Friday, July 11, 2014


When I was a small child, there were three of us who lived in close proximity in our neighborhood.  We were all three girls of almost the same age and in the same grade in school.  We were in and out of each others homes for many years.  Our families were very different from each other.  But when one is small, close proximity of homes often defines with whom one spends time.

First day of school 1953
Marsha, Karen, Mary

This past week the three of us had a reunion in my home for several days.  It was great fun!  But the story that I am going to tell is about the dulcimer.

Mary and her husband were the reason for the reunion.  They live in upstate New York.  Mary has become a part of a group that is almost entirely ukuleles that plays in a Unitarian Universalist Congregation.  She is the only one of the group that plays the mountain dulcimer.   The dulcimer has become a passion for Mary.....  So much so that Mary and Ken were on their way to the NC mountains for a five day class in which Mary had enrolled to improve her dulcimer skills.

One of the goals of the visit to Huntington was to find the grave of a man named Charles N. Prichard who had lived in Huntington where he made Dulcimers.  Mr. Prichard died in 1904 and was said to be buried in Springhill Cemetery.  The office of the Cemetery in Huntington was helpful and we found the grave easily.  We took many photos of each other, the dulcimer, and the grave.  I fell in love with the dulcimer and hope to buy one to share with my grandchildren.  All in all it was a day of ultimate Serendipty!

 Mary has a beautiful instrument that she bought from a company in Indiana called Folkcraft.

 She played for me .....a small concert....but lots of songs that were absolutely captivating for me!  Some of my favorite songs that Mary played were:

Black Mountain Rag which Mary says is easy to play.  A Shaker number called Mother's Tongue by DA Buckingham.  Mary explained that the tune was about the fact that the Shakers lived in such closeness that they often reminded themselves that they should speak nicely to each other as did Mother Anne.

A more difficult number, Ashokan Farewell,  was written by Jay Ungar.    This number was written for the ending of special week of camp for families and adults that took place near where Mary and Ken live in Hurley, New York.  This piece was actually written originally for the fiddle.  Ken Burns used the fiddle tune in his  Civil War Series.  (to hear it with fiddle---be sure to use the skip add button)

and for the dulcimer rendition

This first site had this information:  Ashokan Farewell on the mountain dulcimer. Lots of folk believe this to be an old fiddle tune from the Civil War, but that's because Ken Burns fooled you when he used it in his documentary. The song was written in the 1980s by Jay Ungar. So my advice is not to listen to me, but listen to Mr. Ungar himself:
and for the dulcimer rendition

Sheet music:

Mary showed me two books of music by Carol Walker for the Dulcimer that are particularly easy introduction to playing the dulcimer:  DNA Dulcimer Ditties Vol I and II.

I started this blog so that I wouldn't loose these thoughts.

OK....go forward to October....just a few months later.  I have been thinking about buying a Dulcimer since Mary's visit.  I always plan something fun either on the way down or on the way back from JAX when I travel for my routine semi-annual follow-up visit at Mayo from breast cancer surgery in 2011.   This year I decided to buy a Dulcimer in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia.  I honestly can not remember how I decided to buy from Walter.  But I found him via his website:

I called ahead to make sure that he indeed had some Dulcimers on hand to sell as his website showed mostly models that were already sold.  And he did have some finished and on hand as he is traveling to an event near Roanoke later this month.

First question was where the heck is Mouth of Wilson, Virginia?

It turns out that it is in Grayson County.  Very close to Independence, Virginia stop on the way home from JAX several years ago.  It was just after the death of Jeff Weaver.  I was so concerned that his wonderful website:  New River Notes might be in jeopardy after his death.  However I was reassured on my visit to the Grayson County Heritage Foundation that there were people committed to keeping the site alive.  That was a wonderful serendipity event all of it's own.  For information about this group go to:

My Elliott family lived in this area during the Revolutionary War.  They were actually in what is now Galax, Virginia.

Back to my Dulcimer story....

I called ahead to find a room close to Mouth of Wilson and was told by the first B&B that they were fully booked.....but the lady gave me a phone number for the Sleepy Fox.  Thank goodness that I called ahead as I had absolutely no phone service anywhere in the mountains for the entire 24 hours or so that I was in the area.  The Sleepy Fox was an event of it's own!  In the middle of absolutely nowhere....but gorgeous and relaxing!  And amazingly enough, Loren told me that she was fully booked the night before and the night after....I was just lucky enough to be "sandwiched in" Loren said it was meant to be for me to find them!

Scott & Loren Webster have lived on Fox Ridge Farm for 33 years.  They are terrific hosts and their breakfast is scrumptious!  For a photo of the beautiful room in which I slept go to their site:

Below photo is on the way from the "main road" to their home:
This is the actual road that leads to their home:

This is the sign that welcomes the visitor:

This is the path from where I stayed to their home:

This is the entryway into the area in which I stayed:

And this is the porch where I "hung out" and sipped wine with the lovely cheese plate that Loren brought me from the house:

The next morning I set out for Walter's home to choose my Dulcimer.  I thought that the Sleepy Fox was WAY out of the way......Walter's home is even more "out of the way"....but lovely!  Choosing MY Dulcimer was a surprise to me.  I had thought that I would choose by the look of it.  However, I found that what ended up being my shopping interest was the sound of each instrument.  Walter ended up having to lug out every single dulcimer so that I could make sure that the very first hour-glass shaped dulcimer that I looked at was indeed the one that I wished to take home!  Truly, I felt that my dulcimer had the very nicest sound of any!  Now if I can just learn to play it!

The final road to Walter's home and Workshop:

Walter's lovely Cosmos reminded me of the year when I fell in love with Cosmos and had them in my garden.  I would like to add them again next year!

Walter told me that the man from whom he bought this farm had build the stone fences with only the help of his horse.

Walter's workshop in the back of his home which he built himself:

Another view of his workshop:

I was amazed at Walter's workshop!

Walter doing the final finish work to eliminate a buzz that he was unhappy with in my dulcimer:

And finally MY DULCIMER!  Finished and ready to take home!

I have one post script to my story.  On another trip to JAX two years ago in 2012,  I drove to Pittsylvania County, Virginia via the Crooked Road (Route 58)!  I was captivated by the road and wrote a blog post at the time:

I vowed to myself that I would explore this road again.....and this trip had the huge surprise that there I was back on the Crooked Road again in another part of Virginia! It was fun when I turned onto The Crooked Road to get to the Sleepy Fox!

 Loren had told me to take 21 south from Wytheville to get to the Sleepy Fox.  Independence, Virginia is at the intersection of Rt. 21 and Rt. 58 where red marker is on map. 

To find the Sleepy Fox from Independence continue west on Route #58, go 10.2 mi. to Fox Ridge Rd.- Road #678, turn right on Fox Ridge Rd., go 1.3 mi. on Fox Ridge Rd. to box 1253 on the left, follow driveway to Sleepy Fox Inn.

When I left Walter, I took Rt93 from his home to near Sparta where I again picked up 21 south to Elkin, NC.  At Elkin I rejoined I77.  And then I did the opposite on the way home.  Thank goodness for the GPS in my car as my phone did not work anywhere in the mountains!

The Crooked Road:

Here are a few URL's for the Crooked Road:

And one last extra post script!  When I traveled the Crooked Road the last time, I was reading via audio a book by Lee Smith called The Devil's Dream.  Talk about serendipity!  Life is good!

I wrote a very short blog about the book at:

Sandra Ferguson sent me several links for you tube "lessons"

This one uses a noter:

Here is another one that uses a noter for old time style:

This one does a lot of finger picking:

This is a very basic one on strumming: