Fun was a rare thing in the rural Delta back in the day. There were folks who even considered it sinful. But some managed to slip around and pursue it. One place where they did was, I’m told, in this old farmhouse where we spend time. It seems that this was the place to be of a Saturday night.
My mother-in-law, Hazel Welch Cole, who moved here as a young girl, remembers it as a place of love and music. “I would wake up in the morning to the sounds of my momma cooking breakfast and my daddy playing the guitar.” That may not pass current standards of political correctness, but it’s not an unpleasant image considering the current images we see of what Thoreau call “… lives of quiet desperation.”
The large living room was cleared on Saturday night for visitors. The kids would be packed off to bed and the musicians would start arriving. Soon, dancing, merriment, and fun commenced. As they say, “If these old walls could only talk.” When the musicians grew tired, there was a “Victrola,” still sitting in the attic, from which the latest dance tunes and Carter Family releases blared.
I’ll swear that on a late Saturday night when it gets real quiet, I can still hear the feet scuffling and the music playing. They say that when fiddle player Turner Mitchell hit a hot lick, he would yell “I think I just struck a tune.” One could do worse in life, but his brother Lloyd was, by all accounts, the “Champion Fiddle Player” around here. Oh, to have heard them all.
Since dancing has long enjoyed status of a major sin in Baptist circles, one can appreciate the flagrant disregard of this “no-fun” edict all the more. As Mark Twain once said, “There is a charm about the forbidden that makes it unspeakably desirable.”
I’m glad they danced and partied in this old house. What could be sadder in the Delta than a dilapidated and abandoned home that never witnessed a family experiencing the pure joy of having fun? I’m particularly glad they sang songs under this roof. Joy spreads. Legend has it that the older kids once put a kitchen chair over the youngest and treated it to a current hit, “He’s in the jailhouse now.” Fun was where you found it in those days.
One can only hope that we never lose our love of music and singing, particularly songs of joy and hope. It would be a dark and scary world if we lost them. If some consider them sinful, maybe we can still find value in the experience.
“You're going to have things to repent, boy,' Mr. John had told Nick. 'That's one of the best things there is. You can always decide whether to repent them or not. But the thing is to have them.” ― Ernest Hemingway, The Nick Adams Stories
Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow. — Jeremiah 31:13 ESV