My faithful long time friend

Duane performs: \”My Faithful Long Time Friend\’

It was a warm and humid afternoon in the Caribbean. They have 365 of those annually. In the back yard of a very modest home on a couple of beat up chairs Sharon and I were hanging out with some new friends and their neighbors. Newness wears off quickly among these sociable laid back folks. Sharon’s excellent Spanish impressed them. My massacring of their language amused them.
We also brought an old friend of mine named Martin. The folks loved him. Partly I suppose they identified with him. He was scarred and beat up, a lot like they were..
But he could still sing, beautiful deep bass voice and ringing bright tenor sounds still came easily. In fact the older he gets the better he sings.
In his youth 52 years ago he mesmerized other islanders half a world away in the South Pacific, the Tonga Islands. He loves to sing, and has done so in other distant lands, and in 49 of the fifty states. (North Dakota we are still waiting.)
He can boom it out for a crowd, but he also hums a gentle lullaby to a sleepy child. He sang encouragement every Friday afternoon for several years to a paralyzed army veteran in an iron lung who finally escaped his confinement and flew to heaven.
My friend entertained other soldiers in Japan, Korea, and Viet Nam. Once when our plane touched down on an aircraft carrier the restraining line caught our tail hook and yanked us to a quick stop; standard operating procedure. But my friend’s safety harness came loose. He flew passed my head and crashed into the front bulkhead. He staggered but revived. He fell down hard in Puerto Rico and cracked his neck. That was an arm wrestle compared to the working over he got from some goons on a flight to Oregon.
With the beatings he takes, you might think my friend would stop hanging out with me, but he’s still the first one ready to get picked up every time I’m headed out somewhere.
That afternoon in the Dominican Republic the folks noticed the close attachment between my friend and me. One of them asked, “Senior if this house caught fire, which would you save first, your wife, or your guitar?”
I gave him the right answer, but I stuttered for just a nanosecond before I got it out.” They fell off their boxes, benches, boards, rocks and other perches howling with laughter. Fortunately Sharon thought it was funny too. She knows I love them both.
The romantic Latinos love to feminize their guitars. They speak of her graceful neck, her curvaceous body, her delicate touch, her sensual voice.
But my guitar is an hombre, a twanging, flat pickin’ hoss. (Although I mostly finger pick it.) When the Martin Company started making this model back in 1931 it was the biggest six string anybody ever saw. It looked like a guitar on steroids: husky neck, square shoulders, flat bottom, thick body to give it a big bass voice. Martin named it the “Dreadnaught” after the biggest battle ship in the British navy. This is not the name or the description that you would give to the lady of your dreams.
I’ve customized my guitar by wearing out the frets twice, rubbing grooves into the fret board where my fingers go on my favorite chords. It’s charred in places from my blazing solos (That’s a little joke). Like me it’s beat up and not as handsome as it used to be. But three fourths of my lifetime memories are wound around its strings. Sometimes when we’re alone together, and I feel the world and maybe the universe are beating up on me, my guitar speaks to me. He says, “Come on, you want to get it out of your system. Go ahead, pick on me.” And I do.