Mr. Hunt

Mr Hunt.

It was the summer of 1961.

Mister Hunt and his wife lived across from us at 179 Jono road. Mr. Hunt was a large man. A farmer. I never heard him talk except when he yelled at us kids to get out of his yard. He never smiled or spoke. Even at the young age of 6, I could sense that Mr. Hunt had issues. His wife Helen was a lovely lady. She was a good friend with my mother. Both of them would do different things together. Go to church. Have coffee, and enjoy each others company. She must have been hard suffering to put up with her husband. I heard stories that I was told that could not leave the house about the abuse Helen suffered at the hands of Mr. Hunt. They thought I did not notice. Helen knocking on the door with a weird black thing around her eyes. And the crying, with Mom trying to calm her down. Also all of a sudden the unexpected trip to get root beer, at the Dog ‘n Suds, alone with my dad. Trips like these were reserved for special occasions, and we all went together. Very strange in this little 6 year old mind. Dad later told me later when I was older that Mr. Hunt was a chronic alcoholic. That he would consume a 5th of whiskey, and a case of beer a day! So I can now imagine he was out of his mind most of the time. He was a slave to the booze. In retrospect, I feel sorry for him. I wish someone could have helped him. I know his wife tried.

Mr Hunt had a dog named Tilly. A large Friendly Brown dog. Us kids would always play with her near the street. She seemed to hang out there and wait for us kids to come home from school. We would bring her bits of food. I think she loved us, and her waging tail showed it! One day, Tilly was absent from her post. We looked around and spotted her sitting near the Hunts house. She did not look quite right. We discussed it among ourselves and decided to take a  risk and approach Tilly to see what was the matter. As we got near, it was obvious to us something was wrong. Very wrong. She sat there shaking and enormous bulge was on her head. She was quite unresponsive. Even as we tried to offer her treats. She was in very bad shape. At that moment Mr. Hunt came out of his house  bellowing at us kids to beat it! “Get lost” he shouted. “And stay off of my property!” We all ran in fright.

A few years later my dad told me what had happened. Mr. Hunt, in a fit of drunken rage, and attacked Tilly with a hammer! The poor dog. She was loyal to Mr. Hunt, and this is how he re-payed her. Rest in peace Tilly.

I am not the one to judge Mr. Hunt. That is up to a power far greater than me. I only hope that God has mercy on him, as I am sure there is a special place in hell for people like him.

Music, Music, Music and more Music!

In the Summer of 1961, I began piano lessons with Miss Winter. She would come to be my second and last piano teacher. I left her tutelage at the age of 15. A nice older lady, never married, with a lot of patience. This is where I spent most of my time learning piano and musical theory. In the beginning all classical music from the greats. Brahms, Beethoven, Bach, etc. This is where I learned scales and all the theory of music. Endless scale playing became a norm in lessons and in practice.

She had recitals for her students, and afterwards, most of the time, a picnic in her backyard. It was always sloppy joe ( I still love to this day, Sloppy Joe) and potato chips that she served, with Cool-Aid of course!

She taught 6 or 7 kids. I think of them from time to time. I wonder if they went far with their music. Miss Winter introduced me to the Classics. Beethoven, Bach, Brahms and many others. She also sent me to the Western Michigan University to be adjudicated by the music professors. It was an all day affair, with children from all over the area in attendance. We would work on for weeks a piece of difficult music, Anitra’s Dance by Edvard Greig comes to mind. And Fur Elise by Beethoven. After I could play the piece flawlessly while reading the music, I would then memorize the music. Weeks of practice at home, while trying not to peek at the music. Practice took place right after school, and homework. I would then go before the judge, a professor at the university, and play my piece. Then the judge would hand me a piece of music that I have never seen before, and was asked to play it. I became very good at sight reading over the years I was with Miss Winter. I would always walk away from the judging with an excellent, or superior rating which pleased my parents very much. Mom wanted me to grow up to be a concert pianist. Sorry mom. That did not quite work out, but thank you for making me stick to the training and not quit.

Miss Winter also understood that us kids wanted more modern music. So then came the jazz and boogie woogie. Boogie Woogie was a close to Rock and Roll that Miss Winters would get. This step in my musical training steered me more towards Rock and Roll, and my music preference in later years. I know now that Miss Winter is long gone .  If I could tell her something now, it would be thank you. Thank you Miss Winter for the gift you gave me that no one else can take away from me. I am forever grateful!