|Bill Nelson, ca 1930s|
But Bill, as he was known to his friends, also had a special talent. He was a natural-born fiddle player. As far as we know, Bill never had a music lesson in his life. Somehow, he just knew how to play a violin, make that a fiddle. No one was ever quite sure exactly how he learned to play a fiddle or why or even where he got that fiddle.. He had learned the skills of a blacksmith from his father and taught them to his son, my father-in-law, but playing his fiddle was just something special and unique about Bill.
My father-in-law used to tell how his father would spend a hard day in the field, then, come evening, take his fiddle, sit on the front porch, and play for what seemed like hours. The old country and tradition tunes he played could be heard rolling around the Georgia pines. Sometimes neighbors would come by to talk, and Bill and his fiddle would carry on well into the night.
None of his children seemed to have inherited Bill's innate talent, and his fiddle just stayed in a closet for years following his death. About 15 years also, my father-in-law gave the fiddle to one of our sons, another Bill Nelson. Maybe someday one of William Nelson's great great grandchildren will discover that spark, and Bill's fiddle will sing again.