Fiddle Sticks


By Jim Hagarty

It had been kickin’ around the house for almost 20 years, an old family fiddle that just sort of ended up at our place.

Sealed in a sturdy steel case, it was brought out now and then to be admired, but quickly locked away again for the next time someone became curious enough to snap back the clasps. From one corner to the other, the charming little instrument spent its days and nights silently, within the darkness of its velvet-lined confines, ignored, if not totally unloved. It had gone into a temporary sleep around the same time its owner took up the rest of a more permanent kind.

Then one day recently, with some time on my hands, I thought I’d examine the old music maker to see what it was really like. I had heard somewhere along the way that it was just an inexpensive model, and so I never was able to work up much enthusiasm about it. I don’t play the fiddle, though I’ve always sort of wanted to and maybe now was the time…

Opening the slightly battered case, I breathed in a whiff of mustiness, and instantly wished that, cheap or not, the fiddle had been in the open air all these years. I took the shapely, little brown box upstairs and grabbing the bow, scratched away on its out-of-tune strings with all the precision of a novice skater, taking his first spin across the ice. It was not pretty and metaphorically speaking, I fell on my head and butt several times in quick succession.

To the relief of my family, I finally put the bow away and turned my attention to exactly what kind of fiddle I was holding. Knowing a bit about the heirarchy of acoustic guitars, I figured the same sort of importance is probably attached to when, where and by whom a fiddle was made. So, I took a squinty look through one of the wavy, musical-note cutouts in the top of the instrument and spelled out the first few letters I saw: “S-t-r-a-d…” I couldn’t see too well so I took it over to one of the lamps and holding it near the bulb, examined the details more closely. “Stradivarius” was most clearly written. “1713”

Now, I don’t know if it’s possible to take a stroke while looking through a hole in a fiddle, but I felt like one might be coming on. Had the Greater Power finally smiled down on my humble family with a plan to make the rest of our days on Earth a little bit easier? How many millions of dollars was I just then holding in my suddenly shaky hands? What should be my next move, in light of this discovery?

As if on cue, worries followed the jubilation. What if something happened to the “Strad” (as I have found out they are affectionately called) and we couldn’t collect? A house fire, a home invasion, other calamities.

And then there was the wider family. This being an heirloom of sorts, what portion of my good fortune should be shared with other members of the clan, people who obviously didn’t yet know about the riches I was about to be knee deep in. Was this even information that needed to be shared with relatives? Wouldn’t things be easier if I kept this to myself?

I took another look into the fiddles innards. “Antonius Stradivarius. facelbat Cremona 1713.”

This just kept getting better and better.

But in every crowd there is a spoiler. Someone just waiting to burst your bubble.

“Hey Dad, you might want to come take a look at this,” said my daughter, who had borrowed the fiddle for a look of her own.

I peeked again through the music note hole, this time looking just above the name of the acknowledged greatest violin maker of all time. There, looking back at me from their safe confines, were two other little words I had missed.

“Copy of” brought my dreams of riches and ease to an crushing end. As did the words just below the name of Anton’s hometown: “Made in West Germany.”

Now there wasn’t any West Germany in 1713 or even a Germany, for that matter. West Germany didn’t emerge until after the Second World War.
As usual, I am a wiser but sadder man.

Just once in this life I’d like to be the opposite – a foolish but happier man.

With a billion fiddle bucks in the bank!

Sooey Sighed

By Jim Hagarty

Gun nuts take a lot of abuse from people who think they are, in a word, ridiculous.

As a sometimes commenter, I have had some fun with the species myself. But what is a cynic supposed to do? Ignore the story about the man who shot his mother by accident during a church service (she lived)? Or the man who shot himself in the penis while driving down the road? Am I just supposed to let that go? Really?

But underneath all my mirth-making at the ammosexuals’ expense, I have to admit I have a certain admiration for the toughness of some of these gun-toting hombres. I grew up with a gun on the farm and used it many times. I must have a certain amount of respect lingering in the depths of my soul for the gun carriers of the world.

Some of these men and women are no shrinking violets.

Take the 37-year-old Florida man who only noticed he’d been shot while cleaning his revolver two days later when he changed from a black shirt to a brown one and discovered a blood stain from his wound.

Reuters has reported the bullet pierced Michael Blevins’ skin and muscle before exiting his body while he was cleaning the gun in his living room on Thursday.

The Deltona, Florida man loaded the gun while resting it on his chest so his dog wouldn’t jump on it, according to the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

Blevins told police he fell when his back gave out due to an old injury, struck his head on a table, and accidentally fired the weapon. Between the pain medication he takes for the injury and bumping his head, he was likely distracted from feeling the gunshot, the police report said

He was treated at a local hospital on Saturday, where staff reported the incident to law enforcement.

Maybe, however, this old adage applies in this case: No sense, no feeling.

Any time I have accidentally shot myself, I’ll tell you something. I knew it right away. I’m kind of wimpy that way.


Thoroughly Disgaraged


By Jim Hagarty

I have always been in awe of the extent of my good fortune.

While most people on Earth spend at least some part of their lives searching for the meaning of their existence, I have not had to do that and as long as I am a homeowner, I probably never will.

I know exactly why the Creator placed me on this planet. I have no doubt at all. I am here for one reason and one reason only: To clean up my garage.

That might not seem like a great reason to you, especially stacked up against the various destinies of greater people who’ve left this world a better place by virtue of their inventions, their art or their cures for incurable diseases. But after more than six decades of trying on various roles both professional and casual, I am always led back to what I know is my true calling – the tidying up of that 12-by-24-foot space designed to house my car but which, of course, never has. Instead, it has served as my family’s personal landfill site and from the start, I have been site supervisor.

Looking back, I guess I should have seen that my whole life was leading to this. As a kid, I spent many happy hours straightening up our basement, eventually graduating to our shed and finally, the garage. I’ve always been blessed by having been surrounded by people who feel that a good part of their life’s mission is to completely mess up the spaces that I am then self-assigned to rescue.

I can only imagine the emptiness of an existence spent in a home environment where everything is forever in its proper place. Where would be the challenge in that? Like mountain biking on the prairies.

Instead, nothing thrills me more than those times when the realization dawns on me that I will not be able to walk from the back door of my garage to the overhead door at the front without going outside and taking the sidewalk from one end of the building to the other. Navigating through the clutter on the inside might be possible, but from experience I know that the short journey cannot be made without falling down several times and risking impalement by various slender objects including hockey sticks, ski poles and garden rakes.

Now another person might institute rules for family members to follow to prevent such chaos or he might even establish a daily routine whereby a 10-minute clean-up would keep the space in good shape, but my experience has been that there is no fun in that.

I pity the poor soul who has never taken a scissors to a Saturday paper with a decluttering column in it or who has never surfed for decluttering tips till 3 a.m. like a sinner searching the Bible for Salvation or at least some loopholes.

Yes, few are the joys that can compare with seeing a garage floor emerge into the daylight which it has not seen in months and to the amazing discovery of objects that appeared to be lost forever.

What is most heartwarming of all is that, as the three-day clean-up nears its conclusion, the family members most responsible for the sorry state of affairs rediscover the space and re-occupy it, even as the supervisor sweeps away the last of the debris. And like shovelling the driveway during a snowstorm, it is strangely sweet to see the path filling back in almost instantly. The seeds of the next cleanup are sown so well in the one just being performed.

Looking back, I now know that the darkest period of my life were the three years I lived in a home I had bought which had no garage at all. So many wasted weekends I spent, broom and garbage can in hand with nothing to clean up. Defeated, I rented movies, read books and went for meaningless bike rides instead.

May I never experience such emptiness again.

He Who Knows

He who knows not
And knows not
That he knows not
Is a fool.
Shun him.

He who knows not
And knows
That he knows not
Is a child.
Teach him.

He who knows
And knows not
That he knows
Is asleep.
Wake him.

He who knows
And knows
That he knows
Is a wise man.
Follow him.

  • Anonymous

Free as a Breeze

By Jim Hagarty

A writer in the U.S. recently released a book about how the creative class (artists, authors, singers, speakers, photographers, etc.) need to stop giving away their arts and crafts for nothing.

Stop working for free, was the gist of his effort.

My favourite news blog, The Huffington Post, called up the author’s agent and asked if he would write a review of his own book for the news aggregator.

“How much are you willing to pay my client?” asked the agent.

“Nothing,” came the reply from Huff Post, without a trace of irony.

So the author went and told his story of being offered nothing to a Huff Post competitor.

No word yet on what, if anything, the competing blog paid him for his story.

My guess is they matched the Huff Post offer, dollar for dollar.

The Huffington Post is estimated to be worth $1 billion.

Little Piggies

By Jim Hagarty

Pigs have a bad name.

Not a bad reputation. A bad name.

How would you like to be called a pig your whole life?

There is something about the word itself that is demeaning. Pig. The namer of the pig must have been holding a grudge.

We need to substitute the name with something else.

How about swine?

On second thought, forget it. To be called a swine is almost worse than pig.

Sow? As in, “You sow!”




How did it happen that such a benign, clean (yes, they are clean, they only roll in muck to kill the bugs), curious, happy creature end up with such swinish names?

Has to be the grudge theory.

I have a long association with pigs. We raised them for a while on our farm. And I always kind of liked them. There was a perpetual friendly, hopeful look on their faces. And as kids, we got to ride the bigger ones. In the absence of horses, they were our steeds. They would put on quite a rodeo before they dumped us in the biggest pile of pig manure they could find.

To this day, not a fan of pig manure.

And while friendly, they could be annoying. One summer, on my break from university, I worked on a pig farm. Being chased around a pen by an angry sow is fun for about, no seconds.

But what sealed my own little grudge against these guys was the little tango we had when I was out on assignment as a newspaper reporter, sent (as punishment, no doubt) to do some sort of farm story. Always one to try to get the best, most realistic photos I could, I decided to climb the gate into a pig pen. Unfortunately, I dropped my camera case in the pen before I could get in there myself.

As it turned out, 10 half-grown pigs who were about to be paparrazied, had been waiting all their lives for a camera case to play with. Best toy, or maybe the only toy, they had ever had.

I wouldn’t say this was the low point of my journalism career, but chasing 10 lively pigs around a manurery pen, trying to retrieve their very first football from them, can tend to make a fella rethink some of his life choices. At least, later. At that moment, salvaging that increasingly dirty, smelly case was the priority.

I didn’t get my case back right away. Turns out, pigs are great at camera case soccer. And they had home pen advantage.

I don’t know what their fascination with my formerly classy camera case was, but they definitely hogged the ball that day.

I wonder, and this thought just occurred to me four decades later, if that camera case was made of pigskin.


My bad, I guess.

I eventually won the day, got some sort of photo, interviewed the farmer and drove back to town, probably crying in my car all the way.

So you will understand if my fondness for a lot of things swinish took a major hit that day.

I mean, these guys were nothing but a bunch of pigs.

There, I said it.