Picking and grinning

Doc in 2005, by Volker Neumann/Prawnpie from Flickr, used with permission

Back in 2000, I was working on a story about the great Doc Watson for The Roanoke Times. I knew a fair amount about him. I’d seen him play at least a dozen times, and I’d done my homework, like a reporter should, so I was familiar with his life story. I’d talked to people about him, too, which is how I learned he’d done all of the electrical rewiring for his house in Deep Gap, N.C. — an impressive feat for anyone, let alone a man who who’d lost his sight when he was less than a year old.

When I called him up, I felt like a school kid. I’d been reporting for a decade, but this was Doc.

He answered the phone on his back porch. “Give me a minute,” he said. “I’ve been working on the lawnmower, trying to get it ready for spring, and I have to clean up.”

“Oh,” I said, making conversation. “Getting ready to do some yard work?”

“Well, no, honey,” Doc said. “I’m blind.”

I wouldn’t have put anything past him. I still won’t. Heal up, Doc!


9 p.m. addendum

Really hoped he’d rally today.

Here’s a link to my story from 2000, just because. In it, Doc says (as he always has) that he wants to be remembered as a decent human being more than anything else. That, too, Doc.

And here’s some Deep River Blues to play us home:

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2 Responses to Picking and grinning

  1. madelyn says:

    Good question! This was back in the 50s, I think. The guy who told me the story was Joe Wilson, from the National Council for the Traditional Arts, but plenty of other people tell it, too. Doc also built some of his own furniture. And a shed.

  2. Dan Ruff says:

    I’d really be interested to know how he did the wiring. Those wires are color coded. I can’t imagine how he kept the black and white wires going to the right connections. Impressive!

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