Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Pig or a Banjo?

Posted by Ben


God's Providence is an amazing combination of His purposes and our human actions. In his autobiography, Man of Constant Sorrow: My Life and Times, Dr. Ralph Stanley relates a story that led to his ultimate development as a musician and compiler of old mountain tunes.

He tells the story of a decision he faced when he was approaching his eleventh birthday. He was due for a present and his mother told him that he could either have a banjo or a pig. At that time, he was studying agriculture in school and he lived on a farm. And he liked pigs.

His Aunt Roxie had a banjo and she raised hogs. An old sow had a litter and there was a little sow pig that Ralph admired. The banjo she had was an open-backed, tattered and frayed instrument. She wanted $5.00 for the banjo and the same for the pig.

Stanley writes,

"Now, you make up your mind," my mother told me. "I can't buy you both of them. So do you want the pig or the banjo?" I took the banjo, and I'm mighty glad I did. I don't think I'd make much of a pig farmer. My mother had a little grocery store where she peddled her produce, and she traded out in groceries with Aunt Roxie so I could get the banjo.


All too often, now-a-days, we would feel compelled to buy our sons both the banjo and the pig (translated into the electric guitar and the I-phone for moderns). Stanley had to make a choice, and his mother wisely encouraged his and his brother's musical interests. (She had also been a banjo player before children and home duties caused her to put her own banjo away.)

Many country musicians have stories of life choices they made which resulted in their musical careers. Of course, not every choice was a good one. Many singers abandoned home, steady jobs, family ties, and even church ties to pursue the doors that music opened. In God's goodness, quite a few also found the time or occasion to pause and return to the things that mattered.

[Nick is at camp this week, so I have finally been able to post something on this site.]


1 comment: