Kindergarten

It was 1939, I was five years old, attending the Phoebe Hearst Free Kindergarten, in Lead, South Dakota. I remember the teacher telling us to sing a song to the class, each in turn. For some reason I remember the inside of that large room where we were sitting in a circle on the floor. I don’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I have that event secure in my memory.

My classmates sang children’s songs like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and other such ditties. My repertoire was different, even unique. My mother was a barroom piano player. She said she played ragtime but that was above her pay grade. She played drive piano style, by ear, in every bar, club and rowdy country dance hall in the Black Hills and seemed to know every song ever written. If someone requested a song and she played it, they gave her a dollar. If she couldn’t play it, she gave them the dollar, and she gave away very few dollars.

She practiced playing every day, and I knew most of the damn songs myself. So when it came my turn to sing, I had three songs in mind. “Ragtime Cowboy Joe,” “When They Cut Down the Old Pine Tree”, and “The Irish Washwoman.” I chose “Ragtime Cowboy Joe.”

Ragtime Cowboy Joe

Ragtime Cowboy Joe

I know the lyrics the way I sang them, and they’re damn close to correct. Here are the words as I knew them at five years old and remember them now. I sang them loud and rowdy in my mother’s robust style, and with broad gestures.

Ragtime cowboy, Ragtime cowboy, Ragtime cowboy Joe.
He always sings as he swings into the saddle,
on a horse, pretty good horse, a syncopated gaiter,
and there is nothing sweeter than the roar of his repeater.

How they run when they hear that fella’s gun
because the western folks all know,
he’s a rootin’ tootin’ sonofagun
from Arizona,
Ragtime Cowboy,
talk about your cowboy,
Ragtime Cowboy Joe.

I didn’t hesitate a moment but went right into “When They Cut Down the Old Pine Tree.”

The Old Pine Tree

The Old Pine Tree

They cut down the old pine tree
and hauled it away to the mill,
to build a coffin of pine
for that sweet heart of mine,
when they cut down the old pine tree.

But she’s not alone in her grave at night,
for that’s where my heart will always be.
Though we drifted apart
’til they cut down my heart,
when they cut down the old pine tree.

I was going into The Irish Washwoman, but the teacher stopped me. That was a good idea because I only knew mother’s bawdy version. She sent a note home saying that children should not be singing those types of songs in kindergarten or anywhere else.

Do you ever have a tune in your head that just won’t go away? I have a dozen or more from those times that I can’t get rid of. My mother brainwashed me by endlessly playing them on that old, upright, Gulbransen piano. Here’s an image and a song for you:

P. D. Hogan's Saddle

P. D. Hogan’s Saddle

Thanks for visiting me…

leo

P.S. Last week, this interview appeared on the NC Arboretum blog: Meet the Colorman. My exhibition will be up until September 18th, so if you haven’t seen it yet be sure to get there soon; it has been selling well.

More Affection

Thanks to all the folks who commented and contacted me about the last blog post.

Good news has been surrounding me and in these days of notta lotta good news, it’s nice to experience it.

I recently wrapped up a fun series of classes. They are a lot of work and still energize me. You can learn anything from anybody at any time. This photo is from the July 9th Level III class, which focuses on assemblage, found object art, and art in boxes.

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The group exhibit at the NC Arboretum has been viewed by quite a few locals and out-of-towners. On top of that my paper sculpture sales have been bloomin’, simply bloomin’! I am there every Saturday between Noon and 3. If you visit, be sure to look at the LEGO sculpture placed all over the grounds. A huge praying mantis and a bald eagle are very close to the Education Center building where I am.

This month there is an interesting The Laurel of Asheville Shadows and Color Exhibit article about the exhibition.

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Shortly they will interview me for their blog.

This morning I had another fun Art Connections tour. This was a gift that a family gave their mother for her 95th birthday, which was today. She painted, and she was in awe and curious about how I do color. She said her secret to staying vital is to be positive.

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On August 11th, I’ll be down in the River Arts District reading five haiku poems I wrote for a friend and artist at Broken Road Studio. Here is just one of the latest batch:

Warm and cool colors
A white canvas comes alive
Painter’s fantasy

I am preparing for my next Grovewood Gallery exhibit in October. It will be made up of all white-on-white artwork which will certainly add contrast to their dark grey walls.

Yesterday afternoon, out of the blue, three pieces sold from the studio. The last piece from the ‘I Dance Alone’ series found a home in Texas. The last one to sell was, “Keep Your Damn Job, I Dance.” Better get back to work.

Thanks for visiting with me …

leo