Edsel used to love to hear us play and he would love to take us fishing.
One day we asked him what it takes to be a woodcarver. His answer was very simple.
"Just get you a good sharp Bar low Knife, a piece of pine
and cut away what you don't need fern what you're carving."
The two pictures above have been graciously contributed by
Tim Hansen of Superior, Wisconsin
STORY NUMBER 1 - Contributors - Richard and Rachael Heller - Sarasota, FL
THE TALE OF - HOW I WAS TRICKED INTO BECOMING
DULCIMER CHAMP OF NORTH CAROLINA
It was one of our many trips to the trailer camp in Swannanoa back in the early 1970s that it happened. We had planned on spending a few peaceful days with Edsel. He picked us up at the airport and drove us to his trailer. The kids and his first wife gave us a wonderful greeting and we had a great dinner.
We happened to hit on a time that the 40th Bascomb Lamar Lunsford Mountain Music and Dance Festival had started. Edsel asked us if we would like to go to the Festival. He said that he had some free tickets. We said that we would love it. Then that mischievous gleam came into his eye as he asked, "Say Richard, would you like to play at the Festival?" Well, Richard being the consummate ham that he was and still is said, "Sure, but I didn't bring my banjo." Edsel assured Richard that he could borrow one from their mutual friend, Bill McElreath.
The following night, Edsel and we went off to the Festival and Richard played before an audience of some twenty thousand in the auditorium and another several hundred thousand listening to their radios in the surrounding states. That was on a Friday night. The following Saturday afternoon we were sitting around the fire roasting potatoes when Edsel asked Richard, "How'd you like to play the dulcimer at the Festival tonight?" Once again, Richard didn't need any further prodding.
Saturday night we went to the Festival and Richard played. Saturday night was the wrap up of the Festival activities and was the night that they announced the winners of the various music and dance category competitions; best string band, best smooth dancing team, best clog dancing team, etc.
Well, there we were sitting in the audience awaiting the results of the judges. With each announcement of a winner, there was tremendous applause. Finally they came down to the announcement of the best dulcimer player for that year. You guessed it. Over the sound system came the following announcement, "And now ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the dulcimer competition is (slight pause) Richard Heller."
Through the thunderous applause, Richard picked himself off the floor, took the shocked expression off his face and mounted the stage to accept his award. That is how Richard, the little red-headed kid from The Bronx in New York City, who unknowingly had competed against some of the best dulcimer players in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee, became dulcimer champ of North Carolina that year.
The photos above, left to right, one of Edsel's birds - Edsel at one of his favorite past-times: fishing -
Edsel carving a dulcimer tuning head - and finally another one of Edsel's birds.
The last two photos
were contributed by Dan Rushing of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Rick and Amy Carter, music teachers in Murphy (Cherokee County), North Carolina(upper left)
graciously have provided us with this picture of an example of Edsel's craft (upper right).
Four of photos above were graciously contributed by Dan Rushing (second row - lower right).
First row top left photo is of Rude Osolnik having morning coffee with Edsel several days prior to Edsel's death.
The middle photo in the top row is an example of Edsel's wry humor - one of his bird dogs - head of a bird
and body of a dog. The third picture in the top row is one of Edsel's birds.
The first photo, bottom left, is another of Edsel's Bird Dogs, contributed by James Powers, Jr.
Next is one of Edsel's hound dowg carvings contributed by Dave Rushing,
The three pictures above were contributed by Nathan Kachelmeyer
The photos above are typical of Edsel's fish carvings. These were contributed by Charla "Shorty" Burnette.
STORY NUMBER 2 - Contributor - Dan Rushing - Charlotte, NC
THE TALE OF - EDSEL - A MAN OF FEW WORDS
AND MANY FRIENDS
The peaks near Old Fort were slipping into their fall colors that October morning in 1993 as four flat landers drove cautiously across a low-water bridge near the headwaters of the Catawba River just around the bend from the rustic home of folk artist Edsel Martin . It was indeed a rare event for this prim & proper octogenarian great grandmother to venture away from her farmhouse in Union County NC with my sister, brother-in-law and I.
Edsel welcomed his visitors to the front porch without rising from his Lazy Boy rocker as he finished effortless strokes of color on a basswood Cardinal, freshly carved and ready to take flight. Mom complimented him on his unique home place. She was obviously taken with his artistic handiwork and intrigued with his bohemian character.
Always the outrageous one, Edsel grinned and replied that he would sell her one his birds if she had cash and then brazenly asked if she would like to come live with him in the same breath. It was one of the few times in her frugal life that she spent money on anything other than essentials. She ignored the impudent question, gladly paid his price and brought that Cardinal home where it sits on her mantel today - a sentimental reminder to my entire family of my friend Edsel - a simple mountain man whose genius was borne on the blade of a Case XX knife and a few fitly spoken words of jest that always seemed to brighten the lives of others.
Billy Edd Wheeler said it best in a obscure song written about our mutual friend: "Ain 't it funny where a man can find beauty, ain't it funny where a man can find wisdom, ain't it funny where a man can find Jesus" (Levi Jones - written by Billy Edd Wheeler and recorded by Tom T. Hall - 1995)
|STORY NUMBER 3 - Contributors - Richard and Rachael Heller - Sarasota, FL
THE TALE OF - "PULLING YOUR LEG - SO TO SPEAK"
It was one spring in the early 1970s that we got a "double" surprise letter from Edsel. You have to understand that the first surprise was the letter itself. Edsel was not the person who chose to take pen, more likely pencil, in hand. The second surprise was that he had been invited to participate in The Festival of American Folk Life, sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution. Traditionally the Festival was held on the Mall in Washington, D.C. each 4th of July weekend . You can imagine just how excited we were, a chance to visit with Edsel and a chance to pay our first visit to the Festival.
We arrived that weekend at the Mall in Washington and immediately went to the crafts booths area in search of Edsel. We asked around and quickly found the Mountain Misfit parked behind a table with a couple of dulcimers and bird carvings on top, a block of wood in his hands that was slowly changing into a bird, and a pile of whittled wood at his feet.
Now to the knife-in-the-leg part of the story. Later in the day, Edsel and we sat under a tree on the Mall. He was talking to a bunch of people and whittling. Someone of the "audience" asked him a question. Edsel stopped whittling, took his pocket knife and jabbed it into his shin. With the blunt end of the knife still vibrating, sticking out of his lower leg, Edsel calmly answered the question while enjoying the shocked expressions on the faces of the people watching.
What very few people never knew was that Edsel had a wooden leg. He took great delight in pulling the pocketknife in the leg routine many, many times. It did leave quite a few holes in his pants leg though.
STORY NUMBER 4 - Contributors - Joan and Jerry Johnson - Crawford, FL
NOTE: Jerry is Edsel's nephew - son of Edsel's sister Zenobia
THE TALE OF - COME BLOW YOUR HORN
It came to pass one day that Edsel was driving his old Land Rover along a country road when it came to a dead stop. Edsel, in his usual fashion, sat there for a while trying to start it. A car pulled up behind him and began blowing the horn. After a few more moments of irritating horn blowing, Edsel opened the door of his car and stepped out. He walked back to the car behind and asked the driver to roll down his window. Then Edsel said, "I tell you what. Why don't you go and sit in my car and I'll sit in yours and blow the horn for you." That's Edsel.
STORY NUMBER 5 - Contributors - Joan and Jerry Johnson - Crawford, FL
THE TALE OF - THIS LAND IS YOUR LAND,
THIS LAND IS MY LAND
Edsel was in the habit of taking off and camping out wherever he ended up. One day he found himself driving in Blue Ridge Mountains National Park. It was time to stop for the night. He found himself a nice spot for the evening and settled in. Pretty soon a Park Ranger moseyed on by.
"Hey there. You can't camp here," said the Ranger. Edsel looked the Ranger in the eye and asked, "This is a National Park, isn't it?" "Yes," said the Ranger. "And this Park belongs to the United States Government?" "Of course," responded the Ranger. "And our Government belongs to the American people?" The Ranger nodded yes. Edsel wrapped things up with, "You and I are Americans, so as I see it, you and I are part owners of this land and therefore we both have a right to camp here."
The Ranger smiled, turned and left the scene, leaving Edsel to his quiet evening in the Blue Ridge Mountains National Park.
Some more pictures before the next story
The four pictures above were contributed by Dan Rushing of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Left to right - Someone holding one of Edsel's dulcimers which now resides
in the Richard Petty Museum in Randleman NC. The bird-head dulcimer is one probably
made in the early 1990s.The third dulcimer is most likely the last dulcimer that Edsel
worked on. It was lovingly completed by Dan Rushing.
Above are three photos of some of Edsel's children.
Edsel gave us these photos many, many years ago.
STORY NUMBER 6 - Contributors - Richard and Rachael Heller - Sarasota, FL
THE TALE OF - MYSTERY OF THE BENT HICKORY
During that same visit with Edsel when he was in Washington, D.C., we had a surprise waiting for us. About a year earlier, we had visited Edsel and really admired a wonderful bent hickory rocking chair that he had just gotten as some craft festival. The rocker was amazingly comfortable. We ask Edsel to get us one if he ever saw any again and that we would pay for the cost and shipping.
When we were together at the Festival, we asked Edsel if he had come across any of the same type of rocking chair that he had in his house. Then came the gleam in his eye, the one that always was there when he was up to some kind of mischief, He promptly led us to where his car was parked and there in the back seat was a bent hickory rocker, just like Edsel's. We offered to pay him for it but he insisted that it was a gift, and that was it. No argument.
A few years later, we were visiting Edsel and his first wife Lois. At one point in the conversation, when Edsel had gone somewhere to take care of some business, we stayed with Lois. At one point in our conversation, we accidentally brought up the rocking chair we had first seen in their home a year earlier. Lois turned to us and said, "I really loved that old rocking chair, and danged if it just didn't disappear one day." Fortunately we kept our mouths shut. End of story.
STORY NUMBER 7 - Contributors - Richard and Rachael Heller - Sarasota, FL
THE TALE OF - GOT SOME FISHIN' TO DO DOC.
Even when Edsel was young, he never liked people messing with him. When he was sixteen, he joined the Navy. During his time in service, he had a serious accident which resulted in the loss of his right leg, below the knee.
The doctors in the Naval Hospital promised Edsel that they were going to fit him with an artificial leg. Edsel waited and waited, and waited. Each time he asked, the doctor would said it would be coming.
One day his patience wore thin and so he somehow got hold of some wood and a knife. He the proceeded to whittle himself an artificial leg that included a flexible jointed ankle.
On the next visit, the doctor was shocked to see Edsel dressed, carrying a small bag and walking quite normally toward the front door of the Hospital. "Where are you going?" demanded the doctor. "Home! I've got some fishing to do," said Edsel. "When you get my new leg, send it to me."
STORY NUMBER 8 - Contributors - Richard and Rachael Heller - Sarasota, FL
THE TALE OF - THE STRANGE DULCIMER
It was on one our visits with Edsel in the early 1970s that we encountered one of his most unique dulcimers. Now you can understand why we have purchased nineteen, yes count them, nineteen Edsel Martin dulcimers over the years, Every time that Edsel made a dulcimer, he used different woods, made them in different shapes and carved different tuning heads. He even made one with a football on the tuning head. Each one was a work of art. That is the beauty and curse of the Edsel Martin dulcimers.
Anyway, back to our story. There it was, sitting in the corner of his work area when we arrived. We couldn't resist. Sticking one leg out we asked, "Edsel, what in the world prompted you to make that one?" pointing to the dulcimer you see pictured above.
Edsel looked over at his masterpiece and smiled. "I was foolin' around one day and dropped a piece of curly maple and that's just how it broke. I looked at it layin' on the floor and decided it was a dulcimer." End of explanation.
STORY NUMBER 9 - Contributors - Richard and Rachael Heller - Sarasota, FL
THE TALE OF - DID IT HURT?
Edsel always had an eye for good looking women. One of Edsel's favorite teases would involve any attractive woman that he would meet along the way. Typically he would walk up to her and in that gentle, calming voice of his, he would ask, "Did it hurt ?"
The startled woman would ask, "I beg your pardon?"
Edsel would smile and ask again. "Did it hurt?"
"Did what hurt?" the woman would ask innocently.
"Did it hurt the day you fell from Heaven?" Then he'd chuckle.
STORY NUMBER 10 - Contributors - Richard and Rachael Heller - Sarasota, FL
THE TALE OF - SECOND THOUGHTS
Everything had gone well with the delivery of Edsel's second child. The doctor brought Edsel the happy news but Edsel appeared distraught. "What is it Edsel. You should be happy."
"It ain't that I'm unhappy doc. It's that I'm thinking that if I was te have another baby, I'd go out and hang myself."
The doctor knew Edsel well enough to know when Edsel was pulling his leg and paid no attention to the remark.
A year later, Edsel's wife was ready to give birth again. After another successful delivery the doctor came out of the trailer and found Edsel sitting under a tree. The doctor wanted to give Edsel a dose of his own medicine "The last time I was here you told me that you was gunna hang yerself if you was te have another baby."
"To tell the truth doc, when I heard that my wife was with child again, I thought about what I told you the last time. That's when I went te the barn, got me a good length of rope and went into the woods to find me a good, strong branch. I tied one end of that rope around the branch, made me a noose on the other end and put the rope around my neck."
The doctor smiled and asked, "And what made you change your mind?"
A big grin came over Edsel's face." "I got me the thought that I could be hangin' an innocent man."
End of story.
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