When I was in college...

I needed a practice organ desperately because the time I was allotted on the school's organ was not enough and it was simply too expensive. I hunted everywhere and was appalled that the cheapest AGO electronic organ cost $8,000 at that time and it seemed like it was all the money in the world.

A relative of a friend of a friend contacted me one day to let me know there was an organ for sale in Maple Valley, Washington, a 5 hour drive one way for me. Nevertheless, I braved the long trip from school to see it. The directions were not entirely encouraging since they contained phrases like "the big rusty mail box at the dead end" and "the white house on the right with the front porch that has fallen off."

When I did get there, the description was indeed accurate. I went around back where I found a couple dead ducks hanging from the rafters, ageing I supposed, and a rear porch that was tenuous enough that I considered throwing pebbles at the back door rather than risk climbing up on the porch and knocking. A wonderful old man with white wispy hair appeared from around the back of one of the old outbuildings and inquired whether I was there for eggs. It seemed strange for me to be inquiring about an organ in such a setting. When I did, I was taken into the house across the rickety back porch, having to "duck" the ducks. Inside, the house was packed with articles of furniture, carpets, records, magazines, etc., from floor to ceiling. Much to my disappointment there was no visible organ. About an hour and a half later, after moving beds, refrigerators, draperies, TVs, book cases and China cabinets from one place to another we had effectively worked our way across the room to the other side. I still did not see an organ and was beginning to think about the long trip home in the dark when suddenly the man pulled a large awning out of the way and there, behind it was one of the most beautiful 2 manual reed organs with full pedal board I had ever seen. It was an Estey reed organ with medium oak finish. What a wonderful instrument...and it even played!

We walked back outside to escape the dust and to talk. I asked how much he wanted for it. He thought a while and said, "Well, I gave 250 and a side of beef fer it, reckon I'll take the same." The $250 was not going to be easy but I would be able to get the money some way...but what about the side of beef? As we stood there in silence, he, waiting for an answer and my head swimming over how I might obtain a side of beef, as if by providence, a big old cow made her way past us, disappearing around the corner of the house. The old man looked after the cow, looked down at the ground then off toward his out buildings and said, "Aw, I reckon I got enough beef! You kin have if fer two fifty."

That organ became my practice instrument for better than 20 years. Never gave me any trouble!

I recently sold the organ to a desperate student for $250 never mentioning anything about beef...

Posted on: Aug 04 2010 12:24 PM