The Old-Time Herald Volume 13, Number 3

Tales from the ‘Woods Part 3: Marion
By Walt Koken
courtesy of Walt Koken

Mac had told stories of the Marion, Virginia, fiddlers’ convention, where he’d listened to Tommy Jarrell, and others too, a couple years before, so we left Kansas in anticipation of the event. An overnight stop to visit my mother in St. Louis afforded us a nice supper, and the next day found Mac and Bob and me in central Kentucky, searching for a park we saw on the map. Mac pulled into a filling station there in the wilds, and I asked the mechanic where this campground was. He spelled it out for us, pointing and gesturing, but with the large chaw in his mouth and his deep accent the likes of which I had never heard, all I could say was, “What?” He repeated his unintelligible diatribe. I looked at the others, who looked back at me blankly, so I repeated, “What?” Rather impatiently he glared at me, and in a gruff voice said, “Don’t turn off nowhere!” We thanked him, followed his advice, and arrived in short order at the campground.

In the morning we found our way out of the state without incident, and by that afternoon came to Marion, Virginia, where we were checked into the Hungry Mother State Park by a ranger who reminded me of Dudley Do-Right. He recited all the rules to us, most of which we broke before the end of the weekend. We had landed practically in the very center of the region from which our favorite music recordings had come.

After checking out our campsite, we went directly to the athletic field down behind the school in town, where the fiddlers’ convention was to be held. There was the stage, across the track from the stands, and we parked the panel truck off to the side with the few other cars that had arrived. We were greeted by the convention’s promoter, Vance Yeary, who was very cordial and also impressed that we had driven nearly three thousand miles to come to this affair. Vance and many of the other folks we met that day were very warm and generous towards us, and became friends whom we saw countless times at other fiddlers’ conventions and gigs in the years that followed.

We hauled out our instruments and had a tune. There was no shade there, but a local fellow named Rudy who was our neighbor for the weekend gave us a tarp, which we rigged up between our old truck and a light pole. We used “Rudy’s tarp” for many years.

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