Advice from a Legend

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As the fresh-faced cub reporter wound his way up the long driveway leading to the palatial home of renowned fiddler Burnell “Beau” Prater, he noted a crew of gardeners busily at work, pruning the lush topiary lining the driveway…carefully sculptured bushes in the shape of fiddles, guitars, mandolins, and doghouse basses. On a manicured expanse of lawn beyond the great house, he spied several horse trainers putting Beau Prater’s prized thoroughbreds through their paces. The young man parked in front of the massive double door, nervously combed his fingers through his hair, cleared his throat, and proceeded to lift the handle of the gold-plated door knocker, which was shaped like a fiddle. A butler opened the door, peered down at the young fellow, and, with an air of detachment, inquired “May I help you?” The reporter’s heart was racing; he was about to meet a legend! He handed his card to the butler and replied “I’m Billy Pelphrey from the Corn Holler Gazette. I have a 2:00 o’clock appointment to interview Mr. Prater for our newspaper.” The butler glanced at Billy’s card and tossed it aside, saying “Mr. Prater is expecting you.”

Billy held his breath as he took in the marble floors and crystal chandeliers that lined the opulent mirrored hallway leading to Beau Prater’s study. The great musician was leaning back in a thickly padded leather recliner. Billy held out his hand to introduce himself, but Beau impatiently waved him away and gestured for him to sit down. “So y’all have come to interview me,” he asked. “Whadda ya’ wanna know?”

“Well,” began Billy, “I’m sure our readers would be interested in knowing how you got your start in the music business.” Prater yawned as though he were bored from having told the same story to countless reporters over the years. “Ah’ve been playin’ the fiddle since ah was knee-high to a grasshopper. Mah pappy put that fiddle in mah hand when ah was a young’un, an’ he tol’ me ‘Boy, you’d best be a practicin’ that thang an’ learn how to play it real good, if’n you want a better life than what me an’ your gran’pappy’s had.’ So ah took his advice to heart an’ practiced real hard, an’ soon ah got good enough to join a bluegrass band, and that was mah ticket to success.” As if to punctuate the word “success”, Prater spat a large wad of chewing tobacco into a brass spittoon.

At this point, a stunningly beautiful young woman entered the study and asked, “Darlin’, how long you gonna be tied up with this here interview?” Beau smiled and replied, “Ah’ll be with you shortly, honey. Now you go on along.” Billy couldn’t help but ask, “Is that your daughter, Mr. Prater?” Beau winked wickedly and replied, “Now whadda you think, boy? Ah’m sure you’ve heard all about the way women flock to bluegrass musicians.” With a laugh, he added, “We call ’em ‘groupies’ in this here business. Say, can we wind up this here interview purty quick? You know ah’m a busy man.”

Billy dismissed the thought that popped into his head that Beau Prater didn’t look particularly busy. He asked another question: “Well, Mr. Prater, could you tell me what advice you would give to young folks who would like to achieve the kind of success you’ve had?” Beau answered without hesitation, “Ah’d tell ’em all to fergit about goin’ to college or any such tomfoolery. Ah’d tell ’em if they want to make millions of dollars in a short time, that bluegrass music is about the quickest way to get rich an’ still stay within’ the law!” He chuckled at his own words, exposing large gaps between his yellowed teeth.

Billy Pelphrey thought a moment, and then posed his next question. “Mr. Prater, would you say that playing bluegrass music is a great career because you can have lots of fun and make lots of friends, in addition to earning great wealth?”

Burnell “Beau” Prater, fiddler extraordinaire, stared at Billy as if the young man had just grown a second head. “Fun? Friends? What in blazes do fun an’ friends got to do with playin’ bluegrass music? Now go on back an’ write your danged article. Ah got no more time for this here interview; ah’m a busy man!” The young reporter thanked Prater for his time, and as he turned to leave, he heard the great legend muttering under his breath, “Fun playin’ bluegrass music! What kind of a crazy notion is that?”

Happy April Fools Day, folks. Looking forward to having fun playing some bluegrass music with my friends in Turlock in two weeks. Hope we can all get the time off from our day jobs.


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