Banjo Origins: The Pleistocene

banjo hand

They say the banjo evolved here, like the horse & the cheetah, only to go extinct after the first influx of human immigrants. Siberian hunters would’ve known the use of a taut hide for calling ancestors, but add strings & perhaps the other world gets too familiar, like a mammoth looming out of the fog or a short-faced bear, the sudden bone knife of a moon — things best kept at arm’s length. Imagine calling hai ai ai & hearing plucked strings respond with a hee and a haw, dancers turning from a shuffle to a caribooted tap. Maybe the spirits started joining in instead of waiting for a properly trained shaman to come visit.

No one knows exactly why the first banjos died out, but unaccustomed to humans & our devious forms of disguise, the way we wear others’ skins & paint ourselves the color of life when we mean to kill, the banjos would’ve been easy prey, ripe for the picking. Picture that last & most furtive banjo, its store of songs incomprehensible to anyone but itself, how silence must’ve made it taciturn & given it the uncanny ability to hear, by pressing its one enormous ear to the earth, whatever might’ve been coming on the lone prairie.


    1. Well, we’ll see. I’m beginning to have my doubts about this series.


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