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Chuck Hinman. IJMA #047: The Old Church Piano

II's Just Me Again #047: The Old Church Piano
The next earlier Chuck Hinman story is Large Gardens-A Lost Art Reader comments to CM are appreciated, as are emails directly to Mr. Hinman at:

by Chuck Hinman

Over the years, our church accumulated several "clunker" pianos. No one relishes hauling one of these huge babies to the landfill where it belonged years ago! It is always felt that someone, somewhere could use it for their little Sara Lou, who plays "Chopsticks" like you wouldn't believe! A budding protege in the shadows of the church who is always looking for a piano player.

So our old church piano just sat there gathering dust. And without taking it up in a trustee's meeting, someone called me and said as I remember it, "Get rid of the old piano!" (We had a glossy black ebony baby grand in the church auditorium as well as a couple good pianos elsewhere in the church.)

The reason he contacted me instead of the music director -- it was in the days we didn't have a music director. I was probably considered the "go-to" person if anything about music came-up.

So what did I do? The piano had absolutely no value and most churches would have disposed of it long ago. But I was aware this could stir-up a bucket of worms. What I misjudged was where the worms would come from -- surely not from a friend!

What I feared most was that the unknown donor of that piano in 1492 (the same year Columbus discovered America) would come back from the grave and haunt me because I didn't give his heirs first dibs to the piano.

So I checked with the oldsters of the church to see if they remembered anything about how the piano found its way to the church. No luck there. So, before engaging someone to haul if to the dump I placed a sign on the signboard in front of the church -- "Free -- Upright Piano. Call 333-6230."

There was no response. I wasn't surprised.

On Wednesday evening as we were gathering for church services, my friend approached me in the vestibule of the church, and in an agitated voice said "what's this about a giveaway piano?"

After telling him, one of the trustees approached me and I had no reason to not believe he spoke on behalf of the Trustee body, instructed me to get rid of the piano. My friend who was head of the Trustees, suddenly became ten feet tall when he, like an Army drill instructor bellowed "we are NOT giving away church property -- take the sign down!"

Church hadn't taken up yet. In a fit of anger, I removed the letters off the sign, jumped in my car, and spun out of the church parking lot blasting pieces of rock against and some over the top of the church building, burning rubber all the way to Nowata Road! To say I was in a huff would be a gross understatement. I was in a blind rage!

A couple weeks passed when my friend called to tell me he had found someone who would give $50.00 for the piano, but we had to deliver it to an antique store in Dewey, Oklahoma, ten miles away. My friend sounded elated at his deal.

My first thought was, I wander how many young backs are going to be wrecked for a measly fifty bucks. I gritted my teeth.

He called as if nothing had happened between us to ask if I would meet him at the church to help with the delivery of the piano. I was slightly cooled down and still smelled of burnt rubber from a couple of weeks earlier!

All this happened several years before I had a couple of strokes. I was in good physical shape for 60 some years and my friend was not. I'm sure I could have pinned him in a mud wrestling match for which I suspect there would have been much interest in the Hogshooter area! It hasn't happened yet -- but watch the church sign board!

With a great deal of sweat we got the piano loaded in the truck. My friend assumed the responsibility of tethering the piano in the truck. As the driver turned on to Nowata Road - the piano worked loose from the ropes and clatter-banged its way to the floor of the truck - something I had hoped to see some day!

It was a surprise ending for which I felt gratified. I wanted to applaud. I am tacky but not quite that tacky! The driver pulled into Yoacham's leather business at the top of the hill so we could right the piano and deliver it to its final destination - an antique store in Dewey.

Out there somewhere, is a clunker piano which has in its illustrious history "been rolled once in a pick-up truck on Nowata Road but otherwise in great shape for the shape it's in!"
Written by Chuck Hinman, February 16, 2006

Chuck Hinman, 86 year old former Nebraska farm boy, spent his working days with Phillips Petroleum Company in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and Houston, Texas. He lives at Tallgrass Estates in Bartlesville where he keeps busy writing his memories. Chuck is visually impaired. His hobbies are writing, playing the organ, and playing bridge.

This story was posted on 2009-06-21 08:08:41
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