published Thursday, March 27th, 2014

In Tune: Musically hobbled by an instrument thief

Imagine how distraught you would be if you were sitting down and attempted to stand, only to discover that someone had made off with one of your legs.

You’d probably hop about, feeling confused and off-balance (ba-dum). Undoubtedly, you’d be angry, furious even, and desperate to find the scoundrel who dared to so boldly engage in body part snatching.

Most of all, though, you’d want your leg back.

If I had to sum up my state of mind after someone stole my fiddle’s bow during a show last week at The Honest Pint, that’s the closest analogy I can come up with. It feels like someone absconded with one of my limbs.

To some, this might seem like bald-faced hyperbole. A bow is, after all, just a bit of wood with some hair stretched along its length. It’s not even the bit of the fiddle that resonates.

Likening it to a limb probably smacks of exaggeration of the worst sort, but if you think that, then you’re clearly not a musician. There’s a special connection we feel for our instruments; they become like our friends and family. And when something happens to one of them, it feels intensely personal. Call it momma-bear syndrome.

I asked musicians I know to sound off on how they felt when one of their instruments was damaged or stolen. They spoke of clumsy hands that dented trumpets, inept moving men who crippled pianos and guitars that flew off car roofs and exploded on the interstate. They described these moments as “pretty dang gut-wrenching.” Some said they cried.

In my case, the bow in question wasn’t much to look at. Its varnish had been rubbed bare in places, and the hair was dirty and badly in need of replacing. If it were a dog, it would be the bedraggled one with matted fur skulking near the Dumpster. You’d probably call McKamey about it.

To pretty much everyone on the planet, it was essentially worthless, but it belonged to my great-grandfather and was a gift from my late uncle. Drawing it across the strings was like sharing the music with them. Sentimentally, that made it pretty much priceless.

Whoever snagged my bow probably thought it was a fun prank: “Ha ha, look what I did. He’s probably got six more at home.” They might even have tossed it in the trash on the way out, an act that would break my heart as surely as it would break the bow.

Necessity dictates that I move on, and I’m sure I’ll find a replacement. No matter how fine it is, though, it’s always going to feel like a prosthesis.

Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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