Little Canada is as far away as it sounds. It’s around a thousand miles from St. Paul. Zach makes the trip almost every day on his bike, because he works there. As you can imagine, he’s in pretty good shape.
He came home from work the other day, sweaty and tired, but excited. “Mom, I found something really cool by the railroad tracks on my way home. It’s really good, but I feel kinda bad about finding it. ” He went out to the garage and returned with two instrument cases.
I like musical instruments. I can’t really play any of them, but I take in abandoned and orphaned ones on a somewhat regular basis. They are hung on my wall, sitting on my mantle, hanging from the ceiling. I think they’re at least as pretty as any wall art I’ve seen.
The two cases Zach had rescued were black standard music cases. One was lined in green velvet and cream satin and contained a violin. It also had a ticket stub with a name written on the back, chapstick, a lighter, an electronic tuner, mints, a bow, and a long glass vial with extra strings in it. The other case had an autographed mandolin with an electronic pick-up, gum, a promo card for a local illustrator with two phone numbers written on it, and a backstage pass for a local music venue, First Avenue 7th Street Entry, dated October 2004.
Neither instrument had any identifying information on it other than the autograph on the mandolin. I looked. Zach looked. We googled the First Ave, to see if they listed who played in 2004. They did not. We googled the band name on the backstage pass, got not much. We looked up the illustrator whose card was in the case with the mandolin. Nothing. We checked Craigslist to see if someone had reported the instruments missing in the last day or two. Found nada.
We tried to decipher the autograph on the mandolin and came up with the unusual name “Wizzary Swoot”. Musicians are weird. We googled Wizzary Swoot, Wizzary Sweet, Marcy Sweet, Maury Sweet… The M or W could possibly pass for an H, so we looked up Harry Sweet as well. Whole lotta nothin.
After googling local mandolin players, I decided the autograph was probably from Marty Stuart, a local guy, and that it probably wasn’t his mandolin, because people usually don’t autograph their own instrument. I sent a couple emails to local musicians we knew, and one to First Avenue and waited. We’d find the person who lost these instruments and lip balm. We would.
Andy came home and looked over the find. He was impressed. He picked up the things in the case and looked them over. When he came upon the ticket stub with the name on the back he said, “I bet this is will-call and this is your guy”. Smarty pants. He did a google search on Jacob Hyer and came up with a myspace page for a local blue-grass band called “Pocahontas County”. Jacob plays fiddle and mandolin. Bingo.
We sent him and one of his band-mates an email before we went to bed.
We heard nothing the next morning, nothing by lunch. I went out shopping for a couple hours and when I returned there was an email waiting for me.
It did indeed match up, except for the stickers, which we could see evidence of, but no actual remaining stickers. I called Jacob. He happened to be within a mile from us and he came right over. He looked young, and was oddly fresh-faced for the full beard he sported. He had little black round glasses framing wide, shell-shocked blue eyes.
When he saw the instrument cases he recognized them immediately. He squatted and opened them and gave them a quick once-over. He looked up at us, “This was my childhood fiddle. I’ve played it since I was a kid. I thought they were gone. This is like unbelievable.” He stood up, took off his glasses and rubbed his face. “How did you get them home on your bike? How did you carry them?” They had straps, Zach explained he had ridden his bike a few times with a guitar case slung over his shoulder, this was sort of the same thing. “Unreal. Thanks so much for bringing them back and finding me. I can’t believe you did it. My mom told me not to set them down, and to put my name on them…. I’ve just been kicking myself.” I asked if he’d like a glass of water, which is where people usually say, no thanks, and gracefully exit. “That would be really great. Thanks.”
He seemed like he didn’t want to leave. He had a check which he had been holding awkwardly since he arrived, “I’m sorry. I’m a musician, I don’t really have a lot of money. I’ll send you a CD, and you’re all always on the guest list, wherever we’re playing. This is like a dream, I can’t believe it.”
He stepped in and looked at the collection of instruments on display in the front half of the house, which included 4 guitars, 2 violins, a trumpet, a saxophone, a zither, a clarinet, a drum, a set of chimes, two recorders, a mandolin and an accordion. He shook his head. I guess it could have seemed like retrieving a lost child from a well intentioned, but quirky orphanage.
Andy showed up, shook his hand, and the thank-yous were repeated. Jacob never put his glasses back on, he kept covering his face with both hands. He was very relieved, and a little weirded out. We chatted until we actually needed to leave to get Zach where he was going. I made him promise to put his name and number inside the instruments. He agreed he would do so right away.
He had finished up a gig late at night two days before Zach found the cases. He set them down while he was loading up his car, and driven away without them. By the time he realized he didn’t have them, they had gone missing. Whoever found them had peeled off the stickers and stashed the instruments near the railroad tracks, under a bridge. I bet they’re mad. But it made for a good story for us.