RTU's Ukulele Consciousness with robert wheeler, founder


Another Session of

Ukulele Consciousness

With robert wheeler, founder, Ukulele Consciousness

Session #41 - Oct.30, 2005


How do I regard you, let me count the ways.

So there I go. Trying to write something about Mike Longworth and I start out with "I" and "me".

"My" feeling about what the living say about the dead has been prejudiced by what was printed in the obituary section about the death of "my" 20 year old son after an overdose of alcohol and barbiturates.

Once Sue, Mike's wife, when "overhearing" a conversation that Mike and "I" (there "I" go again)  were having asked why we said such terrible things to each other.  Mike just smiled. We both enjoyed trying to make one of the other's leg longer than the other.

"I" met Mike years and years ago in the lobby of the C.F. Martin & Co., in Nazareth, PA.  "I" had asked the receptionist if there was anybody that was interested in ukuleles.  As "I" shook Mike's hand, "I" asked if he would like to see the Martin ukes "I" had in the car.   Mike said, "Sure, bring them on in." 

"I" went out to "my" car and struggled back, through the double doors, into the lobby with twelve ukes and one taro patch.

Mike had been in ill health for a long time.  While still with Martin, Mike would fly out on a trip to a convention or festival, collapse and have to be brought back flat on his back, after emergency medical treatment.

An unidentified person once told me that Mike would fall asleep in his office and they would be afraid to go in and nudge him awake, because they feared he might already be dead. Argggggh!!!

Over the years "I" would make regular visits to Nazareth.  Our relationship was somewhat formal.  We would "take lunch". Exchange occasional letters about ukuleles.  His on Official Letter Head.

After some time "I" lost track of Mike, mostly because elements of "my" life went into turmoil , and then met Fred Fallin at a Uke Expo in a mill in Western Massachusetts, who had a letter from Mike for "me".  Mike had retired and return to his boyhood state, Tennessee, and was living in Bell Buckle.

"I" visited Bell Buckle.  Mike would visit "me" in Massachusetts, usually when ever there was a Uke Expo in some near by state. 

He surprised "me" by showing "me" the first ukulele he made.  That uke, black with miles of pearl, had traditional soprano Martin shaped body.  "I" whined and whined, until Mike said ..."....put it down on paper.".... and what to "my" wonderous eyes should appear, but a tiny Ditson shaped soprano body uke.  The uke of "my" dreams. 

So Mike says,..."I'm goin' make a concert uke to match that, do you want it?"

"Does a bear .........????  Do you holly stone the poop deck????  Would you sell "my" concert sized dream uke to a stranger?????"  "Yes, yes, "I" want it!!!!" ... says "I".

How ill was Mike, one might ask.  Once when Mike, who was perhaps 10 years younger than "I",  and "I" were in the best Mexican restaurant in Arlington Massachusetts, "I" kid you not, and when Mike excused himself, the owner came over and asked "me" if "my" father had enjoyed his lunch??????????

For the longest time Mike had moved through the world in pain and discomfort.  And made great contributions to his, our, world.

If "I" live to be a hundred, which isn't that appealing in these times of economic and political considerations, rather than humane considerations, for elderly care, "my" favorite Mike Longworth story, which I cobbled together from stories told me by both Sue and Mike, is the "Riding Lawn Mower" story.

Now Mike and Sue's home in Bell Buckle had a lot of land.  Mike got a green riding lawn mower and, as with any guy with a green riding lawn mower, enjoyed it a lot.

So one day, Mike says, to Sue, "I'm goin' run  the lawn mower up on the trailer and take it over to ........"  And Sue says, to Mike, "You get someone to help you put that tractor on the trailer."

So bone head goes out in the front of the house, places two boards between the ground and the back of the trailer, starts to drive the green lawn tractor up the boards, they slip, and his bad leg is pined between the tractor and one of the boards. 

Mike hollers ....."HELP!!!!!"

Sue, inside the insulated house, with various domestic appliances in full roar, doesn't hear Mike's "HELP", but after a time wonders where he is.  Had not heard/seen him in a bit of time.  So goes out in front.

She goes down to Mike, and his green tractor.  Gets close enough to see that other than him not being able to move, seems in good enough shape. 

So Sue--and "I'm" not sure whose side of the story this is--backed up 5 steps, out of arms reach, and delivered a 5 minute "I Told You Not To Load That Tractor On The Trailer Without Help" lecture.  Then she helped release him.

"I'm" angry that Mike won't be in "my" life anymore.  Maybe "I" shouldn't have ragged him so badly?  Maybe "I" could have been a better and more effective friend?

Maybe "I" should have had him make "me" a taro patch?