Friday, March 13, 2009

The Passing of my Father, Aubrey Hutchens

James Aubrey Hutchens and his great grandson Mason Michael Bennett

Yesterday morning about 9:15 March 12, 2009 my father passed away. He had been battling cancer for some time, it was his time.

My sister Vicki has been his constant caretaker for the past 4 weeks, never leaving him. We all take such comfort in that in his last days, he wasn't in pain. He will be with us as we awake in the morning and as we retire each evening for as long as we live.

Dad was one of those guys that all the little kids and animals took too. A couple of years ago we had a stray cat that someone put out and it showed up at the barn. He was solid black and we started calling him Midnight. You could tell that the cat had been mistreated and was very very shy. After it had been around about a month one morning I went around to the back of the house and Daddy said watch this. When he opened the basement door to let our dog Bobo out (Dad always put the dog in the basement in cold weather) and the dog and the cat walked out and both were all around dad's legs, each wanting more attention that the other. A few days later when I happened to be out at the barn when Dad fed the horse, he said "Watch this". As he leaned over into the stall to put some sweet feed in there for Bill, the horse, Midnight was in the loft just above his head and when he leaned over into the stall, the cat would tap him on the cap, he would lean in again and the cat would tap him again. Dad had gotten some cat food and was feeding him at the barn each morning and evening as he put Bill up.

He loved all of us but his pride and joy was the Grand Kids, Brikk, Gage and Cristen and then Brikk's little boy Mason. He dearly loved them.

I sure wish they could have had more time together.

When I started to learn to play the banjo, Dad got me my first one for Christmas in 1963. Lillian my Mom, and her family all could play the guitar and two of Dad's younger brothers, Bruce and John played, but Dad never did.

He did enjoy music though. He and Mom loved to dance. In the early 1960's, when they started having "Round and Square Dances" at the local Virginia North Carolina Ruritan Building they needed someone to call the dances. Up until that time he had never done it but he started and called the dances for all the years that the dance continued. I have very fond memories of trying to learn to play the banjo and watching Mom and Dad and my sisters Kathy and Vicki dancing.

In the late 60's he and I went to the first show where I saw Bill Monroe. It was from that show that we heard of a festival that was going to be held at Terrell North Carolina the first week of November so we went and slept in the car for two nights. Boy Oh Boy it was cold, but we enjoyed it.

Later when I went to work with Bill Monroe for the summer of 1971 Bill had told me that they would call when they got to Bristol and to meet them at the truck stop in Roanoke. So Mom and Dad and my sisters all went. I was really excited to be able to go to travel with Bill Monroe. When we got there they were just coming out of the truck stop after eating and I put my stuff on the bus. Bill, Dad and Mom all stood by the car and talked for a little while. Then it was time to go and Dad and Bill walked away and talked for a few minutes. That is one of the most wonderful memories I have in life seeing my Dad and Bill just walking and talking and knowing that Dad was probably telling Bill something like now that boy's never been away from home that much and if he gets out there and gets into something you set him straight. I never ask Bill or Dad what was said, but I've always tried to be the kind of person that both of them would be proud of.

In the mid 80's my sisters and I decided that we needed to take Mom and Dad to Nashville. Back then you had to get tickets months in advance if you wanted the good seats. At that point the Artist had to let the Opry know by Wednesday if they would be in town for the either Friday or Saturday shows. My spirits were crushed when I found that Bill wasn't going to be in town that weekend. For some reason I just had a feeling so I called Kenny Bakers number after we got in town on friday and low and behold he answered. I said I thought you guys were out of town and he said that they had a date cancelled and would be working the Opry that night. Again I felt pretty bad because we only had tickets for Saturday nights show. He said "Well, just call out the the farm and Bill will take care of you". I burned the phone up all afternoon to no avail, when I tried to call Kenny back he had left too. I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that we weren't going to be able to see Bill this time. We went on out to the Cracker Barrell on Music Valley Drive and were eating supper and in a few minutes Bill walked in. He immediately saw Mom and Dad and came over. He asked if we were coming to the Opry and I told him that we had tickets for Saturday night. He said "Well I'll take care of that". So after eating he put Mom and Dad in his Limo and the rest of us followed. Mom and Dad really had a great time back stage at the Opry. It couldn't have turned out better.
Bill checking the schedule of who he was introducing on his portion of the Opry

Bill after introducing the act after he had opened the show....from Mom and Dad's seat ON STAGE.....

Mom, Bill, Dad back stage at the Opry

After Dad retired he started helping LaRay Smith who runs a machine shop in the area. It gave Dad something to do that he enjoyed. One weekend I mentioned something about a guy who was having problems getting capos made. He inquired about what the problem was and I told him that they wanted them made of Stainless Steel and so far hadn't found anyone to make them. He said let him talk to LaRay and see what he thought. I was on the road somewhere for Gibson and called home and Dad said that LaRay wanted to see what we wanted made. I told him which banjo had one like I was talking about so he took it and that led to LaRay and Tom McKinney getting together. This was about the time that Tom's patented capo was ready to be made. Soon they started making those for Tom and later for Bill Stokes at Showcase. LaRay still makes components for several of those products.

A year or so after this Little Roy Lewis started saying that someone had to start making some good fingerpicks. That led to LaRay making the tooling to stamp the Roy's Own picks. For the first few years I punched them and did the the shaping and finishing as well. Later Lynwood Lunceford, Jamie Holt did the punching but Dad took over the shaping and finishing.

Later when Jamie Holt went to college, Dad took over the complete operation. Doing the punching all the shaping and the finishing and Mom would package them. About this time we started doing some special picks for Bob Perry and Dad even did a special run of picks for Ralph Stanley. Dad always took such pride in anything he did. Little Roy would call them every month or so and he and Dad always enjoyed each other’s company. When ever Ralph was in the area they would sit and talk about things.

Mom and Dad both have enjoyed the music through the years and I thank them for the encouragement to go and follow my dream.

I'll close for now, but I just had to get a few feelings committed into words and anyone who had chosen to read, I thank you.

Arrangements are:
Visitation 6-8PM Saturday March 14, 2009 at Community Funeral Home in Patrick Springs, Virginia with the Funeral Services to be held at 2PM Sunday March 15, 2009 at the same location. Burial will be at the Pleasant Grove Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery. go to movie

Doug Hutchens

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