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I Depend Upon the Kindness of Strangers.

Friday, August 27, 2021

We've been watching a program called "Homestead Rescue" on Discovery plus. The struggles of the families to survive feel familiar. Since the onset of my wife's bipolar, the sudden collapse of the Intergenerational Daycare Center we both had dedicated our lives to for a decade between us, and the death of our beloved middle son who carried about the family's sense of humor all within a few months, We have lived close to the wire. Like Thoreau we have come to live "deliberately", not fully by choice, but by necessity.

We did take a running start at it, though. After a 45 year career in the nonprofit sector during which I helped create 5 schools and nonprofit organizations, worked as a counselor, program director, therapeutic recreation specialist, public relations and development officer, teacher, director, consultant and free-lance writer, we've learned how to use every skill we possess and how to acquire such skills and bring them to bear to survive. My wife was a nurse, adult day care director, preschool teacher and mother of three very energetic kids.During some lean times when our grown kids and their families moved back in with us, I hocked a lot of my musical instruments along the way to keep the lights on. I lost my Ovation guitar, my banjo, my longneck banjo, bodhran, keyboard and dulcimer all went one way and the other to pay the bills. Since then, the wife and I have moved across the country to the damp and cold Pacific Northwest, a beautiful land that tortures old people with arthritis. We've discovered the location of critical food banks to supplement my wife's disability payments and my erratic freelance writing and consulting business.

It's been an educational experience. I haven't written much here on the hangout for the past few years. I drop in occasionally to see what's going on, but the place is so addictive, I had to back off to keep up with my freelance writing which is long on time consumption and short on cash returns. I find I miss my friends on here.  You guys have been supportive in ways I can't forget. After I lost my last banjo I did without for years until, Mike Gregory took pity on me and hooked me up with one of his Squared Eel kits. I turned it into a longneck banjo and have played it ever since.  Here's what the project looked like:

Here's what it sounds like.

In 2019 just before CoVid hit, Sheila and I flew to Texas to visit my eldest son and I heard from my Facebook Friend and old Valley Grande Academy (seniors 1972) dorm mate, David Dameron. He had a banjo in need of repair and offered to give it to me if I swung by where he lived on our way home. We had Mexican food at a restaurant there and he gave me a banjo case with a lovely old banjo with a thick wooden pot. It was heavy and rugged and turned out to have a lovely tone. Here's the back. My photobucket account is full and I haven't figure out another way to paste a photo yet. You can see the lovely heavy wooden construction

We were going to be in Texas for another couple of weeks and so I bought a few rudimentary tools, a rotary tool (plug in version of a Dremel Moto-tool), and commenced to repairing the banjo. It really didn't need much. I picked up a new bridge and nut at a local Tyler, TX music store, some fresh strings and such. I was able to fix the damaged fret, adjust the neck so the strings quit buzzing and rubbed some stuff into the wood which seemed to appreciate it greatly. Here you can see it finished and ready to string up.

Once I got it finished It turned out to have a nice mellow sort of sound which I favor. I've been buried in work for lo these many months, but I've bought myself a music stand, I have a rocker for the porch. A folding guitar/banjo stand and I've finished up my personal guitar/banjo fakebook and am ready to sit out in my rocker and practice once I get all the paperwork the Social Security people want from me to prove I really didn't make enough to file taxes the last few years.

I've been off the grid for some time now. Bureaucrats hate that, but I've gone back and am doing the paperwork. I plan to get as much of that Biden bailout money as I can. He got 40 billion and so far he's only spent 4. So,why not. The government wrecked my business. Why not make 'em pay. It's easier than filing a lawsuit. As Tom Paxton once said, " I am changing my name to Fannie Mae; I am leaving for that great receiving line. I'll be waiting when they hand out Seven hundred million grand out - That's when I'll get mine."

Turns out I'm not so much a conservative zealot as a cranky old guerrilla fighter. I'll hit 'em where I can, get a piece of the remaining 38 billion in freshly printed monopoly money and retreat into obscurity to fight another day.

© 2021 by Tom King

PS: It's nice to be back among my peeps. I'll have a lot more leisure time if they send me a Social Security check this month. May even finish and publish the 5 partially completed books I've been working on. That'll bring me up to 10 books up for sale on Amazon.

PPS: The banjo has this mark on the heel. Not sure what it means. It may be a hand-crafted instrument and the mark is of the maker. Wish I could find out who it is.

PPPS:  My friend David I just discovered passed away from a bout of Covid. He'd been shot in the chest several years before by an insane neighbor and he had some damage to his lungs when he came down with CoVid. I got the banjo fixed up and playing. It's unreal that Dave is gone. I think about him when I play that old banjo. The tone ring is solid wood.



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Playing Since: 1973
Experience Level: Novice

twayneking has made 5 recent additions to Banjo Hangout 

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Occupation: Freelance Writer, nonprofit consultant & grant writer

Gender: Male
Age: 69

My Instruments:
Squared Eel custom banjo, Goya classical guitar

Favorite Bands/Musicians:
Clancy Brothers, Earl Scruggs, Steve Martin, Connie Dover, Emmy Lou and anyone, Willie Nelson and anyone, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, Gordon Lightfoot, Alison Kraus, Nickel Creek, Joe Bethancourt

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Visible to: Public
Created 6/26/2007
Last Visit 11/28/2023

I grew up in the small Seventh-day Adventist college town of Keene, Texas where I graduated in 1976 with a degree in English-Communications. I married a Scots-Irish-Indian woman from Monroe, Louisiana and raised three children and some cats and dogs, birds and fish. I’ve taught school, taught swimming, canoeing and sailing, knot tying, camping and astronomy for kids. I’ve water skied on canoe paddles, assorted bits of lumber and my elbows. I have a couple of canoes and a catamaran, 3 guitars, two banjos, a dulcimer, a mandolin, a fiddle, 2 recorders, a penny whistle, fife, a bag of harmonicas, a bodhrain, pair of bones and a jaw harp or two – all of which I play badly. I’ve helped start up 6 nonprofit organizations in 25 years and raised millions of dollars none of which ever managed to stick to my bank account. I’ve won awards for documentary screen-writing, published poetry and short stories and a book on how to organize a charity golf tournament. I was appointed to a two year term on the Public Transportation Advisory Committee for the Great State of Texas by the Governor and I work as an advocate for seniors, people with disabilities and low income families. I’m a Reagan conservative, which puzzles my fellow advocates, who think I should spontaneously combust from the sheer incongruity. On the other hand, I’ve taught them to speak Republican which has improved their rate of success with the state legislature. I am currently raising funds to expand Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge here in East Texas. My advocacy work includes children’s issues, expanding public transportation, creating barrier free housing and promoting community wide accessibility standards that allow transportation challenged Texans to fully participate in their communities. I have three grandchildren, a son and daughter-in-law, my beautiful daughter and her new husband and we live on beautiful Lake Palestine near Tyler, Texas. My middle son, an amazing young man, passed away more than a year ago while finishing his senior year at UT Tyler. He was going to be a teacher. Since I wrote this, we moved away from the lake, lost almost everything and moved to Puyallup, Washington to live with my wife's sister and brother-in-law. In the midst of a recession and massive unemployment, it seemed to be the thing to do. We've cut our expenses drastically and I'm able to work on finishing up the books I have been working on.

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