Texian Stomping Grounds Page: 80
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TEXIAN STOMPING GROUNDS
of pegs has its special significance. Men scurry for partners and
seek their places, for life is about to bubble. Pretending perhaps
that he is not aware of the fact that he is now regarded as the
man of all importance, the musician receives with equanimity the
admiring glances drawn to him by the elaborate tuning up cere-
mony. Particularly in the backwoods of East Texas, the fiddler
often refers to the E, A, D, and G strings of his instrument as
"tribble," "tenor," "counter," and "bass." If he is a left-handed
fiddler, and there have been several in the Southwest, he is said
to "play over the bass," since he touches the G string first. For
"crossing over" (playing on two strings simultaneously--double-
stopping) fiddlers sometimes tune the E string down to D on
"Cotton-Eyed Joe," the D up a notch on "Natchez Under the
Hill," and the G up to A occasionally, J. B. CranfilP5 says, but
the best fiddlers do not usually resort to this device.
It is not unusual for one string to snap during an evening of
vigorous sawing. The dancers will not tolerate stopping the
dance because of any such minor handicap; each one wants his
money's worth. Then the fiddler may take time out to tie a
knot below the bridge (unless he is so unfortunate as to have a
string break in the middle), or he will pull a Paganini act and
play on the remaining strings. This stunt, though attributed
usually first to the Italian virtuoso, was also done by Ole Bull.
J. B. Jackson of Little Elm, Denton County, a prize fiddler (who
knew the James boys and Mrs. Jesse James, incidentally), recalls
having heard Ole Bull in Kansas City. After the Norwegian
violinist had demonstrated his almost uncanny artistry, he said,
"I have too many strings on this instrument." With that he
broke his E string and played on three strings. Again he re-
peated his words and broke the G, continuing on two strings with
amazing musical prowess. Then he snapped the D and played
for several minutes on the A, and Jackson says that he had ever
heard anything like it. (Bull did not follow through the Paganini
legend, however; the Italian is said to have broken all four strings
and made new ones out of straw.)
&J. B. Cranfill has written extensively of fiddling and fiddlers. See his
Chronicle, N. Y., 1916, 77, 151; "Dr. Cranfill Writes About Old Time Fiddlers,"
Houston Chronicole, August 8, 1926; "I Fell in Love at a Backwoods Dance,"
Dallas News, June 19, 1927; "Crack Texas Fiddler Knew Jesse James," Dallas
News, August 28, 1927. Dr. Cranfill has talked to the writer also. He is the
source for the Ole Bull stories that follow.
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Dobie, J. Frank (James Frank), 1888-1964. Texian Stomping Grounds, book, 1941; Dallas, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc67663/m1/88/: accessed August 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Press.