FLEA FUN FOR OLD TIMERS
When I was small I didn’t know very much. I got a beautiful little banjo for Christmas. I knew what a banjo was and had probably indicated that I would like to have one. When I opened the box and examined the instruction book I still didn’t know what to do. I knew that the strings had to be tight and in some order. My mother tried to help me but after a few minutes of banjo plunking she suggested that we secure the aid of Uncle John. He could play any instrument and would be glad to help.
` Uncle John moved his thumb across the strings, producing an unmelodic sound, and said “Each string has to have a certain tone before the instrument is in tune. You must remember this little phrase when you start to tune. ‘My dog has fleas! Each word represents the tone of a string. Start tuning on the bottom string.” He started tightening the bottom string and plucking it with his thumb. The tightening continued until the sound from the string sounded similar to the “my” that he was repeating each time he plucked the string. He then moved up to the second string and repeated the performance using “dog” instead of just “my.” He then adjusted the string until it also sounded similar to the word he was singing. He performed the same operation with the two upper strings, completing the “my dog has fleas” tuning aid.
“The banjo is in tune now.” He announced. He played a short rendition of Old Joe Clark and handed the instrument to me. “Play ‘my dog has fleas’ and sing with it until you can do it in your sleep, then you will know how to tune a banjo – or any other musical instrument!”
I knew about fleas but this was the first time I knew they were used in banjo tuning. I had heard of dogs and cats that had fleas living in their wooly skin and dining on their nourishing blood.
I knew that fleas sometimes chose people for the entree of the day and were capable of causing a lot of itching connected with the dining process. I had even seen fleas on scrawny cows and horses.
Once we were
‘possum hunting and
One thing I
had never seen or read about was a “Flea Circus”.
early start we arrived in
There were apparently several shows in progress. Each stage was enclosed, except for the glass front, on the rear and each end. The stage was about three feet from front to back and from side to side. It was equipped with small models of what would be found on a circus site. We spent at least a half hour going from one flea performance to another.
The little fleas were actually performing like circus actors. They were walking threads high in the cage that looked like real wire walking! Some were swinging on thread ropes. A few acts featured a tiny flea fighting a vicious spider or scorpion.
As the bus
found its way out of the lot I ask