Aunt Pearls Mandolin


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My Aunt Pearl played the mandolin in a hillbilly band in the town of High Coal, West Virginia. She bought that mandolin from a guy who came over from Missouri for ten dollars and a blackberry pie. She was known around High Coal for her pies. They would always bring top dollar at the church auction. Those coal miners loved her pies almost as much as I did.

On Saturday night, she and four other musicians, a guitar picker, a fiddler, a gal that sang and played the harmonica and a guy who plucked the bull fiddle to carry the bottom would get things jumping at a local roadhouse called Sharpie’s.

Aunt Pearl could sing too, but she wasn’t the star. She’d sing harmony and take the occasional lead on Wildwood Flower and later after Patsy Cline was on the Arthur Godfrey show, she’d take the lead on Walking After Midnight. She had a voice that was as clear as a church bell on Sunday morning and she could make that mandolin talk.

Sharpie’s sold beer and had pool tables and if they knew you, you could get a mason jar of moonshine from a fella in the backroom for a dollar and a half. On Saturday night, if you got there early enough, you could get a slice of Aunt Pearl’s blackberry pie.

One night a fight broke out in the middle of old Hank’s Jambalaya. For a half a second the band stopped and tried to protect their instruments until Aunt Pearl yelled “Keep playing!” They played on while those coal miners busted chairs over each other’s heads and one guy got cut up with a broken beer bottle.

The sheriff was already there. He instantly deputized a couple of the soberer looking customers and before too long they had things under control.

Aunt Pearl gave Sharpie and earful and because of her willingness to speak up the tavern got its first bouncer before the next weekend. It was a shame the band had to lose their bass player, but he was the biggest guy in town. And, as part of the deal, Sharpie got a free pie on his birthday.

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