Saturday, December 26, 2009

Story about a man who liked music

One night thousands of years ago on the bank of a large river where a road favored by traders from distant places was interrupted by the wide river there was a quiet man who had found a humble job. He owned simple raft of logs held together with leather straps and would take people and their belongings across the river for a small price. More often the passengers would trade him something they had with them as gold and silver were scarce. A goat herder gave him a pair of kids that grew into a fine milk producer and stud. Soon he had his own small herd. Before long he had more milk than he could use and the occasional goat he roasted on a spit over a fire for succulent meat. Soon he amassed a collection of goat skins as well.

When he had no customers he would lay in the tall grass near the water listening to the songs of birds and the caress of the breeze in his hair. Because he was alone so much he sometimes would sing or talk to himself, making up poems and songs. While improvising one afternoon his mouth made an unexpected sound as he uttered a sibilant sound. He heard this sound and it reminded him of the birds he liked to hear in the morning. He couldn’t repeat it right away but he began to think about it and contrived to create more songs and poems that would produce that sound. In a short while he had caught the effect again and begun to know how to deliberately repeat it. Before long he could whistle back to the birds and whistle improvised duets with them at times. One nightingale in particular was his favorite.

He used the goatskins to hold surplus milk after he boiled it to prevent disease. He noticed one day the milk set up like a custard and did not taste sour. It was delicious. Failing to adequately clean out the skin before he filled it again the milk set up again much to his astonishment. Gazing at the filled and bloated skins he got an idea one day. He took a skin and sewed it into a bag with only a small opening. He sealed the seams with pitch and blew air into the bag then closed and sealed the hole. It floated in the shallows of the river where he went to harvest reeds that he used to make into baskets when there was no one to take across the water. He made more of these leather balloons and built a small platform on top, it floated and he found he had a better raft than before.

The passengers liked his improved raft, he could carry more than before and charge a little more for his service. When he was in a particularly good mood he would whistle while he was taking the passengers to the far shore of the river. Many of them were charmed by the otherwise quiet man.

Some days when he was idle he cut reeds and made flutes to play. It was another sound, not unlike the whistle he had begun to refine with his lips. One night, sitting by the fire in his hut he heard a sound outside. He went out and felt the wind blow through his hair. The sound was from the wind in the reeds. Next day he went and cut some small reeds and cut them carefully with a small thin piece tied in place and anchored inside a slightly larger one. When he blew into it the sound reminded him of a lonely bird. It was a new sound such as he’d never even imagined.

As the years passed and he discovered these things in his leisure time he acquired a wife who stayed behind when there were too many to carry on one passage across the water. They had children who grew up playing his flutes and reed instruments and he grew older. He was admired for his industry and a small village grew around him of others who admired him. Many in the village manufactured the flutes and reed instruments and sold them to his passengers.

In his later years he found himself shorter of breath and wondered how he could continue to play the reed instruments he’d come to love and be known for. As he returned with his raft empty one afternoon he was staring at the air filled goat skins that buoyed his raft and his mind wandered to his instruments.

A thought struck him. At his next opportunity he set about to make another skin bag to be filled with air and to this he attached the instrument with a reed in the mouth piece. He made another small tube and fastened the two pieces to the bag and sealed around the place where they entered the bag. He held it in his lap and blew air into the bag and gently squeezed it so the force of air was directed to the part with the reed and finger holes. It made a sound, a new one.

He became known as the bag pipe ferry boat man.