Author: Zuniga, Nancy

Letting Go

We’re getting ready to have another yard sale. Before our last couple of yard sales, Henry has suggested, “Why don’t you sell the Framus guitar?” His reasoning is sound: It’s ugly, sounds awful, and I will never play it. I tell him, “I can’t sell it. Herman gave it to me.”

To be more accurate, Herman threw it to me. Many years ago, some friends and I were visiting Herman DeWitt at his home on Monroe Street in Yuba City when he offered to show us his supply of materials for building instruments. Unlike many luthiers, Herman didn’t invest in expensive exotic woods from lumber suppliers. Instead, he cabbaged the materials for his fiddles and mandolins from scrap lumber and discarded musical instruments. Herman led us to a large freight storage container behind his house. Inside the container, amidst piles of odds and ends, I spied a headstock sticking out from beneath some boards. “Hey, that looks like a guitar in there!” “Oh, do you want it?” Herman asked, and with that, he pulled the monstrosity out from under the pile of scrap wood and unceremoniously tossed the huge guitar to me. It’s a miracle that I didn’t fall as I caught it; it was the biggest danged guitar I had ever seen, with a neck nearly the size of a boat paddle, and it seemed to weigh a ton. There was a split down the top of the guitar, the bridge was coming unglued, and the “Framus” decal on the headstock was peeling off. I took my prize home, and although I don’t play a 12-string guitar, decided that I should respect this gift by putting some new strings on it. I bought a set of twelve strings, strung ‘er up, and attempted to play a few chords. It sounded simply awful.

When we moved to our home in Squaw Valley, we found a place for the Framus along with some other wallhanger instruments in a recessed lighted alcove above the stair landing, a perfect place for displaying non-functional objects. It remained there until last year when we painted the stairway, and then it got moved out to the garage where it has remained ever since. I refused to consider putting the Framus in our last garage sale, but now that it’s that time of year again, I’m reconsidering. Herman passed away last February at the age of 91. I have one of his handmade mandolins with “DeWitt Custom” engraved on the tailpiece. The mandolin’s neck has warped so it’s also unplayable, but it takes up a lot less space than the Framus. Besides, Herman made it with his own hands, so it’s a keeper even though it is no longer functional. The Framus is another matter. I decided it was time to let it go, and placed it in the pile of things to be sold.

We’ve all experienced buyer’s remorse at one time or another, but what about seller’s remorse? I still regret my decision to sell the classical guitar that my parents gave to me when I was a teenager; I sold it when I got into bluegrass music so that I could buy a steel-string guitar, before I understood the concept that it’s permissible to own more than one guitar at a time, especially if they are used for different styles of playing. However, that clunky old Framus 12-string, unplayable in its present condition, doesn’t fall into this category. If I sell it, will I feel the same pangs of regret that I’ve had ever since selling the guitar that was a gift from my parents? Probably not. Perhaps a different owner will give it a new life by turning it into a bird feeder. There’s even the possibility that someone with a talent for luthiery will make the necessary repairs so that it will no longer sound like cheese being cut with a two-by-four.

From time to time, we all need to reduce the clutter that surrounds us, especially when that clutter serves no practical use. It’s time to let the Framus go. I’ll still have my memory of the tall, bespectacled old man, with a twinkle in his eye and an impish grin, throwing that clunky old guitar to me. And I get to keep that forever.

Posted:  6/7/2011

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email