Printed October 29, 2019
The Fiddler’s back, playing his song
Seems like our fall weather has turned into freaky Indian Summer. We’ve had a lot of heat in an extended summer this year. Yesterday, Roy, my husband, spotted a great “V” and thought it was our Snow Geese making an early visitation. But it turned out to be a great number of White Pelicans, who settled as one on Pelican Lake just beyond the bank of the San Bernard River.
Then, for an unseen reason, they rose as one being and left. Pretty strange nature observation, but then, we live right on Music Bend of the San Bernard, nicknamed “the singing river,” where strange things have been known to happen.
In the autumn, when the days begin to shorten, and the sun begins its slow slide into the Gulf of Mexico, the winds pick up, and the sky and everything that seems to touch it, takes on a pink glow.
The Scots call this time of day, the gloaming – a great descriptive word this close to Halloween. The tides begin to recede, leaving the thousands of individual oysters back up McNeil’s Bayou and the back lakes, exposed like thousands of skeletal fingers reaching up from the silt, looking for something to grab.
Your senses are piqued, everything seems surreal. And then you hear it. Faint, at first, carried by the coastal breeze over the back lakes. Then, it hits the river and is amplified, and you stand, mesmerized by the unearthly strains.
The hair on the back of your neck stands up, and you feel goosebumps crawling up your arms. The Fiddler’s back.
For over a century, people have been hearing the strange strains of an unearthly fiddle at Music Bend on the San Bernard. In fact, it’s our greatest claim to fame. Many versions of the tale have been told, but I happen to like the one Catherine Munson Foster put down in her book, “Ghosts Along the Brazos.”
In this tale, two fishermen lived along the banks of the Bernard, and one of them was a fiddler who played at local functions. Seems like he got a portion of a song in his head and could not quite remember the rest of it.
So, he kept playing the portion he remembered over, and over, and over again, hoping the rest of the song would pop into his head. It never did. The unmusical fisherman asked his partner to stop – more than once. But the rest of the tune was so close, so the fiddler kept playing.
The unmusical partner finally had enough and ended the repetition by chopping off the Fiddler’s head and throwing him and his fiddle into the river.
To this day, even in death, the Fiddler still tries to get the song right from time to time. If you keep an open mind and come to the river at gloaming, you may still hear him play. I know I have.
(Jan wants to hear from you. Write her in care of The Bulletin. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)