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Let’s eavesdrop on Barley’s Uncle Samuel and Aunt Nibbles, as they are realizing that Barley has inherited something special… did I mention Sam plays the banjo?
Sam was working out the third verse of Blueridge Hornpipe on his 5-string banjo when Nibbles settled in beside him. She waited, while he tried to find the melody up around the 7th fret. Suddenly he popped the B string, and it stayed popped. He sighed, and began unwinding what was left of it from the peg to put on a replacement.
“Remember when Barley ended up at the end of the new tunnel?” she whispered, rubbing his foot with hers.
“And didn’t remember getting there?” he replied.
He pulled the busted string loose from the peghead. “Yup.”
They sat silent for a few minutes.
“I think he didn’t remember getting there, because he didn’t go down that tunnel.”
Sam turned to her. He knew her too well to do anything but wait for the rest of this thought to unfold. She was neither capricious nor foolish, and when her mind took an unexpected turn, it was well worth waiting to see what lay at the end of that road.
“My grandfather,” she continued, watching him intently, “recounted a similar event. The family laughed at him, and assumed he was too embarrassed to admit what really happened. He never would talk about it again.”
“Except to me.”
He fastened the new B string to the baseplate, inserted it into the hole in the tuning peg, and began tightening it up. She gazed into space, eyes focused somewhere back in time.
“From then on, he was frequently gone for days at a time. Everyone forgot what he had said, and he never talked with anyone about where he went, and what he did.”
“Except with you?” suggested Sam.
“Except with me.” She smiled at him.
Sam tightened up the string, and tuned it to the G string below. “Nib?” he said.
“Did you ever go with him?”
A long silence followed. Sam could usually see where she was going long before others could, and she was frequently surprised by his ability to put earth, water, and an acorn together, and see the full grown tree that must result.
He just looked at her, eyes twinkling.
“Yes, Sam, I did.”
“Were you able to do what he did?”
“But you’re thinking that … ability? … that gift? … has come down to Barley.”
“Yes … or he’s lying. And I don’t think he’s lying.”