The Story of Fiddlin’ Doc and his Red Gate Ranch Hands
In the quiet, old New England town of Amherst, MA, more known for its poets (Emmylou Dickerson) and Ph.D.s, there is an old ranch house at the top of Red Gate Lane. It’s the home of the Fiddlin’ Doc and his wife, Betsy. They run the ranch as best they can, along with a couple kids and, of course, the Ranch Hands.
Like most ranching folks, they don’t leave the ranch too often. Going into town is a special occasion. You have to dress up and look fine. On a rare visit into town, however, down a little ways and across the street from the Emmylou Dickerson home place, Doc did notice through the window some musicians playing at the Lumberyard Restaurant. And he thought they were all right.
Weeks passed (maybe even years), and it weighed on his mind. Finally, he couldn’t stand it any longer. He rode down to the Lumberyard one evening, pulled his self up to the bar and ordered a drink. Jazz was playing in the background.
Jeff the bartender: “Let me tell you our specials tonight. There’s a fresh North Sea flounder with a lemon and almond butter compote’; or the filet mignon with a vermouth, olive oil and chiltapin garnish.”
Fiddlin’ Doc: “Well, I don’t think I’ll have anything with compost. I’ll have the beef, medium rare. Thankee.”
Jeff: “Excellent choice!”
Doc didn’t really know too well the owners of the restaurant, Rolf and Cindy Nelson, but he’d heard tell of ‘em. He saw Cindy Nelson scurrying around the restaurant tables, talking and laughing with the folks, and he could see why they seemed to like her. She was cute as a Texas bluebonnet, but he knew she wasn’t from Texas. But– he thought to himself– by Gawd, they’d like her there too. He took another pull on his beer.
Pretty soon, Cindy Nelson dashed up beside Doc and introduced herself.
Cindy: “Is everything alright sir?”
Doc: “ Well, yes, ma’am, it’s just fine. Mighty fine.” He blushed a little bit.
Cindy: “Well, you just let me know if we can get anything for you.”
Doc: “Who do I talk to about the music here?”
Cindy: “Oh! You like music?”
Doc: “Well, ma’am, I pick the guitar and play the fiddle sometimes as long as my hands aren’t too chafed from workin’ cattle, especially when it’s cold outside.”
Cindy: “Let me go get Rolf, and you can talk to him.”
Doc tipped his hat, and Cindy went into the kitchen. Rolf soon came out, stood across the bar and stretched out his hand to introduce himself.
Rolf: “Your dinner should be out real soon.”
Doc thought that Rolf looked lean and healthy and could probably put in a good day’s work. He wondered if he liked livestock.
Rolf: “Cindy tells me you came in here to hear some music. “
Doc: “Well, I’ve seen some fellas playin’ in here before, some kind of Django outfit, whatever that means. They were pretty good boys. And I always like a band that’ll have a fiddle in it. I play a little fiddle. Those Django boys don’t do no singin’ at all, but the folks seem to enjoy themselves anyway. Up at the ranch house, I’ll do some singin’ and my boys set the toes a ‘ tappin. I don’t reckon you’d want that kind of caterwaul down here though. We’ll play the Maiden’s Prayer. You can count on that. The Red Gate Ranch Hands don’t go halfway on country music. We play all the good numbers.”
Rolf paused for a moment, looked around at some of the tables in the restaurant. There was the big table with the Amherst College faculty. There was another group of attractive women drinking wine and speaking intensely to each other. He thought he overheard something about Town Meeting. Does this make any sense at all, he thought? What would these people think of a country band? Am I out of my mind? But he was intrigued, and he believed in taking the occasional risk. Maybe he felt a little sorry for the old fiddlin’ Doc.
Rolf: “Don’t sell yourself short. I’ll tell you what, if you like my steak, then maybe you’ll bring the Ranch Hands down here for a night and play for us. I’ll provide dinner. Oh, here’s your dinner, by the way. Enjoy!”
Doc: “Thank you.”
Doc grabbed his fork and steak knife and looked at the plate in front of him. The aroma was enticing and the cut of steak seemed generous, even though he was used to a big ole’ T-bone on his own grill. He sliced off the first piece and savored the meat.
Doc: “Mmmm, that’s just fine, that’s just fine.”
When it came time to settle up, Rolf came back over to the bar to see what Doc thought of the meal.
Doc: “Mr. Nelson….”
Rolf: “Call me Rolf”
Doc: “OK then, Rolf, that was a meal to remember. If you want the Ranch Hands to come down here sometime, we’ll be glad to do it. Thankee kindly.”
Doc picked up his 6X Open Road Stetson Cowboy hat, put it on his head and went out the front door into the dark night. Rolf felt Cindy stride up beside him as they both watched the cowboy leave.
Cindy: “Do you think he’ll be back?”
Rolf: “Yes, he’ll be back.”
Cindy grabbed Rolf’s hand and squeezed it tightly.
Fiddlin’ Doc and his Red Gate Ranch Hands
At the Lumberyard
This Saturday, April 23, 8:00 p.m.