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I began this blog in order to share my experiences learning instrument building from my dad, but along with those stories I look forward to sharing my memories of growing up with two busy, musically inclined parents as well as my current experiences stepping out on my own as a female luthier promoting environmental sustainability in her instruments while working to alter gender stereotypes in a male dominated field. If you'd like to use quotes from this blog for interviews or in your own work, please contact me first! (email is henderson.elizabethj@gmail.com)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Roscoe Plummer

I have to attribute the delay of this weeks entry to one Chio Garza. She and her (super awesome) fiance Chris came to visit me and Nick earlier this week, thus distracting me from writing you a story. Chio has been my friend for ... I don't think I even want to admit how many years, suffice it to say we met in sixth grade. She came with me to Rugby once and I remember being extra jealous because even my cousin Lauren thought she was cooler than me. But, she is, so in hindsight, that is ok.

Anyway, speaking of visitors to Rugby, I want to tell you about one that I never had the pleasure of meeting. People always come to my dad's house without much warning, and rarely with any type of invitation. I always find it a little bit rude, especially because it is my and my aunt Shirleen's job to clean up after they go, but my dad just kind of lets it happen and is fine with it either way. I have never understood this level of hospitality, but it seems that it has been engrained in him since he was young.

One recent afternoon I was sitting with my dad and Shirleen on my dad's porch. We were reminiscing about my Granny's Sunday dinners, and my dad mentioned that when he was young, he would always have to sprint to the dinner table when Roscoe Plummer was at the table, for fear of missing the opportunity to grab some lunch before Roscoe cleaned them out.

"Roscoe Plummer? Who is that?" I asked him. He told me that Roscoe lived a "few hollers over" but his only brother refused to let him stay with him in his house if he didn't contribute monetarily, so he would meander from family to family of the community of Rugby, exchanging room and board for meager work. My dad and Shirleen spoke of him kindly, they obviously enjoyed his visits to their house. Apparently, Granny and my grandfather Walter would let Roscoe stay for several days at a time and housing and feeding him while he worked on a project.

My dad said that typically Roscoe was not the most reliable farm hand, often working days on a task, such as mending a fence, that would take my uncle or grandfather a day or so to complete. Even though he wasn't the strongest worker, my Granny still cooked all the food they had, and Roscoe was obviously not shy to claim his share of the reward, if not a little bit more than that.

After a little bit of research, I found that Roscoe served in World War I and, according to my dad, "wasn't quite right in the head" so he was unable to keep a job or support a family. He did receive a small disability check from the government, but not enough to do too much with. I suspect that Roscoe suffered from post traumatic stress disorder, and did the best he could to serve his community despite his affliction. My dad said Roscoe would often bring a small piece of candy or a toy for him when he arrived at my grandparent's house, for which my dad was always ecstatic. He said that even though Roscoe ate most of my dad's share of food at the dinner table, he would still look forward to the next visit. Roscoe had an old pistol like the cowboys had, that of course my dad coveted, and would regale him with stories and excitement that my dad hadn't yet imagined.

Hearing about this gentle vagabond and how the community not just tolerated him, but appeased and supported him warms my heart. I love that even though my family didn't have much to give, they still provided all that they could. My dad carries this trait with him, donating infinite amounts of his time and work, as well as his home, to visitors every day. I admire him so much for that, because not everyone is kind enough to give so wholeheartedly to this world.


  1. Hey Jayne,

    Thanks for such a wonderful story. I first became acquainted with your Dad and his work through a couple of videos on youtube, and later, like so many others, by reading Clapton's Guitar.

    What struck from what I know of your Dad is, of course, his mastery of guitar building, but even more so, his genius in human relationships. This includes his kindness, common sense, dedication, wry sense of humor and everything else that he gives to the world.

    Initially, that's why I befriended you as a way to perhaps get close to a family with so many endearing qualities. Honestly, I dreamed of owning a (Wayne) Henderson guitar but after following your progress, someday I'd love to own a (Jayne) Henderson guitar. So keep me on your list of future buyers :) I find your work to be refreshing, and hopefully, very valuable in moving forward the discussion of how to make great sounding instruments from sustainable woods.

    In that vein, I'd like to give you a gift. I have many native woods in my wood stash, including curly maple (40 years old at least; from Connecticut - I don't know the species), birdseye maple (same) and the gem, I think, 140 year old American chestnut (this was salvaged from an old textile mill). All of it is wide enough for at least a OM guitar and it's in full inch to 5/4 thickness so it would have to be resawn. The only thing I ask in return is that you share pictures of the finished instrument and your thoughts. What do you think? Message me on facebook if you're interested and we can talk about the details.


  2. Hey Jayne, Your Daddy is truly one of a kind, and I can tell ya, from my last visit when you were there, you made me feel equally welcome and were just as kind. I tell everyone that was the best grilled cheese I ever ate ! :) Hope you are doing well !