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Home  >  Family and Community  >  Family Collections  >  Kerr
'Cattle in the Cane' - The Father-Daughter Texas Fiddle Connection
By Jim Kerr

Our tip box starts to gather some green bills. But I must admit I am getting a bit nervous about breaking even today. Finally, while I wonder whether anyone really likes us, someone buys a couple of our CDs. Yahoo! We are not worthless scum! Somebody is willing to pay for our music and take it home. It is a pivotal point in the day. Sales pick up and folks stop and chat with us as we play music beneath the warm sun.

Many tourists ask us what that unusual instrument is called. Others tell us that they've seen hammered dulcimers where they come from. I bet most everyone from West Virginia who saw us came up and mentioned how they've seen hammered dulcimers back home. West Virginia is where many great hammered dulcimers are built -- many of them are custom built by hand.

Jim and Amanda Kerr
Meanwhile Amanda has bought a hot elephant ear pastry and we share it. She also got some coffee for me. As quick as she came, Amanda takes off with her band, The Emeralds, and plays a 45-minute performance on the market stage. They get warm applause and a decent looking take in the tip jar. However, after the tips are split five ways the amount is reduced to a paltry sum for each Emerald. Naturally, it didn't take long for Amanda to spend her cut. So she comes by and asks me if I'll play guitar for her while she fiddles for more tips. How can I refuse the State Fair fiddle champ? I abandon our little enterprise to play backup guitar for the fabulously fantastic fiddler.

We start out with a tune we plan on using at the next fiddle contest -- a fast and flashy Texas tune -- called "Cattle in the Cane." Amanda doesn't like playing anything from her band's repertoire with me. She prefers mostly Texas music, although sometimes we'll play Celtic tunes. We start to play. I close my eyes -- a potentially dangerous thing to do while standing up playing guitar. I imagine notes spitting out of our instruments like so many stars in the night. It's like we are the supply of stars for Saturday night. Of course nobody can see the stars because it is daylight, unless, of course they close their eyes.

Jim backs up Amanda's fiddle playing with his guitar.
After about a half an hour the tips are rolling in and we have quite a crowd. In the front are four very attentive teenage boys. The usual questions and comments pop up for Amanda between tunes - How old are you? (Fourteen.) How long have you been playing? (Since I was 3.)

One of the boys asks me, "Are you her dad?"

With a big grin I proudly reply, "You bet, kid," while giving him the so-don't-get-any-funny-ideas look.

-- spring 2002

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