From birth, Eddie Kane has been raised on Sand Mountain, where music "swirls through the leaves and skips through the ground until it leaches the soil." So his mother worries that he will grow up like his uncles, The Bragger Brothers. Now it appears her fears will be justified, for Eddie's father can no longer work and Eddie's uncles need a banjo player. Taking to the road during the early Civil Rights Movement, Eddie is about to learn much more than music.
A native of Springfield, Mo., Brent Davis was a television reporter in Savannah, Ga.; taught and produced documentaries in Tuscaloosa, Ala.; and now works for WOSU Public Media in Columbus, Ohio. Saturdays he can often be found at the jam session at Bluegrass Musician’s Supply on High Street. He is also the author of The Spelling Bee. He has a wife and a son. They have a Corgi and a cat.
From the Book:
My Blue Ridge Cabin Home
Eddie Kane caught the baseball as it rolled off the roof of his house and then threw it back up.
He pretended he was playing second base for the Cardinals. He caught the ball again and imagined throwing it over to Bill White at first base. One away!
Before long his mom would probably stick her head out the door and tell him to quit. Not with company here, she would say. It makes too much racket.
Not that family is really company. But Uncle Berry and Uncle Byron didn’t get around too often. They were always on the road.
Eddie studied their car. What was it, anyway? His father called it a “weenie dog car,” and it certainly didn’t look like the Ford and Chevys Eddie saw in town on Saturdays. He decided it looked like a sedan that had been stretched. Once he took his Silly Putty and pressed it on a picture of a car he saw in a newspaper ad. Then he pulled the Silly Putty on both ends. It looked like The Bragger Brothers car.
Except it didn’t have the bass fiddle strapped to the roof.
If you rode in that car everyone would be looking at you when you came to town.
On some of the baseball teams in Ft. Payne the kids just wore jeans and a t-shirt. But on others you got a full uniform, right down to the stirrup socks. Please, please, now that Mom and Dad are finally going to let me play, please let me be on one of those teams, Eddie said to himself over and over.
“Well, here’s what it comes down to.” Berry Bragger pushed back his coffee cup, stood at the kitchen table, and began pacing the floor of the small room. “He’s old enough to be on the road and you need the money. I’m just saying what needs to be said.”
Eddie’s mother, Esther, stirred the coffee in her cup and studied the swirling liquid.
“You know we’ll watch out for him,” Byron continued for his brother. “I know the road’s a hard life. I’ve sat at this very table and complained about how hard it is. But it’s better than choppin’ cotton.”
John Kane sat alone in the overstuffed chair, away from the kitchen table, and winced when he shifted his weight, trying to make himself comfortable.
“A twelve-year old who plays like he does, that’s a gift,” Byron said quietly.
“And you want to parade him like an organ grinder’s monkey in every honky tonk in the South,” Esther said.
“Now, Sister,” Berry said, turning to her. “You know we don’t play honky tonks. And we’re not going to make a big show out of him. But Byron’s right, having him playing with us will be good for business. Folks will hear about it and come see us because of him.”
“He hates a fuss being made over him.” Esther was no longer talking to her brothers. Instead she was looking at her husband. “Yes, he’s musical. But he’s shy, too. It’s hard for him get up in front of people.”
“Besides, this is the summer you promised him he could finally play ball. It’s all he’s talked about.”
Byron pursed his lips and waited a moment. Then, he, too, turned to Eddie’s father. “I know you’ve been praying for help since the accident. I know you’re worrying about how you’re going to pay bills since you can’t work. Did you ever stop to think that maybe this is the answer to those prayers?”