Authors: Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Tags: #ghosts, #demon, #fantasy, #paranormal, #devil, #devils, #demons, #music, #ghost, #saga, #songs, #musician, #musicians, #gypsy shadow, #ballad, #folk song, #banjo, #elizabeth ann scarborough, #songkiller, #folk songs, #folk singer, #folk singers, #song killer
THE SONGKILLER SAGA
STRUM AGAIN? (Songkiller Saga #3) Original
Copyright © May 1992 Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Song "I Will Go" composed by Roddy McMillan
copyright Jean McMillan.
All rights reserved.
STRUM AGAIN? Original Copyright © 1992 by
Elizabeth Ann Scarborough.
All rights reserved
Copyright © October, 2010, Elizabeth Ann
Cover Art Copyright © 2010, Karen
Gypsy Shadow Publishing
Names, characters and incidents depicted in
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For Bob and Kay Zentz, friends of the work
and folk music torch-bearers. Thanks.
Thanks to Victory Music Cooperative and
Chris Lunn for information, inspiration, entertainment and friends.
Thanks to Michael Smith—for permission to print the lyrics to "This
Here Mandolin," (words and music copyright 1975 by Michael Peter
Smith, Bird Avenue Publishing [BMI]). Thanks to Tim and Marian
Henderson—for permission to quote "Dust" (copyright 1977 Snake
Hollow Publishing [BMI] from
cassette). Thanks to Andrew
Calhoun—for permission to quote "Long-Legged Lover," which is a
great song I used in a not-so-great scene I've since cut. Thanks to
Jim Page—for "Anna Mae," (from
copyright 1986 Flying Fish Records Inc., Jim
Page Whid-Isle Music [BMI]) and to Larry Long—for writing his song
"Anna Mae," available on RUN FOR FREEDOM, copyright © 1985 Larry
Long, Flying Fish Records Inc. [BMI] Thanks to Tania Opland—for
general support, advice, criticism and willingness to strain her
eyes reading the manuscript. Thanks to William Pint, Felicia Dale,
and Tom Lewis for research assistance. Thanks to Allen Wayne Damron
for so many magical performances and good road adventures. Thanks
to Charles de Lint and characters for keeping faerie, fantasy, and
folk music thriving north of the border. Thanks to Suzette Haden
Elgin, C.J. Cherryh, Jane Fancher, Robin Bailey, Warren and Gigi
Norwood, Mercedes Lackey, Mark Simmons, Emma Bull and Will
Shetterley for agreeing to make a fictional journey to ConTingent.
Thanks to Okon, especially Tom and Mary Wallbank, Marilyn and
Curtis Berry, Randy and Lisa Farran, Richard and Lyn Morgan, for
hospitality and inspiration, and to filkers everywhere both in and
out of tune and on and off key. Thanks to McShane Glover for
liaison, expediting, and general support. Thanks to Janice Endresen
and Bob Crowley for books, walks, talks, music and saving the
forests. Thanks to Bennie and Danna Garcia for information,
inspiration, and wonderful tapes and records to keep me going and
to Rittie Ward, Annette Mercier and Barb the bartender from the
Ruston Inn for inspiration. Thanks also to Tom Paxton for getting
me through Vietnam with his music and John McCutcheon for the
wisdom to use his time, energy, and clout to work within the system
to make sure that The Songkiller Saga remains mere
* * *
RETURN OF THE WAYFARING STRANGERS
Seven long years had passed and gone since a
herd of devils drove the old songs, the power songs, the charm
songs, from these United States of America. Most people didn't even
notice when it happened, because people hadn't been singing the
songs themselves for years. But in fact, getting rid of the songs
and their singers was as good a plan for bad as ever there was,
because from ancient times the songs have contained spells to ward
off the worst of the evils the devils want to work upon
I was with a certain small group of
musicians when they first discovered the songs were going missing,
I mourned with them as their friends and colleagues were crippled,
diseased, or murdered by the devils and their minions. And I was
with them when the magic banjo Lazarus told my friends to take the
songs to their roots. I traveled with the singers to England and
Scotland, where, in spite of great dangers of both the bodily and
the spiritual kind (and I mean spiritual as in spirits, ghosts,
ha'ants), they began retrieving the songs from the depths of the
past. I myself was personally possessed by the very gentlemanly
ghost of the great ballad collector, author, and lawman Sir Walter
Scott, and he even took me back through the curtain that veils this
world from the next to meet his relatives.
As soon as I was pretty sure my friends were
safe, however, I said good-bye to Sir Walter, dropping him off at
his tomb, and made my way back to this country, where for the past
six years or so I've been tellin' what happened to the songs, what
happened to my friends, and how the singers are returning to bring
the songs back again. Every time I tell this story somebody among
the folks I'm telling it to, somebody with a good ear and eyes
inside their mind that can see the pictures I'm telling them about,
spreads the stories a little farther. Oh, they forget parts
sometimes and make up something that sounds good to fill in the
holes, but that's okay. That's what my friends call the folk
process. It doesn't hurt a thing and sometimes makes the story more
Also, sometimes, as in this case, when I got
too busy with the practical matters of meeting, greeting,
transporting, and arranging for the safe housing of my friends when
they came back, I got too blamed busy to see the whole story. In
that case I find it best to mostly let it be told by someone else,
an heir to my other stories. Probably by now, like other interested
parties, you've heard how it all began either from one of us or
from one of the people who's heard us, in person, in letters, by
internet, telephone, legend, report, rumor, or just plain gossip.
If you haven't, it doesn't matter a great deal, you'll catch
Anyway, like I started to say, I was busy as
a cranberry merchant at Christmas during the time this story is
talking about, and more than usual I was part of the story rather
than the teller, so a lot of this part is told about me not by me,
in the interests of modesty.
The cowboy they called Ute didn't look
Native American, Shayla St. Michael thought, but then you never
could tell. As Shayla and the rest of the small band of Californian
eco-feminists gathered around the campfire, Ute fixed them with a
sardonic glance and continued sharpening his blue pencil with his
pocket knife. He'd already cooked the women a nice vegetarian meal
with a few edible non-endangered native plants and onions from the
Valley, piñon nuts imported from New Mexico, and a little tofu
imported from the soy fields of Kansas.
The smoke that rose, some might say
fragrantly, to the sky, was authentically coming from a fire of
dried unspecified animal dung. He used to tell the tour groups
which animals, but that had proved unwise. Unspecified was
Now, sated with their politically correct
meal, the women sat around the campfire and watched the smoke
spiral toward the moon.
"I think this is lovely. No television, no
radio, no computers," began Barbara Harrington-Smith, a corporate
"I disagree," said Shayla, who was a graphic
artist for a large publisher. "I'm bored. We walked a great deal,
true, but I miss my evening jog even though I do understand that we
might trample indigenous wildlife of the fanged serpentine variety
and be immediately chastised for our thoughtlessness. And I did as
instructed and didn't bring any work."
"Also," added Heather-Jon Argulijan, "this
"I could tell you a mite
more about the interestin' things that have happened on this
ranch," Ute said in his quaint western twang. He was not
offensively macho. Though the eco-feminist group had requested that
their guide be a cow
more correctly, a cow-
the tour director explained that the cowgirls were all attending
management seminars that week or competing for top prize money in
the rodeos and wouldn't be available but assured them that Ute,
while absolutely an authentic member of his profession, was also
extremely progressive in his attitudes and in fact was the one who
insisted on bumper stickers that proclaimed "ERA Will Rise Again"
for all of the ranch's Jeeps and pickups.
"Oh, God, not another environmental impact
statement," Heather-Jon moaned. "I'm sorry, Barbara, but I just
can't take any more."
Barbara sometimes thought of Heather-Jon as
the weakest link, but she was also usually a lot of fun, and fun
seemed to be what was missing.
Ute grinned at Heather-Jon in a
non-condescending, brotherly, and respectful way. "Why, ma'am, as
important as such a thing is to all of us, I don't reckon I'd
undertake to tell you women about it orally like. That's somethin'
that it's only fittin' should be read carefully in big old folios
of recycled hard copy. No'm, what I had in mind was to tell you the
story of how an old hand on this here ranch and some compadres of
his, includin' yours truly—"
"All men?" asked Shayla in a still-bored
tone that indicated she was just sure they all would be. She inched
a little farther from the fire and slipped on her wool socks and
pulled on a poncho her roommate had woven for her from the wool of
organically grown sheep.
"Hell no! Why, there was Sister Julianne
Martin and Sister Anna Mae Gunn, Sister Terry Pruitt and Sister
Ellie Randolph, not to mention Sister Gussie Turner, who did the
advance work and told me most of what I'm about to tell you."
"Isn't this a little—you know, out in the
sticks, as a place to start a movement?" Heather-Jon asked.
"Good as any, better'n most," he said.
"There's songs in this story too, and as I sing 'em while I'm
tellin' you about how they was used, I'd appreciate it if y'all
would join in, especially if you can do some nice harmony or play a
mouth harp or anything."
"Comb and tissue okay?" asked Mary
Ute's eyes, pale as prairie skies and framed
by wrinkles only a little leathery since he was careful to use
plenty of sunscreen, lit up. "That's fine, Ms. Mary. Fact is, I
always have wished I could get the hang of a comb and tissue and
never have. I'd be much obliged if you could maybe give me some
pointers? I'd be glad to show you a thing or two about ropin' in
"That would be acceptable," Mary said
gruffly, but she squirmed around a little, clearly pleased.
"Well, then, for your information,
ladies—and I use the term 'ladies' as one of respect and admiration
and in no sense as a restrictive or class-conscious kinda thing—I
happen to be by profession a cowboy poet."
"What the devil is a cowboy poet?" asked
"I couldn't have put that question better
myself, ma 'am, but if you'll bear with me, I believe I'd rather
not say right now. In line with the amended Code of the West, I aim
to show and not tell you all about it. First off, I want you to
imagine a little woman about sixty, sixty-five years old, but quick
on her feet and strong from lots of dancin' and a good judge of
people and a way with 'em from years of bartendin'. She had thick
curly hair that she just plain let go gray, as if there was nothin'
wrong in the world with that."
"And do you think there is?" demanded
Barbara, whose well-styled bob was salt and pepper.
"No, ma'am. Just shows she wasn't one to put
all them chemicals into the water system. Besides, lotsa people pay
to make their hair lighter. What's wrong with just lettin' nature
change it, is what I always say. Anyway, this woman had gone
through some tremendous changes in her life because she happened to
enjoy a certain type of entertainment with which we cowboy poets
are also in sympathy, which is how I came to hear this story. You
see, there were a bunch of devils, and I don't mean only of the
strictly Judeo-Christian brand, mind you, more what your Native
American Indians might call the evil spirits. These folks decided
to eliminate this particular type of entertainment—oh, hell, call a
spade a spade. They used to call it folk music, though strictly
speakin' that's not always an accurate term. Anyhow, these devils,
who were rich and sophisticated and behind all the troubles in this
world that people didn't dream up all by themselves, decided to
take away the music that sometimes makes people feel a little
better about themselves and their work. Gives 'em a kind of what we
cowboy poets would call an eagle's-eye view of their situation,
helps 'em get their lives back in control."