The Lumberjack Song
Nathan is listening to Monty Python while doing some Photoshop work. I am awaiting fresh baked banana bread muffins. Monty Python songs hold a special place in my memory. I used the super short songs to fill in spots on mix tapes for one thing. So whenever I hear Spam, I expect it to be followed by Local Gods (from the Leonardo DiCaprio Romeo & Juliette). I taught Sit On My Face & Every Sperm is Sacred to the entire flute section, and we would sing them on the bus to and from games and competitions. But The Lumberjack Song is by far my favorite.
Back in 95, I went to Governor’s School (month long nerd camp) where I made fantastic friends and regular school was forever ruined. At the end of the month we had a talent show, and a bunch of the girls performed the Lumberjack Song. We had to find a boy lead lumberjack, and we went with the nearest boy, Dustin, who could not carry a tune in a bucket (sorry, Dustin, but it’s true). He and I didn’t get along that well (I always suspected he resented the fact that I was the ONLY girl in our group who DIDN’T have any interest in dating him), but I was trying to be helpful and get him in the right key and on the right beat. I managed to offend him in my helpfulness (runs in the family), and he quit. It was just a few days from the show, and we had a bunch of girls, even more flannel and a wooden ax, but no lead lumberjack, so off I went to find a replacement. Now, all you GSH-ers, if this next bit comes as a surprise, I’m calling into question your attendance at GSH95. I had a HUGE crush on this guy Barrett (who I later took to the prom as friends, sigh), and he and I were pretty good friends, so I asked him to replace our MIA lumberjack. He was delighted, and one of my favorite memories of Barrett is seeing him walking across the campus at UT Martin singing the Lumberjack Song to himself.
Barrett was actually a talented actor and musician, so he could carry a tune backwards in a bucket balanced on his head while hopping on one foot. Our Lumberjack Song was fantastic. Somehow in the initial plans, I had been volunteered as the “girl” lumberjack (for the line “With my best girl at my side” at which time I skipped out in “short shorts”–which in the mid-90s came down pretty close to my knees–and braids with my flannel shirt tied in a knot. It was very risque 😉 ) Boy did I luck out when we replaced the lumberjack my friends had a crush on with the lumberjack I had a crush on. It was the highlight of the month. 🙂
That was not my last performance of The Lumberjack Song. We acquired our first “boy flute” that year in the band, so of course, at the band camp talent show, we wanted to perform The Lumberjack Song. Poor Derek. He didn’t want to do it at first, but we made him. There were too many of us to resist. Plus we begged his older brother to harrass him about it. Trudy was our girl lumberjack and it was fun, but nothing is the same as your first time.
At the end of that year, we gathered one more group together to perform at the school Talent Show. Then we graduated and moved away, and I have never performed another Monty Python sketch. How sad.
10 years later, Barrett was in Atlanta and stopped by to visit. Nathan had a horrible job at the time, and Barrett was very sympathetic. He seemed to be more angry with the evil boss than Nathan (who had shifted his energy to finding a new job). We had a great visit and promised to get together more often. He lived in Knoxville at the time, but traveled to Atlanta every so often. That was the first time I had seen him since college, and it was the last time we ever spoke (he was really bad at returning calls). A few months later, I was at a yard sale with my friend Claudine trying to unload all of our junk for a decent price. I had just turned down a lady who offered me ten cents for all of my ceramic miniatures (I was really into tiny figurines in junior high, don’t ask why I still had them) and the wooden display case (with a glass door) when I got a call from one of my GSH friends. Barrett had be hit by a truck on the highway and died. As each friend found out, they called me to talk about it. It was surreal. Sometimes I still expect to find out it was a mistake or some twisted joke. I don’t think I would be surprised to bump into him on Market Square.
So, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. The Lumberjack Song always brings up a swirl of conflicting emotions and memories. In the end, it always reminds me of Barrett which leads me to think about what the world lost. He was a real gem. Weird in all the right ways. We moved to Knoxville the year after Barrett died, and if he were still alive, we would probably hang out, just like we said. Nathan thought he was great when he came to visit. But he was too much for this reality. He seemed to live on a different plane. A surreal and fantastic existence, that we all wanted to share.