The View from Mary's Farm for March 2004
January 1, 1970Piano Forte
When I bought this house, there was a piano in the front room. It was an old player piano that I hoped to keep but it was judged to be ruined by mold and dampness and so, when we opened up the walls of that room, we strapped the piano to a bucket loader which lifted it gently into the waiting bed of a pickup truck. And off it went, to someone who thought he could restore it. Previously, I’ve given away two pianos that came with houses I have bought. Maybe I’ve been too hasty.
At a gathering of neighbors, I recently told the story of that player piano being removed from my house by a bucket loader and one among us recalled that once, many years ago, he had been called upon to remove a grand piano from a cottage on Silver Lake. The cottage sat sweetly beside the water but access was down a steep embankment. He gathered together three of the brawniest men he knew and then they all puzzled through the mechanics of carrying the instrument up the hill to their truck. It was winter time. They first removed the legs and then they strapped up the big sound box and endeavored to haul the body up the embankment with pulleys. The icy slope made this an easier task, or so it seemed at first. Halfway up the slope, however, the straps let go and the grand piano slid like a big sled right down the bank and whizzed across the ice, which gave way and the beautiful instrument sank to the bottom of the deep lake. Some oldtimers around the lake know the piano is there and occasionally someone dives down in search of the sounding board, which is probably all that’s left of what went down maybe fifty or more years ago.
Another, similar story has to do with Babe Ruth’s piano, a legend that comes out of the town of Sudbury, Massachusetts, on Willis Pond, where the great slugger once rented a cottage. The legend is that the Babe hurled an upright piano off the porch and into Willis Pond. A dogged Red Sox fan named Kevin Kennedy came across the story a couple of years ago. He believed that if he could find the piano and bring it back to life, the Curse of the Bambino would finally be lifted and the Red Sox would win the World Series, which they have not done since 1918, the year that Babe Ruth was traded to the Yankees – which is, for those of you who were just born, the root of the Curse. Kennedy recruited the help of divers and on several different occasions, they searched the lake with magnetometers and sonar. They found interesting looking “masses” under the silt but no definite piano, no keys, no harp-like image.
Could the great man have actually thrown a piano? A more likely but less dramatic version of the story was that, in a partying mood, Ruth pushed the piano out onto the frozen pond and played rousing tunes while friends gathered around and sang. Soon after, the ice thawed and the piano sank to the bottom. Mr. Kennedy is apparently still searching the pond’s bottom for the instrument and the Red Sox are still searching for the pennant.
So, if you happen to find a piano at the bottom of a lake, you can imagine that it landed there by sliding down a slippery slope – or that it was thrown there by the great slugger himself. If, on the other hand, you find a piano in search of a home, by all means give it shelter. It might very well provide you with not only music but legends to last a lifetime and more.