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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Kitty Ma, Pine Needles, and John Denver

PINELLAS, Point of Pines in Spanish. If you speak Spanish you know the two words. If you don’t speak Spanish, you don’t need to know them. You will probably mispronounce them in a way that will get you slapped, killed, or happily engaged to a school lunchroom employee in Miami.

Like our Pinellas pine needles, aloft or fallen, I have a point and we’ll get to it sometime soon, maybe.

Kitty Ma McLeod was a middle-class, Victorian woman. She brought up 3 boys, Norman, Hamilton, and my grandfather Robyn. Kitty Ma’s nimble, bony fingers, the blue veined mittens, fashioned hot plate trivets, coiled from humble pine needles and raffia. It was magic.

There was a folk craft renaissance of pine needle coiling in the early 1900’s. Many well-dressed, corseted ladies took classes. The art was already ancient, even when Kitty Ma was young. South Carolina barrier island folk made sweet grass coiled baskets years before the trussed-up ladies of the 1900’s appropriated the art.

Even the late John Denver wove pine needle baskets whenever he was on the road. He carried two guitar cases, one for his guitar and the other filled with crisp, golden brown pine needles and Madagascar raffia. At least that’s what he told the Customs Man.

         Lubbock, Texas airport, early 1967

A young John Denver is on board a commercial flight to Montana. He has pine needles and raffia with him, busily creating a new basket. Sitting in a window seat waiting for his plane to take off, John notices a Texas thunderstorm coming.

Rain is pelting the window. He wistfully watched for a while and returns to weaving his pine needle basket.
Then it comes to him. Finally, we have arrived, to the point of all of this:

Mr. Denver grins, leans back, and sings, 

“I’m weaving on a wet plane.”

Did you think that Peter Paul and Mary wrote that song?
Well, you are wrong.

Here is a subject for comments. Who do you like the best?

John Denver
Denver Pyle
Gomer Pyle?


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Bob Simpson