Friday, December 28, 2012

The Penny Loafer Story

Every Saturday, we always went to town. The closest town was about 20 miles away, no matter in which direction we traveled. North was the town of Floyd, east was Stuart, south was Mount Airy, and west was Hillsville. To get to Mount Airy or Stuart involved traveling down the mountain, Floyd involved very twisty, narrow roads, so Hillsville is where we typically went for our weekly trips.

So, why did we go to town each week?  The biggest reason was to buy grocery at the IGA or Mick-or-Mack. My mom always visited the beauty shop and I went for piano lessons. We also might make purchases at Nuckolls Drug Store, Gwynn's Department Store, or Gwynn's Hardware.

One Saturday I needed a new pair of shoes, so we visited The Family Shoe Store. It was a shoe paradise!  There were boxes of shoes stacked floor to ceiling, and the ceilings were really high! There were aisles of shoes and boxes of shoes stacked everywhere.  Ahhhh!  The smell of all of that leather!  To this day, anytime that I get a whiff of leather, it whisked me back in time.  I always loved it when I needed a new pair of shoes and I think that my love of shoes today dates back to that time.  I remember looking around at all of the shoes and finally deciding on two or three pairs to try on.  They would get that metal thing to measure my foot and I can remember that it always tickled.

Do you know what this device is called? **

On this particular shoe shopping expedition, I decided that I just HAD to have a pair of penny loafers. They were terribly popular at that time. Since I was an only child, I was around adults more than I was around other children and I had seen many adults wearing penny loafers, so that made me want them that much more.

I was so excited about my shoes that I demanded to wear them home from the store. I remember that when I got home, I was prancing all around the living room showing off my pretty new shoes to daddy.  He was laughing at me and said that they were not real penny loafers until I put pennies in the slot of each shoe. He dug through all of his change until he found two really shiny pennies to give me.

I don't remember what happened later that day, but I was about to get a whipping for doing something that I should not have been doing. If I had to guess, I would be willing to bet that I was asked to do something and I back-talked. (Yes, even as a child, I could be pretty mouthy!) My first reactions when I knew that I was in trouble was always to run! 

At this point, you have to picture our yard in your mind. A little over an acre in size, Highway 58 ran in front of our house. On one side, there was a tall fence that divided our yard from the neighbors. The other two sides were bounded by Tory Creek. Acres and acres of woods were across the creek. I was forbidden to go into the woods.  I guess that mom and dad were afraid that I would slip when crossing the creek and drown.

Back to being in trouble. I was always told that if I ran when I was in trouble, I would get into even more trouble for running.  Well, on this particular day, I was feeling particularly bold, so when daddy got after me to give me that whipping, I ran.  Out of the house and into the backyard.  Straight for the creek. I looked back towards the house and daddy was on his way after me.  Well, I decided that I was going to run into the woods, because I knew that he would have a hard time crossing the creek and finding me in the woods. I need to say at this point that my dad was very unsteady on his feet because he had multiple sclerosis and that was why I knew that if I could only get across the creek, I would be safe from a whipping.  I really don't know what I was thinking, because I was going to have to go back home sooner or later!

Anyway, as daddy got closer, I started crossing the creek, jumping from rock to rock.  He was yelling at me to stop and to not go any further.  By that time, he was really close. I'm sure that you can see what is coming! My foot slipped off of one of the rocks and my foot went right into the creek up to my knee. Then, I lost my balance and stepped into the creek with my other foot. There I was standing knee-deep water. With my new penny loafers. 

Well, due to the original offense of back-talking, then running when a whipping was imminent, trying to go into the woods where I was forbidden to be going, AND ruining a new pair of leather shoes, let's just say that I got a VERY good whipping.

And I deserved every lick!


** Answer:  Brannock Device

Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas !

Ah, Christmas Eve! The anticipation, excitement and FUN! Just knowing that SANTA is coming tonight!  What a magical feeling! I think that most of you will agree that once we found out that Santa was not real, quite a bit of the magic went out of Christmas Eve.

I used to always beg mom to let me open JUST one present before Christmas morning. I finally wore her down and she agree to let me open ONE on Christmas Eve. It became a tradition.

On Christmas Day, after we had opened all of our presents, we would cross the highway in front of our house and go to my Grandpa & Grandma Burnette's home and open gifts with them.  Then, we would load up the car and travel 20 miles to my Grandpa & Grandma Vaughn's house where all of my mom's brothers, sisters, and all of my cousins would have a wonderful dinner.  My mom would allow me to take one of my new toys with me to show to my cousins.

I remember going to church on the Sunday morning that was closest to Christmas for the Christmas service. The church would make up little brown bags filled with candy, gum, and oranges to give to all of the kids.  Some years we would have a special nighttime program where the kids would get to participate in acting out the Christmas story. I remember that one year I was an angel and my Grandma Burnette made me a beautiful white dress to wear. My mom made me wings out of cardboard covered in white paper and outlined in silver rope tinsel. My halo was also made from the tinsel. I loved it because I got to stand on a chair so that it would be like I was appearing in the sky.

As tonight approaches, I really cannot help but get a bit depressed. For me, Christmas is always a joyous occasion undershot with a healthy dose of melancholy. I know Santa does not exist, but one part of me still wants to REALLY believe that he does  It just feels like there is SO much magic in the air! (If you want to believe too, you should read The Autobiography of Santa Claus by Jeff Guinn.)

I miss my family year round, but at Christmas time, it is especially difficult. This will be my 33rd year without my mom and my 11th without my dad. Even though I have shared the last 12 years with my wonderful and loving husband, there is still a big empty place that wishes to spend another holiday with those who knew me since I was a baby.

My husband and I started a tradition our first Christmas together. We always get a Christmas ornament with our names and the year engraved. There should be fourteen years worth of ornaments on the tree, but the one from 2007 is missing in action. I am pretty certain that it must be in this house SOMEWHERE, but I don't have a clue where! That year, I had the flu and pneumonia on Christmas Day and was admitted to the hospital the day after. I don't remember too much about opening presents or much of anything that year.  The ornament got misplaced and it hasn't been seen since. I just know that one day, I will find it.

Here is this year's ornament:

I hope that you all have a beautiful Christmas. Be sure to hug the people that you love.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where are the Posts?

Between getting ready for my first ever craft show, fighting off the cold that will just not go away, and the normal craziness that accompanies the holiday season, I must say that I have been very lax about keeping up with my blog posts for the last month. Here is what I have been up to:

Preparing the Yarn

Yarn drying before the show

More yarn drying
Christiansburg Lions Craft Show
I shared a booth with my long time friend, Diane and her sister-in-law, Gail.

My yarn!  :D

Diane & Gail's felted soap and shaving soap

Diane's handmade broomcorn brooms

After the show, I took a small break from spinning and actually worked some more on my shawl that I have been knitting for the last three months. I'm still not finished, but I did make some good progress! For the last week, I have been working on getting more fiber spun into yarn so that I am ready for the Olde Liberty Fibre Faire in Bedford, Virginia on April 13, 2013.

To check out what I currently have for sale click HERE.  You can also click on the tab at the top of my blog page on Spinn Lady Fibers.

This past week I also attended a workshop on needle felting Christmas ornaments. I had made a felted flat flower before, but this was my first 3-dimensional critter. (I can already tell that I am going to have to do some more needle felting!)

Meet Abe! 

Meet Abe!

I had to indulge in one of my other past times too.  Playing around with a photo editing program.

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful . . . "

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

Buford "Bobby" Burnette
My wonderful daddy!  
Thank you for all of your love and support. 
You never told me what I should do, but helped me examine all sides of a problem before making my own decision.  
That was invaluable and I can't ever thank you enough.   

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Happy Birthday Grandma !


Tressie Lillian Goad Burnette
December 1, 1903-February 15, 2001

Thank you for teaching me so much about life.
I miss you.

Friday, November 16, 2012

St. Distaff's Day Celebration

Click to enlarge

Following the Twelve Days of Christmas, St. Distaff’s Day 
(traditionally celebrated on January 7)
heralded the return of women to work after the holiday merriment.

We plan on celebrating by feasting, knitting, spinning, and having a yarn/fiber swap. 

St. Distaff’s Day Yarn/Fiber Swap Information

Admit it. You have far too much yarn/fiber in your stash. If it has been in your stash since Nixon was president,  it might be time to let that yarn or fiber find a new home.


1.      Make sure you’re ready to let go of your yarn when you bring it to the swap!

2.      Bring a minimum of two full skeins of yarn or two 4oz amounts of fiber—please only bring clean yarn & fiber that is in good condition and that you would be willing to use yourself. Please label fiber & yarn with brand/fiber/content/yardage. You will receive one ticket for each item that you bring.

3.      Other acceptable items for swap include: fiber books & magazines, and patterns in good condition (NO photocopies!), knitting needles, crochet hooks, or other yarn tools like project bags, etc. Partial skeins of yarn, smaller amounts of fiber and other small items may be combined into a nice “grab bag”.

4.      NO selling allowed.

5. Swappers will draw numbers to determine the order of choosing for each round. Your number of tickets will determine the number of rounds in which you participate.

Food (bring a finger food to share) & 
a Sit-n-Knit will follow the swap.

Call or email to register by December 31, 2012
Vinton Branch Library
Vinton, Virginia

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Comet Does NOT Make a Good Shampoo

Almost every Sunday all of the family would go to Grandma and Grandpa Vaughn's house for dinner. ( For those folks north of the Mason-Dixon line, "dinner" means the noontime meal.) My grandparents had ten children and then there were sixteen grandchildren. So by the time you add in spouses and various other relatives that might show up, there was always a house full of people just waiting to chow down on Grandma Sallie's good food.

My favorites were Grandma's wonderful fried chicken and especially her sweet tater pie! No one has ever been able to make that pie the way she did and I would give so much to be able to have a piece of it right now. You could always count on a jar of honey sitting in the middle of the table from Grandpa's honeybees, big glasses of icy cold homemade buttermilk (which I would not touch!) and fresh butter that Grandma had churned.

The thing that would make the visit all the more special was if my cousin, Norma Jean was there too. I was born just 19 days before Norma, so we were like two peas in a pod. The minute that we both got together, we would go off somewhere and play. Sometimes we would go outside, but that meant that our parents had to watch us carefully since Grandpa kept bees and being fascinated by the bee supers, I always wanted to get close to them. Also there was the danger of the Mayo River which flowed along two sides of the yard. If there was water, I was immediately drawn to it and my mom knew that, so she always had to watch me like a hawk watches chickens.

Me & Norma
circa 1967

When we couldn't go outside, we would wander into one of the rooms of the house where there were not so many people. Usually, that meant that we would go into one of the three bedrooms and play. One day, we we into the bathroom and we were sitting in the dry bathtub playing. I do remember that one of our parents came in there to check on us and all they saw was us innocently sitting in the tub. I'm sure that they thought to themselves what trouble could we possibly get into just sitting in a bathtub?

What they didn't notice was the can of Comet sitting on the side of the tub. 

<insert ominous drum roll here>

What happened next has been a source of amusement to Norma and me ever since. I'm not sure whose idea it was, but we decided to "shampoo" each others hair. With Comet. Oh yeah. I know what you are thinking, especially if you read the warnings on the can of Comet.

Maybe our parents should have read the label. 

Imagine being a parent and walking into the bathroom and finding your little girls with tons of Comet in their hair mixed up with some water.  I seem to remember that I was crying and probably with good reason since I had Comet burning my scalp off!  I can remember my mom telling people about finding us with Comet all in our hair and how hard it was to get it all out.  I also remember REALLY having something to cry about after I got a whipping for doing something that I KNEW was wrong in the first place.  And I did know.

Norma and I had many adventures over the years, and believe me, there are quite a few that you will never read about here!

Abt 1976
We still stay in touch via email and facebook, but we have not seen each other in person for about 14 years.

Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Mystery of Grandpa's Sayings

John Edward Burnette
ca. 1980

My Grandpa Burnette had some very unusual and colorful sayings.  I would give most anything if he were still alive so that I could ask him where he picked up these sayings or why he said them. He died when I was in my teens and it never occurred to me to question him then. I am sure there are other sayings that were just as intriguing, but here are the ones that I remember the most.
My parents and I lived just across the road from Grandpa and Grandma Burnette, so we were all always in each other's homes. When Grandpa used to be at our house and it was time for him to go home, he would say "I'm going back across the channel."  Well, as a little girl, when he said "channel" the only thing that I could picture in my mind was a television channel! That didn't make sense to me, but Grandpa was always saying things that sounded a bit strange to my ears. Now, I am wondering if he was making a reference to the English Channel and why would he have been doing that?

If Grandpa was referring to something that happened before I was born when he was talking to me, he would always say "that happened while you were over in the Old Country." I had no idea what that meant, but it always made me giggle. Of course, years later I found out that he was referring to Europe the way that many immigrants would have referred to it after they came to the United States.

When Grandpa was ready to leave, I would always beg him to stay a bit longer. He would say that he had places to go and things to do. When I would ask him where he was going, he would say "I'm off to Nova Scotia!"  To my knowledge he was never there and had no relatives there either. Another mysterious saying.

Now, some things to keep in mind. My Grandpa was born, raised, and lived most of his life in Virginia.  He did live in West Virginia for a brief time when he worked in the coal mines.  No matter what branch of the family tree that I trace, all of his ancestors came directly to Virginia from either Scotland or England in either the 1600s or early 1700s. So he was quite a few generations removed from his ancestors that did immigrate to this country. So why did he have all of these references to what must have been Great Britain and Nova Scotia?

Have you ever heard anyone use these sayings before? Do you have any theories about why my Grandpa may have used these sayings?

Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Folk Speech

Halloween Sunrise 2012
Photo by Kimberly Burnette-Dean

hankering--to really want something.  "I have a powerful hankerin' for some fried apple pies."

meathouse--the small building where the supply of meat is smoked or salted and kept for use.

queerly--Strange or odd.  "All of a suddenly I'm feeling a mite queerly."

tolerably--moderately.  "How are you feeling today?"  "I'm feeling tolerably well."

hard put--almost impossible.  "I would be mighty hard put to get all of that wood chopped before supper time."

retch--reach. "Retch me that plate of bread."

punk--wood that is decayed and makes good tinder for starting fires. "Give me some of that punk wood so that I can build a fire."

heave--to make an effort to vomit. "That possum stew just about made me heave."

querl--to twirl, turn, or wind around. "Querl up that rope before it gets all knotted up."

Have you ever heard any of these?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Big G

When I was a little girl I would always tag along when Grandma went to the "mahogany" bush to break her a new toothbrush. The bush grew on the creek bank behind our house so I was always ready to go with her since the creek was somewhere that I was forbidden to go alone. Grandma always explained that when she was growing up that the twigs were the only kind of toothbrush that she had. Naturally, I immediately had to have a piece too.

After she got back to the house, she would chew the end to fray it out so it looked like a tiny little paint brush.  Then, she would dip this into her can of Big G sweet Scotch snuff and use it to clean her teeth.  She always had a can of Big G sitting on the little table right beside her rocking chair. She warned me to never, ever mess around with her can of snuff.

One day, I was sitting in her rocking chair engaged in one of my favorite activities: rocking back and forth to beat the band! She was in the kitchen canning pickles, so I knew that she was very busy and was not likely to come into the sitting room any time soon.  I kept on looking at that little shiny silver can of snuff.  Rocking back and forth. The light was just glinting off of that can. Taunting me. Back and forth. That little can just really wanted me to pick it up! Back and forth.

I finally stopped and sneaked over to the kitchen door to make sure that grandma was still busy. She was. I tiptoed back to the rocking chair and sat down. I knew that I shouldn't do this and that I was potentially going to get a whipping for misbehaving, but I just could not stop myself! My hand reached toward that little forbidden can. I slowly twisted the top off and peered in at the brown powder. I slowly stuck a finger into the powder. It almost felt like baby powder. I wonder what it smells like? I slowly brought the can up to my nose. As it got closer, my nose started feeling a little twitchy but I was just a little girl and did not heed my nose's warning.  I stuck my nose right into that little can and took a big, healthy sniff!  Good lord! Snorting liquid fire could not have hurt as bad as that snoot full of snuff! I immediately dropped the snuff can, grabbed my nose, and started screaming and crying!

Grandma came running out of the kitchen thinking that I had a mortal injury. Imagine the scene. Me holding my nose, crying, and what had been an almost full can of snuff was now all over the floor, the rocking chair, and me.  Grandma grabbed me up and made me start blowing my nose to try to get all of that powdered snuff out. She washed my face off with a wet cloth because when I initially sniffed and it hit my five year old sinuses, my natural response was to exhale, HARD! That blew snuff back out of the can all over my face, so not only was that vile powder IN me, it was all OVER me too! After she finally got me un-snuffed, both outside and in, she scolded me, but I did not get a whipping.  She said that the agony that I experienced was punishment enough.

Sure. I really did deserve a whipping for doing something that I KNEW was wrong from the start.  I was just being a devilish little child. I have quite a few stories like this one where I discover the reasoning behind being told to NOT do something. Maybe that was really an early indicator that I should have been a scientist so that I could more closely examine cause and effect!

After doing a bit of research, I discovered that the brand of snuff that my Grandmother used was produced by the George W. Helme Company in New Jersey.  She always removed the tan-colored label from the tins when she opened them.  I have searched high and low for a photo of one of the cans with the paper label still attached and cannot find one anywhere. I remember that the label had a big "G" right in the middle.  Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Love Fall

Photo by Kimberly Burnette-Dean 2012

Drifts of leaves
Beautiful blue skies
Smell of wood smoke
Collecting dye plants
Stirring apple butter
Making molasses
Stunning leaves
Crunch of fresh apples
Muscadine grapes 
Spinning wool
Digging potatoes
Ghostly stories
Gathering walnuts and hickory nuts
Crisp air
Halloween candy
Meteor showers
Meadows of Dan Pancake Days
Carrying wood
Snugglin' weather 

Drive-by Photo of Fallon Park
Roanoke, Virginia 2012
Photo by Kimberly Burnette-Dean

These are just some of the things that I love about fall. 
What is your favorite thing about fall? 

Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mystery Item Answer

 . . . and the answer is:

The bark mill in the photo is located on the 
Blue Ridge Parkway at Mabry Mill.

Several folks mentioned that it was a sorghum or a molasses press and they do resemble each other.  If you click here, you can see a sorghum press that is also located at Mabry Mill. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mystery Item

What is it?
Leave your guess in the comment section below.
All comments and the correct answer will be posted no later than Monday, October 22

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Busy, Busy!

Blue Ridge Parkway
Smart View Picnic Area
Photo by Kimberly Burnette-Dean

The past couple of weeks have been very busy, so I'm afraid that I have been neglecting my poor old blog. We just returned this past Saturday from a week long visit to Myrtle Beach. Usually when you return home from vacation, there always seems to be a dozen or more things that need to be taken care of.  Unpacking, doing all of the laundry, cleaning up chaos created by a cat (left alone for the week except for a wonderful friend visiting to feed him), grocery shopping, cleaning out the mystery items in the fridge that look like a science experiment run amok, getting everything ready to return to work on Monday . . . sometimes I wonder if it is REALLY worth it to go on vacation. (Well, of course it is when it involves a trip to the ocean!)

Returning to work after being on vacation is always difficult, but to make it even worse, this is my week to work 6 days. Yay! Not. No time to recover from vacation.

In any case, I hope to get back to blogging in the next week.  I have so many things that I want to write about.  I just need more time.

Do you always feel rested, relaxed and ready to return to work after you have been on a vacation?

Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Mystery Item Answer

It is an acrobat toy!   
Have you ever heard this toy called by other names?

When I was growing up, I had toys like this made of wood, 
but I also had some from the local 5 and dime store made of plastic.
You would think that this toy would get boring,
but I can remember spending quite a bit of time playing with it.
Sometimes, the simple things are the most fun. 

To see an acrobat toy in action, click here.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Mystery Item

Do you know what this is or how it is used?
Leave your best guess below in the comment section.
The answer will be posted tomorrow. 

Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Shenandoah Valley Fiber Fair

What a glorious fall day for a great fiber fair!
Here are some pics of my loot!

Lavender Hills Farm and Lizard Toes

Gurdy Run Mill

River's Edge Fiber Arts

Fluffy U Fiber Farm and Purdy Thangz

For more information about the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Fair, click HERE

Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Test Your Smarts #2

View from the Devil's Backbone Overlook
Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 144.0
Photo by Kimberly Burnette-Dean
Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean. 

1.  Only the size of a nut, yet without feet it climbs the mountain.
2.  The greater it is, the less it can be seen.
3.  Why are the tallest people the laziest?
4.  What did one ear say to the other ear?
5.  It increases and decreases, and no one can see it.  It is not a fire, and yet it can be quenched.
6.  When is a hat not a hat?
7.  Why do white sheep eat more than black sheep?
8.  What is Smoky the Bear's middle name?
9.  Why does the ocean roar?

(If you give up, the answers are below!)

Red Fox
Photo by Kimberly Burnette-Dean
Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean.  

1. A snail
2. Darkness
3. They are always longer in bed than others. 
4. Do you live on this block too?
5. Thirst
6. When it becomes a pretty lady.
7. Because there are more of them.
8. The.
9. You would roar too if you had crabs on your bottom.

Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Weather Lore

The number of fogs in August determines the number of snows in the upcoming winter.  If they are just light fogs that burns off quickly, then there will be light snows. Heavy fogs?  HEAVY SNOW!

When you hear the first katydid, it will frost in sixty days.

If berries and nuts are plentiful, there is a hard winter coming.

The more black than brown on a wooly worm or the wider the black stripe, the worse the winter.

A warm November indicates a bad winter.

Big wet snowflakes indicate a short snow storm.  If the snowflakes are small and powdery, you better be ready to start shoveling!

The day of the month on which the first snow falls will tell you how many storms you will have in the upcoming winter.  For instance, if the first snow happens on December 3, then there will be 3 storms.

Real spring will not occur until it snows on some daffodils in bloom. That snow is called a daffy snow.

If you hear thunder in winter it means that colder weather is coming.

If it rains while the sun is shining, it means that the devil is beating his wife.

When you see cows huddling up in the pasture, you know to expect rain.

Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Watermelon Man Shawl

I purchased this beautiful roving called "Watermelon Man" from David Simpson at the 2011 Olde Liberty Fibre Faire in Bedford, Virginia.  I then spun it into a 2-ply yarn and just finished knitting the shawl today.

From roving to finished shawl

Started knitting June 19, 2012 and finished September 9, 2012

For the Oaklet Shawl Pattern, click here.

Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean.

Gilmer Vaughn Dulcimer

Several weeks back, I had changed my profile pic on facebook to one of me playing the dulcimer when I was competing at the 2005 Old Fiddler's Convention in Galax. This was a profile photo that I had used before, but this time, a family member, Donice, saw it on the page of a mutual friend. 

She then contacted me and was telling me that Gilmer Vaughn, my first cousin, once removed, used to build dulcimers. I had no idea!  What an exciting thing to discover. I have played the dulcimer for almost 30 years and I have done quite a bit of primary research about the history of the dulcimer and all of that time, I had a family member who made dulcimers! (To see my research, click here.) Some of my research was included in Ralph Lee Smith's revised edition of Appalachian Dulcimer Traditions.

Donice explained that when Gilmer died in 1997, his wife, Ruth, gave her and her husband, Raymond (Gilmer's brother), one of his dulcimers. The dulcimer was not finished because it needed tuning pegs, a bridge, a nut and strings. (Raymond passed away in 2009.)  After Donice told me how she came to have the dulcimer, she said that she would like to give it to me because I am not only family, but a dulcimer player as well.

I feel honored and blessed that Donice wanted to entrust this treasure to me.  Here are some photos of the dulcimer.

When I peeked inside the sound hole, the following was inscribed in the wood.

G. C. Vaughn
April 1996
No. 22

Donice told me that Gilmer met with Ken Hamblin, a well known dulcimer in Salem, Virginia on several occasions to learn about building dulcimers. When I was in college in the 1980s, a friend and I used to play our dulcimers around campus.  At that time, I had a Sears & Roebuck dulcimer and an Audrey Hash handmade dulcimer with wooden tuners.  I SO badly wanted a Ken Hamblin dulcimer like my friend, Teresa.  It had a beautiful tone and it was just gorgeous.  It also had what Ken called an "Old Joe Clark tuner" on the bass string.  I finally added a Hamblin dulcimer to my collection in 2009.  Now, to find out that Gilmer learned from Mr. Hamblin makes this one even more special!  (To read a newspaper article about Ken Hamblin click here.)

I had initially thought that I would just leave the dulcimer in its unfinished state, but after having a brief discussion with Donice, I decided that I would see if a local dulcimer builder that I know would be willing to finish it for me. I met with Jack Ferguson this past Friday to discuss finishing this dulcimer. Jack builds beautiful instruments and I know that he will do a wonderful job. I think that the dulcimer may be made of white walnut (butternut).  While discussing the options for finishing the dulcimer, I decided that it will have 3 strings instead of 4 because of the width of the fretboard.  Also, using geared tuners instead of the more traditional friction-style pegs so that it will be more playable.  One of the hardest things was deciding on whether to put any type of finish on it.  After discussing that in its natural state it would show water drops, fingerprints, etc and that also, a finish would protect the wood from drying out any further, I opted for a clear finish so that the wood would be protected, but it would retain the natural beauty of the wood.

I cannot wait to hear the beautiful sounds coming out of Gilmer's dulcimer. Be sure to check back because I will post photos and video once the dulcimer is finished.

Hammin' it up!
L to R:  Gilmer Vaughn (my cousin), Willie Vaughn (my uncle),
Vera Vaughn Burnette (my mom)

To read about how I first became involved with the dulcimer read this blog post.

Copyright 2012--All Rights Reserved--The Wheel & Distaff by Kimberly Burnette-Dean.