Huff: Washed by jazz (and rain)

Home Column Huff: Washed by jazz (and rain)

It is the first Sunday in June. It has been a hectic week at Frog Holler in spite of the fact that half the country is still shut down. The other half are in the streets protesting the killing of George Floyd, including thousands who attended the viewing and memorial service right here in Hoke County. I would like to have been there to show my support, but this virus changed my mind. I hate long lines and didn’t want to make the pandemic worse. I have vowed to be more anti-racist.

I entered the past week catching up on mowing the farm when minor disaster struck. Charlotte’s tack room ceiling collapsed making a huge mess, sending me on an unexpected detour of uncertain duration and direction. The barn/studio building was built around 1990. As a matter of convenience and ignorance, we finished the walls and ceilings of the tack room with sheetrock. The convenience was that we used sheetrock in the studio and the ignorance was that I did not know it would be so open to the weather. Rather than close the barn doors, Charlotte generally leaves them open allowing any moisture in the air to get to the sheetrock. Years ago, the first disaster happened when the stippled ceiling separated from the sheetrock and fell. This made a huge mess. I did my best to patch the ceiling and repaint, but it has always looked terrible since then. As more years passed, the sheetrock mud and tape on the walls has gradually peeled loose. Our once attractive tack room was no more.

While unsatisfied, I had let this alone. As more time passed, the sheetrock ceiling absorbed more moisture, sagging gently under its own weight until some mysterious force in the atmosphere, and seven inches of rain in the last two week, convinced it to collapse! Now what? Patch it up again or get serious and make improvements?

Improvement was the obvious, though painful, choice, but this still left many possibilities. Checking prices of various ceiling options, I decided to bite the bullet and install tongue and groove pine boards. Checking various suppliers, I chanced to look on Craisglist and found an outfit in Asheboro that had beautiful pine cheaper than the ordinary pine of local building suppliers. I was shortly on the phone with my new best friend Keith, a real talker, who could have the lumber for me in two days. Sold! Time to get started in full force.

After removing the rest of the ceiling and spending two days patching, sanding, patching, sanding, priming and painting the horrible walls, I drove up for the lumber. It was beautiful stuff, full of grain and scattered knots. Riley helped me install it. It is attractive and will not fall down!

After this detour, the week was gone. Our friend Anna Smith was coming over for our first pool day of the year on Sunday. I got up, resumed mowing, getting everything visible from the house and finally hit the pool around 2 p.m. The weather was beautiful, the water was perfect and the company was great. By coincidence, while listening to music, Anna mentioned the jazz trumpeter Miles Davis about whom I had just watched a great documentary. Charlotte punched up Miles Davis on Pandora and there he was. I love jazz, but go long stretches of time without listening to it. I always come back around. This Sunday afternoon was a perfect time to circle back to that genre.

The history of Miles Davis is the history of jazz from the mid ‘40s until his death in 1991. He played with and introduced many jazz luminaries and continually stretched the boundaries of music until his death. He was also a cultural icon who battled for racial equality.

The afternoon eased along as Anna and Charlotte toured the gardens, petting Cornelia, the escapee chicken, along the way. Anna left around five. Riley was out for dinner and we cooked some ostrich burgers that Charlotte had found at the farmer’s market. They were great.

Exhausted, Charlotte hit the bed early. Feeling mellow, I settled into a lounge chair on the back deck and put on some more jazz. As darkness fell, I heard the faint white noise of rain but felt nothing. Soon the drops began to fall. I sat motionless in a gentle shower for a long time, entranced and washed by jazz and spring rain.

More later.



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