Shep Jones Hornpipe/Making a Stone Ax

Shep Jones was a local character who played fiddle for dances around Stony Brook Harbor in a community whose other notable fiddlers included "Black Tony" Clapp whose grave I remember visiting when I was about 8 for some reason, and William Sidney Mount who even designed one he called the "cradle of harmony" with a concave back, supposed to made it louder. His painting Dance of the Haymakers seems to feature Shep Jones on fiddle, and the tune is written on the back I believe. I don't know if he wrote it, or Shep or Anthony Clapp or someone else did. I grew up around these people, or their kin anyway, next door to Rassapeague which I heard Mount had built for some of his descendants.

(Update/correction: here's some more accurate information about Anthony Clapp than what I remembered, plus a photo of his gravestone. I think the first time I ever saw a banjo was in Mount's now famous 1856 painting The Banjo Player, which lives at the Museums at Stony Brook where I had a Saturday photography class in second grade.

I eventually met Jeff Davis, the only other person interested in Mount's music that I knew of, who pretty immediately became a great influence on my whole approach to this arena of music and history, aesthetically, philosophically and otherwise. I've been wanting to record with him ever since, and haven't given up yet.

I learned to knap chert from another, earlier mentor of mine, John White of Michael, Illinois and over time adapted the technique to the quartz I grew up around. I learned so much from John and Ellie. I don't know if John coined the term, but he called himself an experimental ethnographer. He was nearly as interested in his Scottish ancestry as his Cherokee/Shawnee, and I helped him build both a hill fort and a Kaskaskia village on their property. His twin interests in material and oral culture were deep and informed my own.

It wasn't until much later that I began to figure out how much of my outlook was influenced by a combination of salt water and dislocation. "If you're not my ancestors, why are you buried in my woods?" With every tide or storm there were new things on the beach, moved around or washed out of the bank behind me. Old claret bottles from the vineyard at Rassapeague, quartz tools, kequok, potsherds, salad dressing bottles, tampon applicators, dead raccoons, a shark, pieces of boats, or whole boats (my brother even got in a band because of one) and one time a whole coconut still in the husk. I don't know if it was dropped overboard by someone who brought it back as a souvenir or if it was brought by a strange current, but I made a quartz blade and used it to make the coconut into a drinking vessel we could use to gather fresh water from one of the two springs I knew of on the harbor. I don't know if anything ever tasted better, although it's subject to a nostalgic glow.

There's a ton more I could write about all this, but for now I hope you'll investigate Jeff Davis's music and, to come back to where I started, you really ought to read Chistopher Smith's (yeah, he's one of them, but apparently didn't know it until he started his research) The Creolization of American Culture: William Sidney Mount and the Roots of Blackface Minstrelsy.

It's amazing, and gets at both some really interesting details and some important big picture stuff about race and culture in the US and surrounds. It also has nice pictures.