Appalachia, Ashland, blind, California, Clyde Haley, culture, Cumberland Gap, Ed Haley, fiddler, fiddling, Halbert Street, history, Ida Red, John Hartford, Kentucky, Lawrence Haley, life, music, Pat Haley, square dances, Stockton, U.S. South
On the way home in the car, Lawrence told a story about his father getting drunk and trying to find his way home one winter night.
“We lived on Halbert Street,” he said. “The Prices down the street took Pop off somewhere or brought him back to their house and turned him loose after he got real good and drunk. Well, he was coming home by himself. It might have been two or three city blocks. He was walking on this blacktop street but he was so drunk and it was pretty cold weather, too, and he just fell over in the ditch and went to sleep. They found him the next day at daylight. They said if he hadn’t been drunk he would’ve froze to death. That was way back I guess when I was a baby.”
A hard picture began to emerge: alcohol, music, meanness and the desolation it produces. Lawrence, however, emphasized that his father was actually a happy person who lived an eventful life.
“These people that put these jackets on these albums and things, they take a tune like ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ and make it out like my dad should play a piece of music like that because that was his place in life: being a poor old down-and-out blind man — that he lived the life of ‘constant sorrow,'” he said. “That’s the way they make these tunes seem: that should be maybe my dad’s signature tune or something, playing a dirge like that. When really he enjoyed life and had a good time whenever it could be had. If he had somebody to carouse with, he’d carouse as long as they would and probably wear three or four people out.”
I said, “I get the feeling that as well as he played the dirges, that his favorite stuff was like ‘Cumberland Gap’ and ‘Ida Red’.”
Lawrence agreed, “Yeah, and he enjoyed people dancing. My brother Clyde, I guess he stayed around Pop a lot and he could call any of those ‘birdie in the cage’-type clogging square dance. The old hoedown square dance. He lives in California. He’s in Stockton somewhere out there, or was the last time I heard.”
I wondered if it would be okay to call him.
“Yeah,” Lawrence said, “if Pat has his number at the house.”