The first one took place when I was about 10 years old. A friend of mine named George and I were fooling around on the second floor of the barn that was behind his parent's house. That second floor was crammed full of things like old chairs, luggage, chests of drawers, and a couple old mannequins, the one's used by clothing makers. These "clothes horses" had no heads or legs and stood on some sort of metal rod and stand.
Back in those days, television Westerns were all the rage and boys like my friend George and I loved to play "cowboys and Indians" (oh, the political inappropriateness of such a game if played today! "Bang! Bang! You're dead!!") Anyway, on this particular afternoon I was the "Indian" and George was the cowboy. As we darted from one piece of old furniture to another, shouting out what we pretended were the sounds of our toy guns firing at each other, I noticed a gardening device in a corner, one of those long metal poles with a notched piece of flat metal on the bottom to pull weeds without bending over. To me it looked very much like a spear that an Indian warrior would hurl at a cowboy.
Now, I didn't want to actually hit George with it of course. But in the mind of a 10-year old boy there was no question about what had to be done. I picked it up and heaved it across the room in George's general direction. I hoped to hit one of the mannequins. That would scare him, I thought!
Well the next thing I heard was a loud CA-CHUNK as the device found a target. "Oh no!" said George.
From between some boxes I saw the end of my "spear" protruding. I ran over and pushed the boxes aside. My spear had made a direct hit on a guitar case and was well embedded. We pulled it out and opened the case.
Inside the case was what I came to find out later was sweet little Martin New Yorker, which now sat with a huge hole in its lower bout, out the back and right through the chipboard case.
"That's my mom's guitar!" said George. "She had it in college. She never plays it anymore but I know she loves it!"
I don't recall the next series of events but I know that put an immediate end to our cowboys-and-Indians session. Neither George nor I told his mother what happened.
For various reasons George and I drifted apart as we entered our teenage years but I remember running into him one day after I had been playing guitar for a year or so.
"Uh... so.... what ever happened to your mom's guitar?" I asked.
"Well, she was pretty mad when she found it a year or so later," he said, "but I said I didn't know what happened. My dad told her she shouldn't have kept it in the barn and then they started to have an argument so I left the room! She never said anything else about it.... It was a Martin New Yorker though and I think it was worth some money."
Thank goodness I didn't know about the concept of karma at that point in my life or I probably would have been paranoid for months! To this day I regret it though. Maybe by admitting what happened (here, for the first time) I've at least tipped the scales back in my direction a little bit. Or maybe all the trouble I had with my first Martin, a D-35 I bought a few years later was my penance.
Another horror story. Not of my doing this time, thank goodness.
Back in the 1960s in Newport, Rhode Island we used to love going down to the docks and hanging out. There was a bar there called the Black Pearl. It is still there but the place is absolutely nothing like the seedy joint it was back then. That part of Newport (then the U.S Navy home port of the East Coast destroyer fleet) was lined with tattoo parlors, bars, surplus stores, liquor stores and some very shady characters. We loved it!
A man named Jodie (something?) owned both the bar and a beautiful black schooner that was his home and his pride and joy. Both were named the Black Pearl. The bar had a small stage in the corner and often during the famous Newport Jazz and Folk festivals some of the performers would show up after evening concerts and take over the small stage and play as long as the crowd would keep the stage lined with full glasses. Jodie was also a bit of a guitar player and he had an old D-28 that was pretty much the "house guitar" which anyone could play. It would be worth many, many thousands of dollars today if it had survived in good condition. But that was not its fate.
That poor old Dread was a trooper. It would get banged around on a daily basis and I clearly remember going down to the dock one evening to find Jodie laid out on the dock, snoring away, with his old D-28 on the rough, damp wood dock right next to him. Even then I knew this was no way to treat such a wonderful old instrument. I have no idea what happened to Jodie or his old guitar but both were looking pretty rough the last time I saw them. That D-28 surely died a slow and painful death - but it was also well loved. I'm conflicted about the karmic implications.
Then there was the time I went camping with friends and after an evening of playing, singing and imbibing we turned in for the night. My trusty old Yamaha 12-string was put in its case. Unfortunately, I neglected to close the case - and I left it on the hood on my car. AND... it rained that night!
The next morning I looked in astonishment at about a half inch of water inside the guitar. Only one thing to do: turn it upside down, shake it vigorously and leave it out in the hot sun to dry. And you know what? That old Yammie was none the worse for the experience and played and sounded just fine a day later. Stayed that way too. In fact, I sold it to a friend in the late 1970s and as far as I know, he still has it and plays it. Wonder what the heck that thing was really made out of?!?
One final story. About ten years ago I had a student who was about 10 years old and while a nice kid with a great sense of humor, he just couldn't understand why he had to practice and I came to dread his lessons because I knew they would be a struggle. One day he showed up and was very quiet and didn't look all that well. The lesson was going along as usual and as I was writing out something for him in his notebook I looked up to see him suddenly place the guitar face up on his lap, lean over and proceed to puke directly into the sound hole! Oh my god I said (or words to that affect) - do you want a waste basket???!!
"No," he said. "I'm OK now. Besides, it's my sister's guitar....!"
By his choice, that was his last lesson. Which was fine with me. That was one guitar that I did NOT ever want to see again!