Friday, January 29, 2010



The Legend of Hal Sherfey.

Hal Sherfey grew up out of the Tennessee hills. His daddy was straight as a stick, and his momma as curvy as the river. As a child, he didn't know how lucky he was when he spied ducks on his own pond and bluebirds perched on his own fence posts. He didn't know that tomatoes and onions didn't taste the same when they were grown from other parcels of land. He couldn't fathom that some people in the world didn't know the particular shade of green that a tobacco worm has. He figured that there were only two churches on earth: the Baptist one where grandma went and the Methodist one built on his daddy's family's land. Hal hoped he'd never have to choose between them, and slept easy seeing as how he had them both covered if he played his cards right. His name and his dimples always served him well.

When the time came, like all of us, he was eager to lose his innocence in order to acquire sophistication. It's one thing to be born lucky, but our Hal had to cast the dice a few times just to get a better definition of chance. He stole his last look back at Mom and Dad waving on the porch, knowing he'd never feel that safe again. Not that he could turn the tide anyway. But he knew how to keep remembrances.

See, Hal had a streak in him that wanted to stray. Not because he hated his home. Not that at all. It was more like he wanted it to remain hallowed. He didn't want any of his wild oats to take root on that sacred ground. So he was the first Sherfey man to take off for the city to begin his "coming of age".

Young Sherfey really took to the city. Not only could he correctly pronounce "foie gras" - he knew what it tasted like! He wore Prada jeans and walked a pedigreed dog. He began taking his tea without sugar and ate fish without cornbread. He used new profanities each day as his sky disappeared behind tall buildings and signs.

Having had a beautiful mother, he carried himself with princely assertiveness. After dwelling under her approving gaze for all his conscious years, he never experienced any self-doubt and never developed the hunger for recognition from anyone else. The same went for his daddy, and therefore, in Hal's eyes, this was the universal state of mankind.

Hal put himself to the task of becoming Urban because it enchanted him. He chose to embrace the cluttered, detached domain he'd moved on to. Still, he stored away the undimmed precious pieces of his former life. People were drawn to that blue part of him that was true.

He drank up and slept in. He polished his shoes and his car and practiced small salutations which he used frequently with all the strangers around him. He began to drop phrases that drew a look from his Northern colleagues. He smelled diesel and told himself he preferred it to manure. He went to the theater and listened to symphonies and all the while he felt he heard his own voice singing "He's got the whole world in His hands" receding into the past.

He put away childish things. Not because he no longer needed them. Once again, it was just safekeeping. He built an area around his heart that housed family and individuality and pride and reverence. Like a Big Game Reserve with high wire boundaries.

He couldn't believe how clean a break he'd made when he turned away from the stones and roses just outside the kitchen door. He hadn't yet met a soul who could comprehend how a Sherfey man could reach his arm all the way past his elbow inside a cow and pull out a calf, then afterwards go have a bologna cheese sandwich at Benny's, wash it down with unpasteurized milk, and top the tobacco before rushing home to put on a softball mitt and defend the title against Bowmantown. These guys didn't wear cups or sunscreen. Hal's ambition began to change again. He needed to tap back into the fountainhead. There was something back there he wanted preserved.

So he went home with new eyes and proceeded to wait and watch for the revelation.

He sat in his Mother's garden and asked "What am I?"

He watched the sun set on moving tractors. Noticed the synchronicity of household lights in the kitchen, then the den, then the bedrooms. Looked at the purple martin houses placed over the vegetables and flowers. Felt sedated by all the tiny life buzzing around his eyelashes. Gnats and sweat stored in the same vault in his heart that held his parents in swimsuits in an overheated car. What were they singing? Moon River?

..... crossing you in style.......someday......

And Hal had an awakening.


He opened his throat and sang every song he ever liked. He felt his home rise up and dance. He brought tears to his mother's eyes as she raptly watched his second birth. His father's look told him he had hit the nail squarely on the head. That look was the most intense exchange they'd ever had. And to top it all, the cows in the pasture stopped chewing and mooing and moved as one to the edge of the green with eyes fixed on Hal until the last note was sung.

Hal's voice, strong and surprising, deep with devotion, aching with grief over each moment as it passed, carried them aloft. It flowed like a mountain spring that washed everything clean and smoothed every rock it touched. And in between the gentle places ran dangerous undercurrents that just might claim you once and for all.

Loneliness took shape and then vanished.

In the air a new chorus began. Voices coaxing the sun to bed in the meadow. Voices repeating and telling where time has gone and love has grown.

The Hal Sherfey Band was conceived that evening. Hands that could play picked up their instruments. Words became lyrics. Notes became songs.

Like the Pied Piper, he called us out and asked us to take a giant leap. Let the Devils fall and the Angels fly. Or vice versa.

Hal is home.

Bang the drum, tune the guitar, wake the dead.

Now you might figure from this story that the music of the band is "grass roots." Or you might want to expect gospel, country, or even standards. You might hope that it's got new rock and roll hooks to it. Or be a hip new fusion of world influences. You'd be right on all that. Hal learned a thing or two from wandering. He doesn't believe a person should have to choose one thing over another. You just have to know when it's good.

--Bonnie Squibb

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