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by Tom Carnegie
Butch is behind the retaining wall with his head down. Every
once in a while he hears a shot go off. He is surprised to hear
"Yes, that is a Sharp's repeater. I can tell from the report."
It seems strange to Butch that Joseph can tell that the report
came from a Sharp's rifle and even stranger that Joseph
would say it was a repeater. Butch recalls Joseph correcting
someone just a few days ago at the Model T Garage. This
person had said something about a Sharp's repeater and
Joseph pointed out that although Sharp's made breechloaders,
they never technically were repeaters. Butch has been
wondering who the sniper could be. Someone is up in the
bell tower in the middle of the Baton Noir Town Square firing
a rifle. All the citizens are hiding behind fences and
bushes and such. As if Joseph is reading Butch's thoughts, he
"It is Pete the Firehorse. He is up in the tower shooting at
people with a Sharp's repeater."
Butch can't imagine how Pete could fire a rifle, much less
load the thing. But it is enough to know that it is happening,
never mind how. At any rate, Butch feels somewhat safe behind
this wall. Now up the road a few blocks he sees a pair
of tigers running toward him. As the tigers approach, people
are panicking and being flushed out of their hiding spots.
Pete is still in the tower, shooting as fast as he can reload.
The tigers are coming straight for Butch and he doesn't know
what to do. He looks around and sees his mother standing
near him with her apron on and her hands on her hips.
"Ma, what should I do?"
Butch doesn't remember saying this out loud, but just the
same his mother answers him.
"Butch! Butch! You'd better get up 'cause Hayes and Jesse
need their instruments!"
Butch rubs his eyes as he awakens from this strange dream.
His mother yells a few more times and Butch finally answers.
There is a fiddle contest in Walleye today. Hayes and Jesse
have been out of town and rather than come all the way back
to Baton Noir, they have arranged to have Butch deliver their
guitar and fiddle to Walleye. Jesse enters most any fiddle
contest he can in this area, but was planning to skip this one.
He would have, except for an encounter he had a week or so
ago with Maestro, at the Model T Garage. As Butch gets
dressed, he recalls this encounter.
Maestro can tune a violin but comes to the Model T Garage
to get his model T tuned. Maestro, as he is known in Baton
Noir, is concertmaster of the community orchestra. On one
such day when Maestro needed his T tuned he found Jesse
fiddling during his noon break.
"Mr. Olson, you have a fine touch on your violin. Do you
play anything besides hillbilly music?"
"I don't know." Replied Jesse. I don't play notes, I just fiddle."
"I'll tell you what," said Maestro "why don't you come and
listen to our orchestra rehearse Wednesday night. You may
be inspired to learn to read music."
"I'll make you a deal Maestro, you enter the fiddle contest
weekend after next in Walleye and I'll give your orchestra a
"You're on! In fact, if I don't win the contest, I'll give you
free lessons so you can learn to read music. I just need to
know how these fiddle contests operate."
Jesse explains, "They go in several rounds. Usually three,
sometimes more if there is a tie. Each round more fiddlers
are cut. The rounds are scored on such things as tone, timing,
danceability, that sort of thing.
Each fiddler goes onto the stage and plays three tunes.
The first is a hoedown. The
second is a waltz, and third is a tune of choice, which is usually
a jig or schottische. The judges are behind a curtain so
they supposedly don't know who is playing. In actual fact
most of the judges know who it is after about the third note.
The judges score each round and the points are carried over
from each round."
"All right," says Maestro, "I will go home and look through
some of my music and become a fiddler by next weekend."
With that, Jesse felt committed to entering the contest.
After breakfast Butch heads over to pick up Joseph to give
him a ride to the Model T Garage. Butch had borrowed the
battery out of Joseph's centerdoor, in fact he had borrowed
every battery he could find, a total of six, which he wired in
series, so that he could recharge his mag using the thirty-six
volts produced. Since Butch had decommissioned Joseph's
car, he was now Joseph's taxi driver. The mag charging had
been successful so Butch can now return the six batteries to
their rightful places.
When Butch arrives at Joseph's house, Joseph is ready. Into
Butch's T roadster and off they go. After about a mile as
Butch is shifting from low to high the car makes a clunk and
suddenly swerves. Butch struggles for control as he pulls up
on the throttle. The pedals are all askew and the emergency
brake lever can't be pulled back. Joseph reaches down and
turns the key off on the coil box. The T lurches to a halt.
"I think one of your pan ears has broken, Butch"
"Oh man! If I have to walk to Model T Garage, then tow this
thing back, I'm gonna be late delivering the instruments.
That is, assuming I can find a car to borrow to drive to Walleye."
Joseph jumps out and begins to survey the situation.
"What do you have in your tool box Butch? Maybe we can
effect repairs so we don't have to walk."
Butch opens his running board box and takes inventory.
"I have a jack, a c-clamp, a rat-tail file, a monkey
"And a green bottle." Joseph says this as he holds up a soda
pop bottle he has found along the road.
Joseph studies the situation for a few more minutes then says,
"With these batteries and the things in your tool box, I think I
can get us to the Model T Garage."
Joseph places the jack underneath the pan and jacks the arm
as close as he can to being in place. He then takes one of the
cables from the six batteries and clamps it to the frame with
the c-clamp. He sticks the rat-tail file through the other cable,
handle end out. Now he looks through the pop bottle
and begins to weld the arm back together using the file handle
as an electrode. It isn't a pretty weld, but it holds long
enough to get them to the Model T Garage. Joseph offers
Butch the use of his centerdoor for the trip to Walleye.
Butch is glad that Joseph isn't still mad at him. A couple of
months ago Joseph asked Butch to tighten the rods on his T.
Joseph told Butch to mark everything with a chisel as he took
it apart. One mark for rod number one, two marks for rod
two and so on. Butch dutifully marked all the rods, all the
caps, the pistons and all four rod-journals. It was this last
part that upset Joseph. Not only were the chisel marks bad
for the crank, but how did he suppose that he would get the
rod throws mixed up? It was Butch's lack of thought that
disappointed Joseph more than anything else about the situation.
Butch polished out the marks as best he could and the
car has been running fine so far since then.
Butch carries the guitar and fiddle out to the car. He sets the
fiddle on top and opens the driver's side door. When he sets
the guitar on the back seat he realizes that he has forgotten to
replace the battery. He runs back and gets the battery and
installs it. He then gets in through the passenger door. Butch
has driven Joseph's centerdoor a few times and finds it easier
to get into the driver seat by entering on the passenger side
and folding up the passenger seat and climbing behind the
wheel. Off to Walleye he goes!
Butch doesn't know if people think he is Joseph or are just extra
friendly today. It seems that every driver either sounds
their horn or waves, some in a rather dramatic fashion. Joseph
must have a lot of friends in this town. The road to Walleye is
a winding mountain road, but Butch is making good time. He
passes a Buick heading in the opposite direction just as they
are rounding Corpse Corner. This causes Butch to take the
corner sharper than he normally would, as he couldn't cheat
toward the center of the road as he is prone to do. A little
while after this Butch notices the same Buick approaching him
from behind. The Buick is traveling too fast to be safe on this
road. The driver pulls right onto Butch's tail and begins to
blow his horn. Butch decides that this guy must be crazy, so
he slows down to let him pass. The Buick goes around him
then stops and blocks the road. A man gets out and approaches Butch.
"Hey, that ukulele that you had on top of your car fell off on
Corpse Corner. I saw it go over the edge."
The man heads back to his car and begins to turn the Buick
around. Butch turns the centerdoor around too and heads back
to Corpse Corner. There is a sinking feeling in Butch's stomach
as he realizes that he had left Jesse's fiddle on the roof of
the car. After riding up there for quite some time, it finally fell
off when he made the hard corner. When he gets back to the
corner he parks the car and carefully looks over the bank.
There 30 or 40 feet down he sees the case. It is still closed.
That might be a good sign. He climbs down and retrieves it.
When he opens the case his heart sinks. The neck of the fiddle
has snapped completely off. Butch just feels sick as he continues
the trip into Walleye. When he shows up at the grange
hall, Jesse, Hayes and Maestro are already there. Without a
word Butch shows the fiddle to Jesse. Jesse is quiet for several
seconds. His mouth moves a couple of times as if he is about
to say something. When he finally speaks he is philosophical.
"Well I guess I'm not going to enter this contest."
"I'm sure the neck can be repaired." Says Maestro. "I'll tell
you what, we both can use my violin in the contest."
Jesse is upset at the situation, but decides to take Maestro up
on his offer. Jesse considers it an honor to be allowed to play
on Maestro's fine, fine instrument.
The first round of the fiddle contest seems to go well for both
Maestro and Jesse. Hayes accompanies both of them, and
several others in the contest on guitar. After the first round's
scores are tabulated, both Maestro and Jesse make the cut to
the second round. It seems curious to Maestro that Jesse is in
first place and he is in fourth. Maestro asks Jesse why this
might be and Jesse explains that although his playing may be
technically very good, the style or "feel" is not right. Maestro
is a quick study and decides to adapt his style for the
next round. He listens very carefully to the other fiddlers as
they warm up, and especially to Jesse. He then adapts his
playing to match that of the other fiddlers. The gambit seems
to work. After round two Jesse is first and Maestro is second.
For round three Maestro has decided to out-Jesse Jesse.
In the nest round, Jesse plays before Maestro. As Jesse
plays, Maestro listens very intently. When it is his turn to
play, Maestro plays the exact same tunes in almost the exact
same manner as Jesse. The difference is that even though
they are playing on the same instrument, Maestro has better
tone and intonation. When the final scores are tabulated
Maestro is declared the winner. Jesse is not too disappointed.
In fact he is rather impressed by Maestro's amazing
ability to imitate him, as are most of the other fiddlers.
It is now two weeks since the contest. Jesse's fiddle has been
fixed. It is now a violin though. Jesse is now playing in the
Community Orchestra and for a while at least, Maestro is
giving him lessons. For free no less!