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Meanwhile, plans were underway for an “Ed Haley Fiddle Festival” in Ashland. The whole idea was conceived by Pat Gray, a local real estate agent who’d been inspired by an article in the Ashland Daily Independent regarding our interest in Ed’s life. Pat incorporated the “festival” (which was actually a fiddling contest) into Ashland’s Poage Landing Days, a citywide carnival-like celebration centered on the downtown area. The fiddle contest was scheduled to take place in the basement/auditorium of a Presbyterian church in Ashland. Pat declared me the “Grand Marshall” of the Poage Landing Parade, booked my band and I for an evening show and even offered to put us up at her place.

We pulled into Ashland on September 20th, 1996 and parked the bus in a church parking lot just down the hill from Pat Haley’s. Mike Compton, my mandolin player, and I walked up to Pat’s for breakfast (at her invitation) where I found her entertaining Mona and Patsy (Jack’s wife). Mona had written out the words to some of Ed’s songs for me, like “My Happy Childhood Days Down on the Farm”:

When a lad I used to dwell

In a place I loved so well

Far away among the clover and the bees.

Where the morning glory vine

‘Round our cabin door did twine

And the robin red breast sang among the trees.

In my happy boyhood days down on the farm.

There was a father old and gray

And a sister young and gay

And a mother dear to keep us from all harm.

There I passed life’s sunny hours

Running wild among the flowers

In my happy boyhood days down on the farm.

It was obvious that Mona had been thinking a lot about Ed’s music, so I didn’t waste any time getting my fiddle out for her. She caught me a bit off guard when she asked me if she could accompany me using Mike’s mandolin. The next thing I knew, she was playing right along with me — scarily like her mother. After we’d finished a tune everyone got really quiet, then Patsy looked at Mike and said, “You’ve just lost your job.”

Several tunes later, I asked Mona about Ed’s bowing style. There was a lot of conflicting information on that, so I wanted to get her opinion again. She said Ed “mixed things up,” or more specifically, that he varied his bowing between long and short strokes.

I had kinda figured that was true and had even come to think that maybe he had “area bowings,” much like his “area tunes.” It’s really a very natural thing. I play different tunes and different ways when I’m with the Goforths and Hawthornes in Missouri than when I’m with Earl Scruggs and Benny Martin in Nashville, or Fletcher Bright, or Jim Wood, or Bruce Molsky and Brad Leftwich, or Charlie Acuff, or Buddy Spicher, or Hoot Hester.

I should say here that all this business of bow holds, short and long bow strokes, and whether Ed held the fiddle under his chin or not, should never be taken as Scripture. In my own experience, I’ve held the fiddle under my chin, on my arm, on my chest, with all kinds of chin rests, no chin rests, shoulder rests, and used different kinds of bows. (I even used to tape a tin penny nail or two on the bow shaft for weight when I pulled it for long square dances so I wouldn’t have to press down with my index finger.) I’ve bowed heavy, light, long strokes, short strokes, off-string, on-string, and so forth. I’m sure that Ed’s technique — like mine or probably any musician — was constantly changing. What I have tried to document with Ed is who saw him play a certain way, where and when. It’s important to keep that in mind so as to not get lost in the contradictions.