I got my fiddle out and played for Stump, hoping to generate some detailed memories of what he’d seen Ed and his father do. He watched me play for a while, then said, “You play exactly like the old-time fiddlers played, and I’m gonna tell you why. You’ve got the smoothest bow of anybody I’ve heard in a long time. Now that’s what they strived for, Ed Haley and Dad — them old-time fiddle players. This herky-jerky stuff, they didn’t go for that.”
Brandon asked, “What about Bill Adkins down at Harts? Did he play that style, too?”
Stump said, “He was pretty good. Bill had a little jerk to his. Bill had what I call a stiff wrist. All these players taught themselves. Dad, all of them.”
Dood Dalton, Stump said, started playing the fiddle when he was about six years old. A little later, he played for dances in the town of Dingess and on Mud Fork near Logan.
Brandon asked Stump if he knew the names of any more old fiddlers around Harts.
“My grandpaw, Wog Dalton, he was a fiddle player. One of the best, they said.”
Did Ed Haley know him?
“Ed said there wasn’t a fiddle player in this country could play with Wog Dalton,” Stump said. “Now, I barely can remember him. He was the spitting image of Devil Anse Hatfield.”
Wog was apparently a pretty rough character, too.
“My granddad was playing for a square dance and he and this guy had been into it,” Stump said. “Somebody came in there and told old man Wog, said, ‘Whatcha call it’s out there and he’s gonna cut you with a knife.’ He just kept playing that fiddle and here come this guy through there. He grabbed Granddad Wog and Granddad Wog just pulled his knife out and they just took each other by the hand, son, and started cutting each other.”
Stump laughed and said, “I think Granddad Wog was laid up about two months over that.”
I wanted to know more about Stump’s memories of Ed’s technique and repertoire, so I asked him the same kind of questions I’d asked Lawrence Haley in previous years.
Did Ed hold the fiddle up under his chin or down on his chest?
“He laid his chin right on it, like he was listening to it,” Stump said.
Did you ever see him play standing up, like at a contest?
“No. Now, old man Ed did play in fiddle contests. I know of two. One of them was in Ohio, ’cause he come in our house right after he done it.”
I wondered if Ed sang much.
“I never heard him sing a song in my life. Maybe a verse — just stop along there and sing a verse. Now, him and Dad both would do that. But to put the poetry to it, I never heard him really do that.”
Did he pat his foot a lot when he played?
“He patted both feet,” Stump said. “He’d switch off, and sometimes he’d pat both of them together. He just got himself into it.”
Did Ed ever play tunes in cross key?
“Now that there one I give you, ‘The Lost Indian’, was a cross key,” Stump said. “I remember that real well. That was one of the prettiest fiddle tunes. I asked Dad, ‘How are you tuning that fiddle?’ and he was tuning it in a banjo tuning.”
I asked if Ed traded fiddles much and Stump said, “No, he didn’t do much trading, I don’t think. And a lot of times he’d come without a fiddle. He knowed Dad had fiddles.”
I wondered if Ed brought a different fiddle every time he came to Dood’s and Stump said, “No, he had one fiddle he’d really like. But now, he’d bring an extra one once in a while.”
Stump thought for a second then said, “Now Ed would bring all his bows to Dad, after he’d broke up the hairs in them. Dad had horses, you know, and Dad would re-string that bow.”
How many bows did Ed carry around?
“Well, he’d just have maybe two in his case.”
Did he always have a case?
“No, a lot of times he’d just have a bare fiddle.”
Did you ever see him play anything besides the fiddle?
“I never seen him pick up anything besides a fiddle.”
Brandon asked Stump if he remembered the first time Ed came to see his father.
“I was born in 1929 but he was coming there, I know, in the thirties,” he said.
There were big musical gatherings at the Dalton home in those days.
“I’ve seen people all over the place,” Stump said. “My mother, she had a long table and she would have any kind of meat on that table you wanted to eat, any kind of bread on that table you wanted to eat. We raised all this stuff now. And sometimes you’d feed two tables full of people just through the week. Instead of cooking one pot of beans, she’d cook two. And we raised our own meat. We’d have sheep meat — what they call mutton — and pork and beef. We ground our own meal. The only thing we went to the store for was sugar, salt, and things like that. And I’ve seen people there lined up to eat — just country people gathering to enjoy themselves and that was it.”
Was there any drinking going on?
“Had one incident: this guy, he thought he was mean. My dad had my sister in his lap and we had music a going. This guy shot down in the floor there near my sister. He didn’t last long. Just somebody a drinking.”