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Maestro

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 Joseph's voice. "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 continues on.

"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 shot." "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 wrench..." "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!

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