Strange musical instruments make entertaining night
by Alan Reed
Aug 02, 2006 | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
John Tierney (left) shows Charlie Westerfield the fine 
art of keeping time on maracas.
John Tierney (left) shows Charlie Westerfield the fine art of keeping time on maracas.
Music was made in some odd ways at the Lake Barkley Lodge when John Tierney performed his one man show “Things My Grandma Told Me,” on the evening of July 27. With a few cases full of unusual musical instruments, he delighted a small audience of guests.

Lake Barkley Recreation Director and Head Naturalist Jenny Howard introduced Tierney as a “Naturalist Emeritus” in the Kentucky State Park System. “He is known from one end of the state to the other in parks.”

“My first job was as a lawn mower. My second job was working in Kentucky State Parks seasonally for six years. When I got out of school, I had no job, so I took a job in the parks until I figured out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. 32 years later I did figure it out. I wanted to retire, but remain involved in the parks and do neat stuff to have a good time.”

After some banter with the audience, Tierney produced his first unusual instrument, an Autoharp, which he used to play “Mountain Dew” upon. “I sing songs about Kentucky culture. Grandma didn’t drink, but grandpa had a different idea. He could make moonshine out of anything- dandelions, turnips and brown paper bags.”

In his program, he said that Western Kentucky was famous for bootlegging and moonshine making. “Golden Pond was renown for people with the skill to take what corn they had and liquefy it. Revenuers would go into what used to be called “The Land Between the Rivers,” and is now the LBL and never come out again.”

Tierney’s love of nature came from his Grandmother, whom he claimed could identify a number of plants within the woods. “I could not find these names in a book, but Grandma’s names were better. She knew what you could do with the plants.”

A buckeye had utility for Grandma, according to Tierney, because she would “ward off rheumatis,” with it. Tierney explained that she felt it was a talisman to keep arthritis at bay.

Later in life, she was indeed diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Tierney asked her about the buckeye. Her answer, “With no buckeye, it would have been a whole lot worse!”

Tierney also shared tales about his grandmother attributing dandelion juice to curing her colic as an infant, and flavoring her apple jam with odd ingredients, including violets and corn-cobs.

For the rest of this story, read this week's Cadiz Record.
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