Vlad

Vlad’s Banjo.  

A story about Vlad’s banjo by Tina.

Most people have one story to tell and this one is mine. I was hanging by the neck in a shop full of different kinds of musical instruments. Some voluptuous and very full bodied, some smaller and rounder like me. We all had different types of strings, different tones and different stories to tell. My story started in the 1920s. I was crafted by a very gentle, quiet man. He spent hours cutting, sanding and shaping my long thin neck. He took greater care bending my body into a perfect round, lacquering me, adding some ornate details and stretching the steel strings out across me. The first time he played me was very special. He had put a lot of himself into me and the playing was effortless. He closed his eyes in rapture. I stayed with him for a while until he brought another banjo into being, similar to me but not quite the same. He then sold me to a local shopkeeper in Kansas. I wasn’t there very long when a farmer came up to the window and peered in straight at me. His face was kind of sun-burnt and dusty, but he had eyes that could see beyond what they were looking at. He walked into the shop at a leisurely pace and asked the shopkeeper about me. His hands had combined the practical with the beautiful. They had fixed machines, dug soil, created and sustained life, so when he picked me up that essence was already there and the music that we made pleased us both.  He bought me and I spent the next few years on a dusty farm playing to the moonlight on the porch every evening. Then everything turned red. Clouds of dust descended, getting into everything and choking us. My owner and his family packed up all their things and we moved through the dust. I was played a lot more after that. The farmer could not make a living that way anymore so he became a full-time musician. We travelled a lot on the railroads and had fun together making the beautiful ladies and smart gentleman dance. The music had changed then and was lively and vibrant. We had got to know each other better as well so I could tease music out of the kind farmer’s soul. The music was tinged with green plants growing through red soil, the sweat of a horse’s back as well as the freedom of travelling through the country on snaking iron tracks. We had many more happy years together until he died in the 1980s. I was sold overseas to a music shop in a colder, greener country where I stayed for many years until I met my new owner. A tall gentle soul came up to me wearing clothes outside his era. They suited him and he looked completely comfortable in his own skin. He reminded me of my farmer. I didn’t see him again until he had saved up a lot of money to buy me. He picked me up for the first time and thought of old steam railroads with wooden carriages. I could feel the tension from his fingertips right through to the top of his shoulder blade. I thought of the rocking motion of the carriages and our feelings merged taking me back to a time when I was very happy.  Instinctively, he took me for a ride on a heritage railway, the steam chugging through fertile valleys. As he sat and played me, we both knew that it couldn’t get any better than this.