County decision may have hit sour note

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 13, 2008

My left hand is a little sore this morning. Blame it on Christmas or, more precisely, on a Christmas gift and my late great-grandfather.

Paw Paw Ward died when I was young and I never heard him play, so his mandolin work was mostly just a myth in my head. He was never a professional musician or anything; it was just something he tinkered with for the family. I’ve always thought, “One day, I’ll learn to play, too.”

So it was a bit of surprise when I opened a Christmas present and saw a book and DVD intended on teaching yours truly how to play the small, guitar-like instrument.

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The book and DVD was the perfect excuse to go and buy an instrument so a few trips later, I’d figured out that Stan Smith at Stan’s String Shop in Natchez might be a source of lessons, when I get frustrated with the book.

Later I found a mandolin that I liked at Easterling Music in Vidalia.

Jim Easterling, owner of the store, helped explain some about the instrument and hooked me up with a small tuner and some picks and sent me out in the world to become the world’s next great bluegrass musician.

I’ve spent a little time plucking the thing and I can tell you, it’s much more difficult than it looks — sour notes and non-notes (which happens when unskilled fingers get in the way accidentally).

Good hobbies are like that; their difficulty surprises you and creates a good challenge.

Several years ago, on a whim, I decided to buy a pistol and learn to shoot. One trip to the range and I realized all of those James Bond films I’d watched were definitely not based in reality.

Controlling shots from a pistol was much more difficult than I thought.

But learning something new is really what’s fun about a hobby, isn’t it?

Watching or listening as people learn, however, requires some patience.

How many parents out there have sat through an excruciatingly bad junior high band performance?

Talk about sour notes.

But beginners are expected to make mistakes.

Earlier this week, I fully intended to use this space to write about the decision by our newly elected board of supervisors. But I’ve changed my mind after a few practice sessions with the mandolin.

Supervisors made what I believe was a hasty, illogical decision this week by firing long-time board attorney Bob Latham without a good cause, at least not a publicly discussed good cause.

But the supervisors attempted to right their wrong at least a little bit when they wound up hiring Latham back to handle the massive Rentech project.

Anyone who has ever actually managed people successfully knows that such an abrupt transition is almost certain to be a rocky road.

They should have known that just like I should know that the second fret on the G string is an A note.

Only, their work isn’t a hobby and when they hit a sour note, they could hurt lives, not just an eardrum or two.

But it’s only been a few days.

I’m not ready to give up all hope yet. They might learn to work things out, for the best of our county, I hope they do — and quickly.

Now where did I put my pick?

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or