Author: Compton, Cliff

Leaving a mark
I saw the notice of John Rappís death in my inbox today. John Hettinger had shared the sad news that heíd seen in the Placerville paper. I didnít know John Rapp well, but he had left his mark. I remember him slipping swing chords into the bluegrass and playing songs that challenged some of the pickers. And I remember his impish laugh, as he said ďI hope you guys can play thisĒ, and launched into something a little on the edge of where we were going. And now John is gone, and he left his mark.

We donít always know how we affect people. We are always brushing past somebody, leaving a little dust. A touch or two. Maybe a thought. An action. A kindness. Whatever. And this column is about that mark that we leave.

I remember pumping on the heart of a picker at Plymouth who had a heart attack and died. And I remember looking down at his face and thinking that I didnít know him, and what a shame that was. Here I am trying to save his life, and I didnít know him. And his mark on me only came through his death. My guess is that he was good man. He left a lovely wife and a lot of memories. But I didnít know him.

Every one of us knows that Bill Monroe left a mark. A big moon shaped pattern etched into the psyche of every mandolin and banjo picker amongst us. All of us are a little different because of it. We play the songs we do, the way we do, to some degree, because of him.

I saw Allen Light on a youtube video last night. He was playing up a storm and I missed him, remembering him on stage and picking in the parking lot, but mostly I remember Him and Chris and Hal Johnson picking under a roof at the Gold country fairgrounds in Plymouth. And I remember knowing that he was dying, and that Iíd never picked with him and I sought him out because I wanted a chance to play music with him before he passed, and I felt the drive and the passion he had for this music, and he left his mark on me. It still affects me.
I knew a man named Rod Millard who devoted his life to the service of God and others. He was unpolished and loud, but he had a heart as big as the outdoors, and when he died, I sat at his crowded funeral and listened to a disparate crowd from every walk of life give honor to his great compassion and his charitable nature, each one of them bearing the outline of the mark he left.

Jack freeman was one of us. He sat in the circle around the circle. A listener, and a lover of this music. He was quiet and genteel, and he had a smile as big as Texas. And every time I saw him, I felt better. That smile was his mark. Itís still part of my heart.

And I think of us like clay formed of God, in his likeness, and to some great degree altered by the marks left on us by those float or trample through our lives in the course of our three score and ten years. And with some, that mark is a bruise or a dent. With some that mark is cut with a serrated edge. With some that mark is a lipstick kiss or a soft voice in a loud storm.

If I leave a mark, I hope itís not a tire track running across someoneís back.
Leave a little music. Leave a little joy.
Posted:  12/5/2008

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