One or two blogs ago I told the story of my banjo odyssey, looking at the instruments that had come into and gone out of my life over the last 40 years.
There’s a postscript to this story, and an odd moment of symmetry that adds depth to the tale of my banjos, at least for me.
My two Rhodesian Ridgeback hounds, Tess and Casey, live to ripe old ages, 15 and 13 respectively. A year before they passed on -- sometime in 2006 or so -- on we added a little Ridgeback to our family, Lily. She enlivened things for my old hounds and gave them each the chance to teach a pup how to be a dog. Tess and Casey passed on in 2007 within 6 or 8 months of each other.
As I noted, in 2006 I asked Jeff Kramer to build me a Cloverlick Piney Woods model. Jeff likes to name his banjos, or he did at that time, and I asked that the banjo be christened “Lily,” because it seemed like a good match – Lily was a new start for me with a pup brand new to the herd, and the Cloverlick was my first banjo built to spec by an artisan banjo maker.
Lily grew up around my daughter Anna who, with her husband Peter, moved in with us after Peter returned from his tour of duty with the USMC in Iraq. Lily became very fond of my daughter Anna’s hound, Rocky. They ended up being inseparable for about two years. Then Anna and Peter bought a house and moved out of northern VA sometime in 2009.
Lily was inconsolable. Morose. By the time I retired in late 2010 and we moved to Staunton, Lily was really pretty depressed. She’d get all happy when a hound the size and color of Rocky appeared in the neighborhood, but quickly resumed moping around when she realized that the dog was not Rocky. She really missed her best bud.
So we decided to ask Anna to take Lily, then 4 years old, since Anna was looking around for a companion hound for Rocky anyway. It worked out marvelously for everyone, though for me the separation process was a difficult decision – but in the end, it made Lily and Rocky happy, and Anna was a good “Mom” to my Lily.
Sometime in late January 2014 I decided it was time to sell the Cloverlick. The wide neck was harder and harder to play for my aging left hand. I was trending toward smaller pots, and playing very differently than when I asked Jeff to build me “The Lily.” So I sold it off with Jeff’s help.
My little pup is now grown up. Lily is now about 8 or 9 years old, and still living with Anna, Peter, and Rocky – and now a little stray put Jax makes it a threesome. In early February 2014, a few days after I did the deal to sell the banjo, my daughter called me to tell me that Lily had been diagnosed as having a form of epilepsy, and needed some serious big time prescription drugs to manage the condition. Having just sold “The Lily,” I was able to put that money in Anna’s hands and help pay for Lily’s medical exams and her Rx.
That helped make sense of the decision to sell a banjo I deeply loved and enjoyed playing for many years – The Lily had been with me the longest of any of the many banjos that I have had in my arsenal. Passing her along like I did, and being able to help out with my pup Lily’s care made this banjo moment seem right to me.