I am on my way back to Fort Wayne today after spending a week driving across the state of Virginia, starting in the blue ridge mountains and finally settling in the river town of Colonial Beach to spend Thanksgiving with the family. It has been a trip both beautiful and difficult; road tripping with my dad, spending time with family, our first holiday without Bubba.....I'll be sharing more over the next couple of weeks, but there is just a little too much goodness for one post...so on to the first.... In fourth grade, I held my first guitar. It was a beaten up gibson (although I couldn't have told you that at the time) that had belonged to my great uncle Tivus Cox. My grandpa showed me how to play an A chord and sent me home from the family reunion with the guitar and a cheap chord book. I had absolutely no understanding of how to teach myself and so I never got further than that first chord. I thought I was amazing. :o)
Then Grandpa asked me to bring the guitar to the next reunion. Uncle Tiv's son wanted the guitar and since I had just been borrowing it, I sadly took it back and that was that. When I finally started playing guitar in high school, I remembered that dark wood, arch top guitar fondly, knowing that I would never see it again.
Fast Forward to last week:
Dad and I sat in my great Aunt Sis's home perched on a flat hillside in the same holler only a few lots down from the house where she, Grandpa and Uncle Tiv were raised. I asked about a story I had once heard about Uncle Tiv getting drunk and holding up the local drive in movie theatre because he wanted to sing. They stopped the movie, brought out a microphone and Tiv sang a few songs. He left when he finished....probably one of the many times he was "picked up and put in jail" down in Grundy.
Aunt Sis confirmed the story and we laughed at the absurdity of the infamous and mentally unstable Uncle Tiv. I then nostalgically mentioned that even though I knew it wouldn't happen, I would love the opportunity to play that guitar again. Sis looked at me and said, "It's sitting in the closet in the other room." "It's here?!?!?" I asked, "Can I see it???" Sis left the room and returned with the well used and battered gibson guitar. The strings were removed and the bridge broken off, along with missing the binding on the backside, but there it was; the first guitar that I had ever played, somehow survived the years and an attempted "fix" by one of my younger third cousins a few years back. I held the guitar in a speechless stupor.....awe and amazement soon followed. The conversation that followed is a bit blurred, but Sis agreed to let me have the guitar to fix up and I promised to show the gibson the honor and love it deserved.
I spent most of the afternoon with the guitar in my lap, needing to feel its reality, the solid wood in my hands. I still can't believe that a random comment ACTUALLY led to its discovery. That guitar never made it home with Tiv's son, so who knows who actually asked for it. I'm a bit sad that this beautiful pre World War II Gibson guitar spent so many years shoved in a closet, but it certainly won't be kept hidden any longer!
I love that life is adventurous. That the journey to restore this 1930's guitar is leading to new friendships, discoveries, and connections. I'm digging deeper into Uncle Tivus's story, my dad and I agreeing that "The Ballad of Tivus Cox" needs to be written. And there's a nudge to discover even more this bluegrass heritage that runs through my bones. The mountains of southwest Virginia are harsh, beautiful, dangerous, and the keepers of secrets yet to be uncovered. I. Can't. Wait.So there is quite a bit more to share....from meeting the folks who will be restoring the Gibson, or "Tiv Jr.", the trip to Grundy, Thanksgiving....stay tuned.