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After a few minutes of downplaying his ability, Charlie had his wife fetch his fiddle from inside the house. With some hesitation, he put it against his chest and took off on “The Fun’s All Over”.

After he’d finished, I asked him if Ed played with the fiddle at his chest and he said no — he put it under his chin.

Charlie played some more for us: “Birdie”, “Stagolee”, “Twinkle Little Star”, and “I Don’t Love Nobody”.

He seemed a little displeased with his playing, remarking, “Boys when your fingers stop working like they used to, you don’t do as you want to. You do as you can.”

Brandon asked Charlie, “Do you remember how Ed pulled his bow when he played?”

“He held it like that toward the middle and just shoved it,” Charlie said. “He played a long stroke. When he’d be playing a long stroke, I’d be a playing a short stroke and every now and then you’d see him turn his head around and listen to ya. If you missed a note, buddy, he called you down right there. ‘That ain’t right,’ he’d say. ‘That ain’t right.’ Man, he’d sit in playing ‘er again just like a housefire.”

I asked, “When Ed would play a tune, how long would he play it for?”

“He’d play as long as they’d dance,” he said.

Would he play it for fifteen minutes?

“No, hell, he’d play for an hour at a time,” Charlie said. “After he finished a tune, he’d hit another’n.”

I wondered if Ed ever played “Down Yonder”.

“Yeah, I’ve heard him play it,” Charlie said. “He played everything in the world, Ed did.”

What if someone asked him to play something he didn’t like?

“He’d shake his head no and he’d play something else,” Charlie said. “That’s just the way he was…he was a stubborn old man. He had one he played he called ‘Handsome Molly’.”

“That’s almost ‘Goin’ Across the Sea’,” I said. “Did Ed play ‘Goin’ Across the Sea’?”

Charlie said, “Yeah, that old woman would sing it.”

I got out my fiddle, hoping to get Charlie’s memory working on more of Ed’s tunes. I played “Blackberry Blossom” and “Brushy Fork of John’s Creek” with little response other than, “Yep, those are some of old man Ed’s tunes.”

Then, when I played “Hell Among the Yearlings”, Charlie caught me off guard by saying, “That’s called ‘Pickin’ on the Log’.”

At that juncture, he took hold of his fiddle and played “Arkansas Traveler” and “Billy in the Lowground”.

I could tell he was loosening up, so I got him to play “Warfield”. It was about the same thing as the Carter Family’s “Dixie Darling”, to which it would be real easy to sing:

Goodbye girls, we’re goin’ to Warfield.

Goodbye girls, we’re goin’ to Warfield.

Goodbye girls, we’re goin’ to Warfield.

Naugatuck’s gone dry.

It was great to watch Charlie because he was the first active fiddler I’d met on Harts Creek.

During our visit, Brandon and I were able to formulate some idea of Charlie’s background. He was born in 1923. His father Charlie, Sr. went by the nickname of “Goo” to distinguish him from his uncle Charlie Conley — the one who’d killed John Brumfield in 1900. Charlie’s earliest memories of fiddling were of watching his father play “some” on old tunes like “Drunken Hiccups”. He also remembered Dood Dalton.

“Yeah, I’ve heard him play,” he said. “I don’t know how good he was, but I’ve heard him jiggle around on the fiddle. He used to come up home. I was raised right up in the head of this creek up here. Him and my daddy was double first cousins and my daddy had an old fiddle. They’d get it out and they’d play on it half of the night — first one and then another playing on it — but I couldn’t make heads or tails of what they was playing.”

Charlie didn’t know that his great-grandfather Wog Dalton had been a fiddler.

Charlie told us a little bit about his early efforts at fiddling.

“My daddy had that old fiddle and I heard him fool with it so much I said to myself, ‘Well, I’ll just see if I can do anything with it.’ And I started fooling with it and the more I fooled with it the more I wanted to fool with it and I just got to where I could play it a little bit.”

Charlie got good enough to fiddle for dances all over Logan County, sometimes getting as much as fifty dollars a night at Black Bottom in Logan.

“You had to duck and dodge beer bottles all night,” he said. “Man, it was the roughest place I ever seen in my life. They’d get their guts cut out, brains knocked out with beer bottles and everything.”

It sounded a lot like my early days back home.

I asked Charlie how he met Ed and he said, “I got acquainted with him up there at Logan when him and his wife played under that mulberry tree there at that old courthouse. And I’d hear about him playing square dances. I was playing over there at this place one time — he was there. This guy had got him to come there and play, too. He just sit down there, buddy, and we set in playing. We fiddled to daylight. People a dancing, I’m telling you the truth, the dust was a rolling off the floor.”

Charlie said the last dance he remembered on Harts Creek was in 1947.

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