“...no. It’s craftsmanship that’s next to godliness” Joe thought to himself as he held the lower bout of his Gibson up close to admire the handiwork of the luthier who had recently redone the bridge on his beloved guitar. This new spin on the old “cleanliness” maxim seemed so apt as Joe noticed the seamless manner in which the luthier, Greg, had attached a new rosewood bridge, made a new compensated saddle, and, while he was at it, had dressed the frets----just ‘cause they were leaving his shop.
Oh, and the sound? Joe had been enjoying that all evening.....all this Friday evening. All this Friday evening, as he gave his weekly concert to an empty room.
Joe had never enjoyed the sound of his guitar any more than he had this night. It was one of those magic nights in which Joe was experiencing what he had come to call his “adrenalized trances”. A night of playing when he was simultaneously lost in the music he was making, and acutely aware of all of his senses. There was a special gleam from the spotlights reflecting off of the guitar top. The sound from the speakers was set just perfectly over any room noise. Heck, even his coffee tasted better this night.
More important though, it was one of those sessions where the music flowed. Joe found himself utterly beyond chord and lyric and totally submerged in....in....well, the music. ---Funny how the saying it never conveys the feeling it. Songs he hadn’t played in ages just came to his mind and fingers simultaneously.
"...must be the guitar. " Joe thought to himself as he inspected Greg’s work. And he more than half meant it.
What a ripple Greg has started in this little pond of a community. And what from there? Because “good enough” would never even occur to Greg, “better” is going to occur for Joe. And as “better” is occurring for Joe it’s likely that this will not stop at his door either. Craftsmanship is, indeed, next to godliness.
There was something so familiar about the sight that wakened Joe from his reverie. What was it that was so familiar?
There stood Ike, guitar in hand as he had stood so many of these Friday nights, waiting for Joe to finish his playing and start in on what had become regular lessons these past few months. Standing there only sort of patiently waiting for his lesson......and then it occurred to Joe what was, and had been so familiar about this scene...
For ten years Joe’s constant companion had been Bear. Bear was an Alaskan Malamute with whom Joe shared a house-----whose house it was....was an open debate. From puppyhood on, there had always been a sort of connection of souls between Joe and Bear. On drives, whether through the country or a short run to the hardware, Bear was in the passenger seat, head hanging out the window---yes, even in winter.
And tricks? What an entertaining pair they were. Joe had taught Bear everything from roll-over to balancing a treat on his nose. When Joe would pull out his guitar it wouldn’t take long before Bear would be there, sitting right in front of Joe, because it signaled........howl time! Joe would start to sing and Bear would enter in with sometimes grumbly and low, sometimes whiney and mournful (Joe called that Bear’s “high lonesome sound”----Bear, the bluegrass dog).
But by far the thing the two of them enjoyed most of all was their daily runs.
Nearly everyday Joe and Bear could be found out in the 100 acre sugarbush at the north end of the town’s reservoir. There, on the two-tracks and trails once used to haul the pails of sap, were nearly ten miles of runner’s heaven. Joe would leash Bear for the ¾ mile run from home to the wood, and then let Bear lead the way through the trails.
If on a given day Joe was a bit slow getting going out the door for the
run.....and this was as predictable as sunrise.....Joe could hear, from
anywhere in the house, that familiar sound...
...first the sound of the back door with its bad latch being nosed open (In his mind’s eye Joe could even see the flourish with which Bear would fling the door aside with his nose)...
...next came that quick low hum of a leather strap being drawn across a hook...
...followed in very quick succession by a clatter as the clasp of Bear’s leash hit the linoleum of the back porch.
If Joe happened to be downstairs in the basement, he would hear the tthhh-click, tthhh-click, ttthhh-click as the leash’s clasp hit the wood of each wooden step down.
Then Bear would circle, leash in his mouth, in front of Joe as much as to say, ”um.....hey bub. What’s keepin’ ya? Let’s go!”
If Joe couldn’t drop what he was doing that instant, Bear would finally sit facing Joe, doing a very poor job of feigning patience.
For ten years they ran together. Ten years of Bear watching the trails ahead of Joe as if to protect him. Ten years of a faithfulness to each other that Joe really only knew with Bear----Bear loved him in spite of his every flaw.
The day Joe had to say good-bye to his companion was among the darkest of Joe’s life. Joe could remember so clearly the wind making the silver hair dance on Bear’s lifeless body as he bent over him to say his last good-bye. As he lowered him to lay on his cedar bed forever, he carefully put that leash right beside him....
...Joe had every intention of seeing Bear come bouncing his way again some day with that leash dangling from his mouth....”hey bub, what’s keepin’ ya?”
And now there stands Ike, guitar in hand, strap dangling down like a leather leash.....feigning patience for the thing he’s come to love so much.....making music.
“Hey Joe. You about done? .....I’ve been working on...
John Bauman is a very talented Potter from Warsaw, Indiana. He sells his pottery at some of the best known art shows around the country. But his creative talent runs deep and John also writes songs and stories such as this one to channel his creative energy.
John is a frequent and well loved contributor to Acoustic Guitar Magazine's "Guitar Talk" Forum, and this story was created and posted by John piecemeal over a period of months on that forum. It has been reproduced here in its entirety for all to enjoy.
Hopefully, he will be so inclined to share other stories with us in the future.