Conkle's Hollow and the Devil's Dulcimer - by Colin Gawel

So on the first nice spring day of the year I decided to borrow a page from Lost Weekend Records owner Kyle Siegrist’s playbook to visit Hocking Hills and take a hike at Conkle's Hollow. I was cruising down 33, just passing Clear Creek Metro Park when I saw a sign for a music store selling guitars. I thought, that’s kind of interesting but I was on the wrong side of the road and wanted to knock out the hiking task at hand before I lost momentum.

After hiking the stunning upper rim and reading some pages of the excellent "A Tale for the Time Being" by Ruth Ozeki, I was ready to hit the road home before rush hour traffic got too bad. On the way back, I passed the guitar store again doing sixty and my lapsed Catholic guilt kicked in, “You should stop and check that place out. You are a small business owner and a guitar player. If you don’t stop, who will? You could drop off a copy of the League Bowlers record. Hearing Mike Parks play guitar will make that guy’s day.”

So after hemming and hawing in my brain, I decided to exit the highway and find a service road to take me back. I wandered around on back roads before 86-ing that strategy in favor of attempting to make a left turn across the busy divided highway and retrace my path. And let me make this clear: folks driving away from Columbus sure are in a rush to get home. After almost getting run off the road, I drove five miles back to the last exit, u-turned, and this time, made the quick pull-off to the music store. Point being, it was a big pain in the ass to get back to that music store, but I was determined to do the right thing.

I finally pulled into the gravel lot, grabbed a copy of the Bowlers CD off the floor of my car and wandered up to the big wooden front porch. Nice place. I opened the door and stepped  into a well-lit room with all sorts of guitars & stuff hanging everywhere. It was a  pretty big space. Behind the counter, partially obscured, I see a gentleman hunched over with his back to me.

“Hi, I’m a musician traveling back to Columbus and figured I’d stop and check you out.”

“So?” was the curt reply.

“Yeah, I spent the day at Conkle’s Hollow. What a beautiful day, huh?”

Total F-ing Silence.

In fact, it suddenly occured to me that the whole place is silent. I’d never been in a music store with no music playing. Not even some dude playing "Stairway to Heaven" in the corner. It creeped me out.

Anyway, I started looking at stuff, pretending to possess interest and/or knowledge. The store was filled with mostly cheap electrics, decent acoustics, and a bunch of hippie Nelsonville-type instruments. If there is such a thing as a bluegrass drum circle I imagine this would be a pretty good spot to shop. I start fiddling with a dulcimer, or what I remember is a dulcimer from 4th grade music class. It had four strings, was tuned to a chord and wasn’t a banjo. I knew that much.

The door opened again and an elderly couple walked in. They turned towards me and asked, “Do you sell anything other than musical instruments?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, I don’t work here. You will have to ask him?” nodding my head towards the guy behind the counter.

They ask, “Excuse me sir, do you sell anything here besides musical instruments?”

“Does it look like it?” was the reply without turning around.

“Somebody down the road said there was an antique store around here. Do you know where that might be?”

Total F-ing Silence.

The elderly couple waited a moment, and then headed back out the door into the sunlight.

I was sort of enjoying fiddling with this dulcimer thing and figured what the hell, I’ll buy it. Maybe this dude’s fiance just left him for his co-worker and now he has a broken heart AND is stuck covering the guy’s shift. I tried to imagine a mile in his shoes.

I was hoping the tag said $32 but upon closer inspection it said $132. Oof. I started to rationalize that I would be doing a good deed and maybe this different instrument would spark a new song or two. This must have been why I stopped at this store, right? Time to embrace my destiny. So I grab the four-stringy thingy, put it in the case and threw in a string winder for the hell of it.  I went and stood at the cash register, maybe 10 feet from the back of the gentleman working there. 

I’m sort of scared now so I don’t say anything. I just stand at the cash register, which traditionally means I’m ready to engage in a transaction. The man makes no move.

Total F-ing silence.

After about 30 seconds, which felt like 5 minutes, a recorded Bible verse came over the speakers. LOUD.  

“He who walks in the valley of sin…..words..words..repent…. stuff….devil….words….bible stuff...jesus…... words ...words.. words..”

I stood there stunned, thinking, "That voice reminds me of 'we have assumed control' from the the end of Rush 2112."  It ended as quickly as is started.  Then back to total f-ing silence. The man didn't  move a muscle. 

I quietly put the dulcimer back on the shelf and exited the store.

I stole the string winder, though.

(Just kidding.)   (editor's note: I doubt that he's kidding.)


Colin Gawel plays in the League Bowlers and Watershed. He started Pencilstorm while killing time at Colin’s Coffee.