend, one of the Webb twins, (I can’t remember if it was Ronald or Donald) showed me a design that V.W. had drawn. It was a complicated and quite logical drawing of how to stop the flooding on the Chattooga River. I guess V.W. had given this to him some time back. It looked like something that Leonardo da Vinci might have done. It was a crude, but at the same time a simple and brilliant plan. Of course, nobody took it seriously. I wonder if it would have worked.

I think the Webb boys have a weekly “shack picking and playing” session somewhere, (don’t know for sure…never been invited to come!) I hope V.W. shows up there sometimes. It would be a shame for nobody else to ever hear that gorgeous music. I wonder if he has many friends. I see him out and about his house with his little white dog following him and I throw up my hand and say “hey” I’ve run into him at the local grocery store and talked with him for a few minutes at a time. Conversations which are strange and disjointed, but at the same time very interesting.

I marvel at people like this. I knew Mr. Earp was an unusual man. I grew up around him and his brother and I knew his father, but I can’t begin to comprehend this person. This outlandish “character” who on the outside is so incomprehensible to “normal” people, but who on the inside is such a talent and has such a tremendous intellect. A person who because of his eccentricities has a problem finding outlets for his talents, which will fit nicely into our societal norms. If you act a little different no matter if you cannot help it, it’s hard for people to take you seriously sometimes. There’s no doubt about it. Nowadays in schools perhaps things would develop differently. Back in our day in school… There just weren’t things available.

I’m glad I know this man and I’m glad I took that five minutes to listen to his music. I will always remember it.

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