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        Banjo Cheer
by
(John Douglas)

        "Banjo Cheer" first appeared in the December 1911 issue of The Cadenza, a string instrument magazine of the time.

        These are his words. Christmas seems to be a good and appropriate time to discourse on banjo cheer, for all the instruments the banjo is par-excellence the one most strikingly adapted to moments of comfortable joviality.

        Happy is he who with the magic light of the open fire shining on his face, and the cracking of nuts sounding in his ears, can nurse his old JO and draw from its strings the lovely strains of Annie Lori.

        Talking about banjo cheer, my biggest experience of it happened some fifteen years ago in Northwest Canada a few miles above Medicine Hat.

        As a solitary homesteader with only a horse for company and the nearest neighbor nine miles away, I set out one Christmas eve to visit the homestead of a friend, some good distance across the snow blanked prairie. My horse had unfortunately gone lame, so I had to force to walk, a decide ling foolish thing to do in the far North West in the dead of winter, with the skies portending to snow. I had not traveled more than five miles when the wind began to rise, the thermometer stood no doubt at about nine below zero, and it was destine to go lower before the morning.

        Soon snow began to fall, and near my journey's end I found myself in as blinding a blizzard as ever struck the land. I felt the piercing cold all the more keenly on account of the storming wind, and I became afraid that I would never see the end of my trip, I staggered blindly forward in what I thought the right direction, but at the end of an hour I had to acknowledge that I was hopelessly lost.

        Over the darkness the raging blizzard and the stinging cold I began to feel stupid and tired. I had begun to long to take a rest that I knew would be dangerous to me when I suddenly ran head-first into what was clearly a straw stack, I was very thankful for this piece of luck, for I could burrow into the stack to windward and thus save my precious life.

        The stack might be only fifty yards away from some settler's cabin, or it might be half a mile away. The straw stacks are left wherever the trashing is done. I knew better than to go wandering in search of something I could not see, and it was not long before I had burrowed into the huge pile of straw eight feet or more, sheltered completely from the wind I lay and listened to the raging of the storm without. By kicking my feet together and beating my hands vigorously, I managed to keep from actually become frozen.

        But, towards morning I must have slept I dreamt I was at home with my old banjo on my knee and somehow it seemed to be playing itself in a light ethereal tone, then I became aware of something pricking my face, it was the straw. I open my eyes and saw that the sun was shining brightly outside the stack, and yes, but no I must be still dreaming was that a real banjo I heard.

        Faintly to be sure, but a banjo never-the-less it must be.

        I scrambled out of the stack and there but a few yards away stood a sod shanty and a stable, and sure enough, as I stumbled forward through snowdrifts coming faintly to my ears I heard the dear old melody of "Come All Ye Faithful," and a banjo, a good old banjo, a real one, truly banjo cheer par excellence.

        Yes perhaps you can get good cheer out of other mediums but for banjoists a banjo every time.

        So saying, I wish everyone a right merry Christmas

 
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