The Un-Conventional Fiddler’s Convention

I pick up my friend Scott. I’ve known Scott since 1983. I met him at the frat house where my high school friends and I hung around and partied. During one of the parties my parents thought I was attending a special theatre screening of The Sound of Music with a guest speaker. When I arrived home at 12:30 am I said to my parents, “The speaker was very chatty with all of her trivia about the Sound of Music.” My parents: “Why are your eyes so red?”

Scott and I are driving from Richmond, Virginia to Galax, Virginia to attend the Old Fiddler’s Convention. Neither one of us has been before. We get in my car. Scott pulls out a bottle of gin. He has severe back pain. Not that Scott needs severe back pain to drink gin, but he’s upped his game as far as I’m concerned.

Scott and I are meeting friends that are staying at a camp ground near the convention. We arrive at the old house at the campground that looks like it might collapse if we walk inside. There’s a dozen or so folks on the front porch, some of whom are our friends. I think, “Good thing you’re on the porch and not inside because we might be drinking a Budweiser in the crawl space.”

Everyone is pretty lit except for me. I have some catching up to do.  It’s maybe fifteen minutes after we arrived. We’re sitting out front. I haven’t seen Stephanie for years. I know her from the frat house scene back in the day.

Stephanie’s son, Riggs, who I reckon is in his early twenties, and an older guy, who is visibly wasted, come running from the back of the house. They have a two gallon jug of whiskey. They are handing it to each other and chugging the whole thing down. I’m thinking, “Holy shit, what have I gotten myself into?” Stephanie says, “Riggs, if you puke go behind the house.”

Riggs says, “Jokes on you. It’s iced tea.” Phew.

That night we hang out at the campground. No one can drive to the Convention. I’m thinking I have driven several hours for an intimate campground event.

A beautiful, young, married woman named Loretta is flirting with every man. She’s pissing off some of the partners. I’m thinking Loretta’s three young children are lost in the woods or drowning in the lake. Drama at the campground.

I’m eyeing Riggs, who I think is a perfect human specimen. Very good looking. He’s playing guitar and singing and I cannot take my eyes off him. He’s younger than my daughter!  But, I’m married and I am only observing and enjoying the sight.

Scott and I get to stay in the structure otherwise known as a house. The next morning I come downstairs around 9:00 am. My friend Blair, who is approaching sixty years old, is sitting with Loretta at the kitchen table. Loretta is rubbing her leg against Blair’s leg. Blair does not mind.

Scott is pouring a gin drink. Ralph, who appears to be about eighty years old, is cooking breakfast for everyone. He’s got the frying pan heated up. He takes an egg from the carton and cracks it. He says, “What in tarnation? These eggs are hard-boiled.” He throws down the spatula and goes to sit on the front porch.

I say, “Ralph, I’m sorry. I brought hard-boiled eggs. I’ll go buy some eggs if you’d like.” Ralph says, “Someone ‘round here bound to have some eggs.” Ralph heads to wander the campground in search of eggs.

Blair and Loretta are engaged in a full-on flirt party. They have been up all night. Loretta’s got a good buzz on. Loretta slurs to me, “I like you.” I’m thinking,” Well, thank god for that!” Loretta says, “Want to see my RV?” I say, “Okay.”

We step inside the RV. I say, “Wow, this is really nice.” She shows me the bedroom. Her husband is sleeping. She whips off the covers and says, “A’int he so good looking?” Wow! Her husband wakes up. Loretta says, “This is Jeff.” I say, “Nice to meet you.” Then I run away.

 Scott and I spend the whole day at the campground hanging out with a bunch of people. A few guys are jamming and it’s really good. Riggs is still good looking. That evening a sober guy says he’ll take Scott and me to the Convention. We arrive. There’s more Confederate flags and MAGA hats than I’ve ever seen in one place. There is also more fiddling going on than I’ve ever heard in one place. It’s kind of like listening to avante-garde free-jazz where there’s a whole lot going on, except avante-garde is not the first thing that come to mind at the Convention. We stumbled upon some really good jams.     

We spend about an hour at the Convention, then back to the campground, which is fine with me.

Scott and I head back to Richmond the next day. Scott is having his 9:30 am cocktail. Scott says, “You know Southwest Virginia is the Meth capital of the world. We get on an interstate. There is an inordinate amount of speeding cars. I’m not a fast driver. Every time a car flies by me I say, “Another Meth head behind the wheel. Lord, they’re everywhere!”

Author: Kathy Varner

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