|Author: Cornish, Rick
|The Bad, the Good and the Ugly
This little anecdote has plenty of bluegrass content, and even a little bit of a moral. It’s a story about my least favorite type of humor, the practical joke, and how it can slip out of control before you even known it.
It was the Tuesday before the Thursday that Father Day Festival 2006 would begin. Evening time, and J.D. Rhynes and I were making the rounds on my golf cart, stopping at this camp and that camp, saying hello to folks neither of us had seen through the cold winter. At a few stops I pulled out my fiddle, which I had securely stowed in the back of the cart, and joined in the fun. It was all fun, all very Grass Valley. Just as the sun was setting I drove back to J.D.’s camp to drop him off and we found Don Evans there. The three of us drank a cold beer or two and then I headed back to my campsite at the foot of Quaker Hill (below the Gazebo). As I got out of the cart and reached for my fiddle case, I realized with a start that it wasn’t there. Instant panic attack. My heart was pounding, my head beat like a tom-tom. My God, I thought, my fiddle had somehow fallen off the golf cart.
I immediately grabbed a flashlight and, on foot headed back to the last encampment at which I’d played my fiddle. (My fiddle recently appraised at $6,000.) No one had seen it. Everyone helped look, but it wasn’t there. It’s hard to express in words what that fiddle meant to me…..it could have been a $200 instrument and I’d have loved it as much. Twenty years I’d been playing it.
Okay, it must have fallen out of the cart on the way back to J.D.’s, or from there, on the way back to my camp. With flashlight in hand I scoured every inch of gravel roadway back to J.D.’s. He and Don were still there, sitting at a camp table talking. I told them in a panic what had happened. “Nope, we ain’t seen it, have we J.D.” “Nope,” he replied. I continued on back to my campsite, slowy shining the light on the ground. Nothing. Then it struck, like a bolt of lightening. I jumped on my golf cart and headed back to J.D.’ camp.
“Okay”, I said, “where is it?”
“What, you’re fiddle? Rick, we told you, we don’t know where it is.” Evans sat there expressionless.
“Bull,” I said. “BULL! I know you and your practical jokes. I had that fiddle case wedged in the back of the cart. It couldn’t have bounced off. Somebody took it off.”
“You mean, stole it? You think somebody stole it?”
“You know exactly what I mean, J.D., now give me my damned fiddle. This isn’t funny anymore. Never was. That fiddle means a lot to me.”
We stood there for maybe five minutes, him swearing he didn’t take it, telling me he was sure it would show up, me not buying it one bit. Then I went back to my campsite, completed dejected. Panic had turned to depression, then headed toward grieving. That was it. Someone HAD stolen it.
About twenty minutes latter, here comes J.D. Rhynes walking into my camp carrying my fiddle case.
“You son of a…..”
“Wait a second, partner, it ain’t what you think. Some kid come by carrying the case. Said he found it on th road…..was lookin’ for the owner.”
I was furious. “Sure, J.D. some kid found it. Just happened to bring it by YOUR camp site.”
“Well, that’s the way it happened, pard.”
“Look,” I said, “I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Just know this, J.D.—when you least expect it, some where down the road, I’ll make this practical joke of your seem like a birthday present.”
With that he shook his head and walked away.
It’s was two weeks before Memorial Day weekend, 2007, Strawberry weekend, and J.D. calls me. (We talk once or twice a week.) He’s giddy, giggling like a schoolboy.
“You won’t believe this one,” he says, and breaks out laughing and has trouble stopping. “You know how Darby is a scared to death of bears” (Everybody who knows Darby is aware of her phobia—kind of real life Stephen Cobert.) “ This morning I sent her an e-mail with a made up story I said I found on the Internet about the Yosemite Park rangers shooting two bears right around Camp Mathers (home of the Strawberry Festival) They shot one dead, I told her, but the other one got away and they haven’t been able to find it. She fell for it hook, line and sinker. ‘J.D. they’ll certainly find the wounded bear before next week, won’t they.’
“Well,” I says,” honey, you just never know. Them bears are smart critters. And they’re mean when their hurt.”
“Good one,” I said, wheels immediately turning.
“So I’m gonna make a big sign that says, “CAUTION, WILD WOUNDED BEAR AREA” and put it smack in the middle of Camp Spam. Is this a good one or not?”
Over the next couple days J.D. blind copied me on a few more e-mails he sent to Darby….he was building up the story, embellishing it. And he was forwarding her responses. She was clearly worried.
The day I Darby and Bruno were to leave for Strawberry, a Tuesday, I called her. Bruno anwered.
“So how are things going with you guys” I asked?
“Oh God, this bear thing has really got my wife uptight. Honest to God, Rick, she barely slept last night.” He sighed.
“Well, “I said, “that’s what I’m calling about. Let me speak to her.”
I told Darby the whole story. The missing fiddle, the pledge to get even, the made lies about bears, how ticked J.D. was with his practical joke. And then I told her what I wanted her to do.
“Send J.D. an e-mail, from you to him, just before you leave for Strawberry. I’ll send you the text just as soon as we hang up. Here’s what the e-mail will say.” I read it over the phone.
“As much as I love and look forward to camping at the Evergreen pre festival, (I haven't missed in 15 years), the thought of a wounded bear in the campground freaks me out...I barely slept last night. Bruno is going up without me and I am off to spend a few days with my sister in Fresno.
J.D., I really, really, appreciate your letting me know about this...it's that kind of caring and thoughtfulness means the most in friendships.
Oh well, there's always the next Strawberry.”
“Puuuuurfect” was all she said.
“And under no circumstances, Darby, are you to answer your phone before you two head for the mountains. He CANNOT reach you for this to work.”
“Got it,” she giggled, “that son of a ………”
Twenty minutes the phone rang. It was J.D. and he was in a panic.
“My God, my God, what have I done” he wailed?” He read me the e-mail that Darby send him, (an that I wrote).
“Rick, I’ve got to reach her. I called their house in Oakland and there’s no one there. I’m sure she’s already left for Fresno, and Bruno’s gone to, I guess for Strawberry. What’s here cell phone number, you must have it.”
“She and Bruno don’t use cell phones…something about the micro waves causing cancer
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