The Bluegrass Adventures of Elderman

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When he was born, his parents named him, “Elderman.” That was his full name. He never knew his parents’ name, because by the time he began to wonder about that, his parents had passed on. They lived deep in the mountains of the Ozarks, where no records of that sort were kept by anyone around them.

His parents were considered seniors when he was born. Ten years prior to the birth, his father became intensely interested in Abraham (from the Bible), which some of the neighbors reasoned was the motivation for what transpired between his mother and father during their “golden years.” For his parents, the years from their birth to where they were now, as seniors, flew by very quickly. In fact, for them it was almost as if they had never been young.

So his parents figured that their son would have the same perception of time as they did (they had read an article in “The Mountain Science Quarterly” that focused on genetic transmitting). They thought, “Why give him a first or middle name, when he’ll soon realize that he is elderly. Why bother with that? It will make his way in life easier.” As he entered the age of reason (his), Elderman just accepted it.

As a younger man, Elderman saw a movie in which there was a young man on the front porch of his house playing a banjo. The banjo player, in fact, was playing a kind of musical duel with a guitar player who was standing in the front yard. Elderman couldn’t remember the exact name of the movie. “Defiance,” “Remembrance,” “Delivering,” or something like that. After all, it was over 40 years ago that he saw that movie. In any case, Elderman walked away from the movie with a keen, overwhelming, insatiable desire to learn how to play the 5-string banjo. He continued to have an intense interest in fulfilling this desire, not unlike his father’s interest in Abraham.

As the years went by, Elderman worked full time in various kinds of jobs. He liked most of them. They were steady jobs, that didn’t pay a great deal, but it was enough. Before he knew it, he had retired from his last job, which lasted thirty years. A job that landed him a good health care plan. He realized he was fortunate. All the time he was working, he continued to play and learn new things on the banjo. He only played part time, when he could, because he worked full time.

He wasn’t a great player, say like Bela Fleck, but his friends described him as, “A decent banjo player.” That meant he played gigs in restaurants and pubs, at parties, wedding receptions, wakes, fertility rites, foot races, and things like that without being asked to leave. He even played in a few bluegrass bands along his musical journey (members of the bands never gave up their day jobs).

When he retired, he played his banjo more. Sometimes two or three times a day. One summer he traveled around this good country of ours, going from town to town giving free banjo lessons to anyone who wanted them. He’d go to a grange hall meeting, a church, or a musical gathering and announce, “I’m giving free banjo lessons to anyone who isn’t as good as I am.” If he were needed, he’d stay in town for a week, giving lessons to young and elderly, alike. One time, for three days, he contemplated changing his name to, “Johnny Banjo Seed,” but disregarded it when he discovered a book that had 3,000 banjo jokes in it. That’s one thing he did when he retired.

The other thing he did was to enroll in some political science classes. He always wanted to do that, but when he was working full-time he didn’t have the motivation at the end of the day. Anyhow, he got so interested that he eventually earned an A.A. Degree in Political Science at his local college. His completion of the degree reaffirmed his belief that, “It’s never too late to become what you might have been.”

Soon after graduating, Elderman thought that he would try to translate what he had learned to the real world. At least to his world. He thought and thought on this idea, and finally decided on trying to match up political science and banjos. It wasn’t like he came to this decision overnight, or through any kind of conscious reasoning. The idea suddenly came to him, in a flash, when he went for a walk while at a music festival near Yosemite National Park. He was walking through a cow pasture, got lost, and while holding down a barbed wire fence to step over it he realized, too late, that it carried a low dose of electricity. That was the precise moment in time and space when what to do became incredibly clear.

Elderman thought of as many categories as he could that had political implications, and then he tried to relate banjos to each one. When he felt he was successful in making a match, he would reward himself by eating a piece of dark chocolate candy. Sugarless candy, that is. However, he didn’t read the information on the candy wrapper which informed readers (in fine print) that the candy was sweetened with sugar alcohol, and the consumption of more than one or two pieces had a laxative effect. At one point in his efforts to match political science and banjos, in what he considered to be a stroke of genius, he matched eight categories within fifteen minutes, and rewarded himself with eight pieces of the candy. He suffered the consequences. Nevertheless, here is what he came up with for his analysis.

You have two banjos, your neighbor has none, and you’re feeling guilty for being successful. You could be a DEMOCRAT. So, you advocate for higher taxes so the government can provide banjos for everyone.

You have two banjos, your neighbor has none, and you say to yourself, “Let them eat cake”. Consider that you may be a REPUBLICAN.

You have two banjos, and the government takes one and gives it to your neighbor. Then you form a cooperative to tell your neighbor how to play his/her banjo. If so, then think SOCIALIST.

You have two banjos, the government seizes both, and provides you with just banjo music CDs. However, you have to wait in line for hours to get the CDs, and they are expensive. In addition, they don’t sound that good. COMMUNISM is afoot here.

You have two, high quality, expensive banjos. You sell one, buy 15 banjo-making kits, sell all the banjos from the kits, and make a high profit. This is CAPITALISM, American style.

You have two banjos. Under the new “Music Program,” the government pays you to demolish one banjo, record banjo music with the other, and then toss the CDs into a dumpster. What we have here is BUREAUCRACY, American style.

You have two banjos. You sell one, lease it back to yourself and do an IPO (initial public offering) on the second one. You try to make the two banjos produce the sound of four banjos, and you are surprised when one banjo falls apart. You spin an announcement on the CBA Message Board, stating that you are reducing your banjo collection, and the value of the one banjo you have left goes up. This is an AMERICAN CORPORATION.

You have two banjos. You go on strike and hold up protest signs at bluegrass festivals because you want three banjos. You go to lunch, drink wine, and think to yourself, “Life is good.” FRENCH CORPORATION here.

You have two banjos. You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary banjo and produce the sound of ten banjos. Because of the small size of your banjos, you are easily able to travel with them on unbelievably crowed trains to IBMA and Wintergrass. Your two banjos are at the top of their class regarding sound and playability. A JAPANESE CORPORATION comes into focus.

You have two banjos that you have built. You have created them so that they both have blonde colored woods, and the more beer the player drinks the better the banjo sounds. The banjos have excellent quality, and you can play them faster than any other banjo on the market. An awareness of a GERMAN CORPORATION comes to mind.

You have two banjos but you don’t know where they are. You break for lunch. Life is good. ITALIAN CORPORATION i

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