Drambling: Rosin the Bow

I felt inspired to write another drambling of mine, while I was sipping on a dram of Four Roses Single Barrel. This is just one of my fictional stories I sometimes like to write, to accompany me while enjoying a dram. Click here for my tasting notes. So you may have some reference as to what inspired me!

Rosing the Bow

It had been a long day working the plow for Jimmy. The sun was already setting on the glowing corn fields, giving the waving tassels a mythical glow. Though his hands were already callused from years of hard work. Days like these still brought the odd blister to his fingers. As he looked at his hands, he saw his fingers already flexing, his body one step ahead of his mind. He was dying to fiddle for a while, but by the feel of his fingers he would only be able to play a tune or two before he would have to give them a rest. For tomorrow he would need his hands properly rested. 

Jimmy had always been the odd duckling out. He grew up as the youngest child in a family of ten. All his siblings had stayed at the farm after growing up, and Jimmy knew that the same was expected of him. But even though he could enjoy the fields as much as any of them, he had always wanted more from life. He wanted to follow his passion, the fiddle! 

The traveling band

Tomorrow a traveling band was passing through towns, which was cause for enough excitement on any regular day. But this time, ahead of arrival, there had been an announcement that they would be holding auditions. As one of the bands fiddlers had passed away from pneumonia during the harsh winter. Jimmy had hardly been able to sleep ever since… this was his chance. He just hoped he could sneak away, without his family noticing. For his father would never let him leave. He could barely stand his son playing the fiddle in the first place. Let alone letting him off gallivanting through the country with a “raggedy band of good-for-nothings”. As he came to call the troupers that would sometimes stop by their little town. 

So, today Jimmy had worked the field till dusk. Putting in the extra hours to make sure the work for the next day looked halfway done. Even if they’d come and check on them tomorrow, they would just assume he’d be off fiddling by the stream like he often tended to do. None of them truly approved of his habit. But as long as he got the work done, they usually left him alone. Tomorrow at noon it would look like he was done with more than half the work already, and he hoped that would be enough to keep them from looking for him.  

The next morning

Jimmy woke early at the break of dawn. He ran down to the kitchen, poured himself a big cup of coffee and grabbed a few slices of bread with a lick of marmalade, before running off. Then he made his way to his favourite spot by the stream and started restringing his fiddle with the strings he had saved for a day like this. He tuned the fiddle to perfection and found himself amazed by how good his old fiddle sounded with a decent pair of strings. For a few minutes he tried out his new strings, before tucking the fiddle safely away in its case. He needed his fingers well rested later today. 

With the most important preparations done he started towards town. Hoping to catch a glimpse of the band, before the auditions. While walking into town he saw that he was far from the only young musician coming to give the auditions a shot. Men and women of all ages wandered by carrying their cases. Some of the cases looked like they were worth more than his entire farm, and he found himself wondering what the instruments inside would look like. But he knew at heart that a fancy case says very little about a musician, all that matters is how you make the strings on the fiddle sing. Still, if they bought these cases with what they earned playing, it meant they were serious professionals. And so, a slight unease did settle over him. 

He tried not to pay it too much mind and decided to buy himself a honeyed bun to distract himself a little. As he was eating his favourite treat, he suddenly saw Jenny, his oldest sister, passing by in the street. He quickly ducked away in an alley, hoping she didn’t see him skittering away. If he was caught before he got to perform his audition, all his preparations (and his new set of strings) would have been wasted.  

Admissions time

He found himself waiting in the shadows until he heard the town bell strike ten. Time for admissions, so he had to risk going back onto main street. His eyes darting left and right, he found no trace of his sister. So, he headed quickly towards the town hall where the admissions would be held. A big burly woman with a voice like a razorblade sat behind the admissions table. She laughed as Jimmy stepped into the room and asked him what a young sap like him thought he was doing here with a ragged fiddle like that, pointing at his beat-up case.  

Jimmy wouldn’t let it take him in his stride and simply asked where he could sign. And then kindly asked if it was possible for him to practice a little backstage. In reality he didn’t really want to practice, he just wanted to find a place to stay out of sight until the auditions began. The woman laughed a hoarse laugh and told him that if he still needed to practice, he’d come to the wrong place. But noticing the worry on his face she gave him a kind smile and told him “Sure thing kid, practice all you like”. With a single gesture she called over one of her companions, who showed Jimmy the way. 


Backstage Jimmy saw a whole score of instruments and his fingers started to itch to play each one of them. So, to keep temptation at bay he pulled out his fiddle and started to play. Warming up a little wouldn’t be a bad thing, but he decided to keep it simple so his fingers wouldn’t strain. He played children’s songs, as they were easy on his fingers, and halfway through “A rooster and a duckling” the burly woman came rushing by. Hearing what he was playing she stifled a laugh and shook her head, obviously thinking he was way out of his league. But Jimmy paid it no mind, as he would play them something later, that they had never heard before: A song he wrote himself. 

The next hour passed in a nerve wrecking manner. People started to line-up behind him backstage and members of the band came bustling by. He would be the first one that would be called to the stage and some of the other musicians tried to get under his skin. They all wanted this job, and they’d do anything to unsettle a fellow competitor. But thankfully none of them seemed to think that highly of him, because as more musicians trickled in, they focused their unsettling remarks on each other. Leaving him be. 

The performance

When it was finally time to get on stage and nerves were already coursing through Jimmy’s veins, he looked down at the crowd and saw his entire family standing there. His father with his arms crossed and a face like thunder. But it was too late to back down now, so even though he was feeling sick to the stomach Jimmy pulled out his fiddle and started rosin up the bow. Then he put it up to his cheek and started to play. 

All the stress he had felled earlier fell of him, like it always tended to do when he played. Notes followed each other up flawlessly and the music flowed out of his fiddle, filling the town square. All the chatter that had been there when he started, had died down and there was nothing but the sweet sound of his fiddle when he started to sing: 

There once was a girl 

With a fair maiden’s smile 

And her eyes, they would sparkle 

And light up my sky 

This girl was a drifter 

With a wandering soul 

And to capture her spirit 

Became my one goal 

But a spirit like hers 

Could never be caught

And pining for her 

Would bring me naught 

So, I find myself waiting 

For the wandering girl 

To make a reappearance 

In my dark lonely world 

The applause

After the last note had been struck, the crowd remained quiet. But what caught Jimmy’s eye more than anything, was his father, who had uncrossed his arms. Then the applause followed, and he even glimpsed a tear here and there. He took the applause with grace and headed backstage, where he was welcomed with more more of the same. But he also saw a couple musicians packing their bags and walking away, having heard enough and counting their losses. 

The burly woman came rushing to him and went straight for a tight embrace. She introduced herself as Rosie and apologized for her behaviour earlier in the day. She left him with a wink and a telling comment saying he shouldn’t worry too much. Which turned out true, because quickly after the last musician finished playing it was Jimmy who was called back on stage to be introduced as the newest member of the band. The applause was tremendous, and he even saw his mother, brothers, and sisters clapping. But his father was nowhere to be found. 

The family’s response

Still afraid of what they might say he headed towards them, but against all expectations he received nothing but praise and hugs. They told him they were going to miss him, but that they knew he was going to do well for himself. And Jenny admitted to spotting him earlier today as he rushed in the alley. And that she brought the family here with her, to watch him play. In their own way all of them admitted they had always admired his music, but never knew just how good he had gotten. And at that point he saw his dad rushing into the square. Still as brisk as ever, but with a package in his arm. He stuffed it into Jimmy’s arms and simply stated “So you don’t get pneumonia”. Inside the package was his father’s favourite bottle of bourbon, that he kept locked away for special occasions.  

This was as much love as his father had ever given him and it almost brough Jimmy to tears. But at that point his new band came forward. Telling him he needed to come backstage. It was time to rehearse, because tonight they would play the town square. And tomorrow, the traveling band would be back on its way.  

Time to say goodbye

That night they gave the performance of a lifetime, and Jimmy’s whole family came to watch him play. By the end of the night even his father was dancing, but they left before the end as they needed to work the fields in the early morning. Jimmy never got to properly say goodbye but didn’t think much of it at the time. Until next spring, when he came back to town and heard his fatehr had died of pneumonia during the cold winter months. Jimmy cried and sobbed, but eventually he smiled. As his last memory of his father, was how his music had made him dance. 

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