Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rings, Rings, Golden Rings...

A few years ago I wrote a collection of very short "stories" that I collectively titled "From The Walter Mitty Mind of a Guitar Junkie". In an attempt at a little humor, I posted this short....


"Boys…” Mr Wampler, the troop leader, addressed the young scouts that sat in a semi-circle at his feet, “…the easiest and most accurate way to tell the age of a guitar is to carefully count the growth rings apparent in the spruce top. If you’ll notice, as with any wood, the top of the guitar will carry with it the exact age of the guitar by simply counting the stripes of grain…”

From the circle of boys a hand shyly rose

“Do you have a question, Jimmy?”

Jimmy nervously replied, “Um, yes, scout leader Wampler. Wouldn’t it be easier to look at the serial number and check on the internet?”

“But, Jimmy, that isn’t the boy scout way, now is it?” Mr Wampler sternly replied.

“But…..” Jimmy began again.

“Jimmy, do you want your luthiery merit badge or not?”


Of course, if there was humor, it was in the notion that you could date a guitar by counting the lines of grain -- the growth rings of the tree. This tickled my funny bone as it seems to me to be a pretty typical kind of conflating of two factoids -- 1. the ability to be able to detect the age of a tree and 2. the ability to determine the age of an object made out of that tree.

Well, you coulda knocked me over with a feather as yesterday I was "reading" (audio book) a Frederick Forsyth short story in which he does exactly that irrational conflation. The short story centers around an art auction house in Great Britain. The art expert explains that when Italians paint on panel, they paint on poplar and when Northern Europeans paint on panel, they paint on oak. Therefore (so Forsyth explains to us, via his fictional expert), it is easier to tell the age of a painting done in Northern Europe because oak has growth rings evident in the grain and poplar does not.

Apparently Mr Forsyth got his novelist merit badge as a scout in Mr Wampler's Boy Scout troop?

1 comment:

  1. that's amazing but not surprising. sometimes i wonder... i guess it the guitar or painting used a piece of wood that went from the tree's center and the edge of said guitar or painting were organic and had the tree's bark on them, maybe you could see the point but this conflation is not limited to the age of trees and things made from trees. do you think forsyth was trying to show the fallibility of his fictional character?