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Down Darby Lane

Bagpipes Play Gentle on My Mind

I did an assessment today. I have way more musical instruments than I’ve had husbands. That’s oddly comforting. I had this thought while listening to Scottish music and realized that I do not have a set of bagpipes.

Most of the instruments I’ve purchased I can barely play. However, let me say that I have yet to meet one on which I cannot play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Bagpipes might be an exception.

I think my fondness for instruments has roots in my teenage years when I played the viola and oddly landed as first chair in the high school orchestra. Viola players are rare, a bit like white squirrels. If you recall (and likely don’t), a viola is larger than a violin and generally unpopular – which also describes me in high school. We were a good fit.

A viola player had more opportunities than did violinists, who had to be highly competitive for limited seats in an orchestra. There was always an empty chair for a viola player. Violin players were also pretty unpopular in cool-culture but not as unpopular as those few of us who lugged around a viola.

There were, however, a few benefits I enjoyed, like the time we went on a bus trip to play in a competition and, in the dark ride on the way home, the first cellist gave me a dry little kiss on the lips. Cellists were almost as sexy as bass players. Which brings me to another instrument.

I had a short stint as a bass player in a high school jazz quartet. Not that I could play anything beyond plucking a few strings behind the guys on the piano, drums, and saxophone. But I compensated by being cute, having a big bubble-cut blond hairdo, and wearing a pink mini skirt with white patent boots. That gig came to a crashing halt one night. I am sure you are aware that a bass is a big instrument and about as heavy as a Smart Car. As I went to return the bass I’d borrowed from the orchestra (I don’t recall the permission part of that) it slipped from my grasp and catapulted down a flight of marble stairs. To call the results ‘kindling’ would be like calling Mt. Whitney a pile of stones.

Later in life I occasionally played in orchestras at a few weddings and events and then eventually got a real nine-to-five job and sold my viola. But I still had the fiddling bug and, to stay in touch with strings as I traveled for my job as a magazine writer, I bought an electric fiddle. It looked very cool. And I could play it in hotel rooms using little earbuds so that only I could hear how AMAZING I was sounding. Amazing is, of course, a debatable term.

Back home, a young man who’d had too many Budweisers invited me to be a fiddler in his aspiring country-style band. All the members were at least 30 years younger than me and could actually play country music (I could not). We rehearsed early evenings in a member’s garage: electric guitars and drums and me. I felt overwhelmed because I was. I had zero idea what I was doing, and unlike my bass days, I wasn’t even decorative. The day came when the guitarist announced we’d landed a gig at a bar in Nevada. Instead of being thrilled I felt immediately tired. Me – who goes to bed and reads National Geo at 9 p.m. - playing in a dive bar with beer and dudes until a 1 a.m. closing time and then sleeping in a cheap motel room? In the desert? I looked around for the nearest wheelchair and rolled out. Next step, sell the electric fiddle.

Thus it is that I came to my collection of instruments. Collecting being less challenging and demanding than actually playing. Though I do intend to … someday … play every one of them. Perhaps at my memorial service. To date, I have 3 violins, two guitars, a Bodhran, 2 Irish flutes, a concertina, an accordion, an Erhu (look that up here), a Ukelin (look that up here), a few South American clay flutes, a WWI bugle, two harmonicas, and a Stellar Accordion. I had a piano but gave it to my grandkids. After all, enough is enough. Except for maybe the bagpipes.



Friends and Readers,

A note about most of us, for better and worse, in the Arts. I think we long to share our thoughts and creations - and without you, we are lonely. Imagine, you wrote a beautiful piece of music and no one but you (and perhaps your cat) ever got to hear it. Or painted a picture that no one else but you ever saw, or wrote a story that no one but you read. Sharing is everything for people in the arts and your support is fundamental to the continued creativity of all artists. So, Thank you! 

Hey! Check out this awesome article by popular columnist Ed Goldman - it's about moi! Also subscribe to his clever, witty and smart blog!  

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My Mountain Mystery

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Sample Amazon Reviews

This is an excellent writer!

Darby Patterson is truly a talented writer. She describes this little town sweetly without boring the reader with unimportant detail, and her descriptions are vivid. She also develops her characters fully through conversation and action so the reader becomes acquainted with the main players and can form pictures of them early in the book. Her characters' thoughts, interactions, and past activities combine to portray the culture of Redbud throughout the story, and the story itself is creative and holds surprises along the way. I too hope Ms Patterson continues to share her talents with us!

Sondra Jensen

Awaiting the next installment

An invitation to linger in this vanishing part of California which has so much history is writ on every page of this book. I've visited places like Redbud with a creek burbling in the background as gentle breezes sough through the pines and cedars. I've found them quaint and rich with fascinating local lore and history. Jesse, as publisher of the local weekly is very nicely sketched, the authors background as a journalist comes through clean and clear in developing him. This small California mining and logging town scrabbling to hang on, I liked very much as a setting. I wouldn't mind sitting down with Jesse and having a beer and help him solve his next mystery. The test of a good book is whether you'd be willing to read it again, later. This book passes that test and I can't wait for the next installment.

Jack Howard


Please let this be the first of a series!

Wonderful book; adult without being ‘R’ rated, complex story and well developed characters. The people of ‘Redbud’ ring true and, as a native Californian, the lumber, real estate and politics are spot on. I hope this is the beginning of a series because the author has created characters you want to know better.

D. Holmes

My other passion
Sculpting for bronze - See more HERE
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