A continuing tale of life in the boonies

No. 118

Notes on a piano

In late January of 1988, after several weeks of preliminary planning, Farmington Town Players assembled at the Town Hall, to begin serious rehearsals for the musical "Charlie Brown," and at that embryonic stage, few realized the complexity of the undertaking. It quickly became apparent, however, that the old relic of a piano that had lurked on stage for a few decades, was not equal to the task.

The musical director, a man of considerable ability, felt that even with mirrors, elastic bands, and a magician's wand, nothing was going to come forth from the aged instrument, that could be recognized as a melody. He proposed that the only way to salvage the show was to purchase or hire a newer piano. After visiting several showrooms in the area, the musical director's recommendation was to go for a Baldwin Upright, available at the apparently low price of $2,800.

Regular readers of this column may recall that Jeanne Radcliffe waxed extremely enthusiastic at the thought of the Town of Farmington having a fine piano, and launched a public appeal to raise this daunting sum of money. Meanwhile, the theatre company stumbled on as best it could with what was on stage - the pianistic equivalent of Don Quixote's horse. Some folks even dubbed it Rozinante.

One Saturday in February, just before the Winter Carnival, I was far out on the frozen wastes of Farmington County Club, way below the second tee, shoveling a track through waist deep snow for the canoe race. Fortunately, I had been conveyed to the location by snowmobile, and had subsequently strapped on show-shoes in order to move around. It was surprised I was, indeed, when a cry reached my ears and I looked up to see the unmistakable bulk of Town Player, Mr. Larry Parent, silhouetted against a blue sky. He had reached this desolate spot after a heroic plodge that surely ranked in fortitude with Hannibal's crossing of the Alps, Mao Tse Tung's Long March and Amundsen's dash for the South Pole.

"The piano player has quit!" he yelled once more.

It had been one of those artistic flare-ups involving brilliant minds that proved to be quite unpatchupable, and there was nothing for it but to scour the countryside, over the next couple of days for another music director or scrap the show.

An excellent pianist, David Warfield, agreed to join the company, and his arrival pretty much coincided with that of the brand new Baldwin Upright, which was rented (with an option to buy) from a local firm. Over the next few weeks, David displayed commendable professionalism and noteworthy patience, as he soldiered on with a piano whose action proved to be seriously flawed. Middle D would go out, the tuner/technician would be sent for. D would hold up for the next rehearsal, but E and F would stop playing, resulting in the tuner getting another summons. Despite these missing notes, David would go stoically through the musical score with the actors, even when Moonlight Sonata was reduced to sounding like Baa Baa Black Sheep. But no one was happy. Morale began to waver.

Stiff and snappy phone calls...extremely dismayed ... multi-thousand dollar production in jeopardy ... mirrors, elastic bands, and magician's wand ... piano tuner declares design problem …

And all's well that ends well. The piano company rushed out, that very day, a larger shinier and acoustically superior instrument, which worked a treat, and which we have subsequently purchased for the originally agreed price - a kindness bestowed on us to compensate for all the inconvenience. The Baldwin Upright, it appears, did have flawed action after all, a fault that Baldwin has reputedly ironed out of their ultra-latest models. The show, "Charlie Brown" was, in the end, a gratifying hit, complete with memorable singing, and accolades for David Warfield.

Henry Wilson Grange News

Hookers turned out in force on Mechanic Street last week, when Milli Gay gave a lecture at the Grange Hall on the old-fashioned art of rug-making. On this occasion there was also a Brownie Competition of the square edible, not round, lovable, variety. Winners were 1. Joan Jackson 2. Erik Reinholz 3. Alice Allen. A child's dress, sewn by Leona Rollins, was also chosen by the Home Ec. committee to go to Pomona (What's that, eh?) for the next level of competiton. Then Mrs. Jackson gave Mrs. Gay a jar of homemade jelly and a loaf of zucchini bread. The next meeting, on 27 April, will be a Talent Night, preceded by supper at 6:30 p.m.

Selectmen's Meeting of April 19, 1988

A savage indictment against Mudders was delivered by a resident of Sheepboro Road and his claims that 4WD vehicles were ruining the driving surface were received sympathetically by the Board. As the complainer resides on a Class VI road, however, the town is prevented by state law from spending any money on road signs that would deter this springtime activity. I doubt if signs would do the trick, any way. Think landmines, guys.

An extremely brief public hearing was then opened to hear reasons for and against Jim Pettis remaining on the Planning Board, that gentleman having been absent and incommunicado for a lengthy period. Butch Barron of the Planning Board confirmed the facts, no one else spoke, and the hearing was closed. The result was a K.O. in the 35th second of the 1st round.

Mrs. Robinson of Spring Street (Near Beaver Pond camp, if you need fine details) then upspake, and said that she had paid $1,800 to a private contractor for a water hookup from her house to the public main, and had now received a bill from the Water Dept. for the same thing. Butch Barron, the private contractor, confirmed the facts, and lots of other people spoke. It was explained that the $1,000 to the town consisted of a $500 hookup privilege fee, which helped to maintain and develop the water system, and $500 was the averaged cost of running pipe from the public main to an owner's propety line. As this latter task had already been done (TSK! TSK!), the selectmen decided to consider her for partial rebate of this $500 portion. Here's to you, Mrs. Robinson, Heaven holds a place for those who pay. Hey, hey, hey!

The perennial matter of dump-picking was then raised, and shaken all around like a rag doll in a terrier's mouth. Hypothetical scenarios were painted like: Supposing if you saw a small but particularly enticing piece of garbage just lying there, like a kiddies’ bike in good working order, wouldn't you feel tempted, nay obligated to snatch it from the shadows of the bucket-loader? This topic reached no firm conclusion, but may I suggest the placement of signs that read NO PICKING OVER 5 TONS.

In other business, the qualities of Ford were matched against those of International, with "wet sleeves" often mentioned. I thought wet sleeves resulted from picking the septic lagoon, but apparently not.

April 25, 1988

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