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Summary: Anthropology meets Irish traditional music, when Blair ingratiates himself into yet another closed society. Humor.

Author’s notes: Lyrics from The Bodhrán Song are by Brian O'Rourke (M&C Music). The Established and the Outsiders - A Sociological Enquiry into Community Problems by Norbert Elias and John Scotson (Sage Publications Ltd, 1994) expounds upon the sociological ideas touched upon in this story. Written for Sentinel Thursday challenge #37 - Animals


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Honorable Mention: Humor (Gen)





The Anthropologist and the Goat
By Fluterbev

April 2004



Eyeing the anthropologist dubiously, Jim paused in the doorway. "You're kidding, right? This is a bar."

Blair grinned. "Nothing gets past your eagle eyes, does it Jim?"

Jim was undaunted. "An Irish bar."

"Yup."

Exasperated, Jim protested, "Chief, you said you were going to do an anthropology experiment. I thought we were heading to Rainier. You never said anything about going to the... the..." He squinted up at the sign over the door. "The Lumpers. What the hell kind of name is that, anyway?" He fixed his gaze accusingly back on his friend.

Blair shrugged, hefting higher on to his shoulder the strap of the odd-shaped bag he was carrying. "So? It's fieldwork, okay? It can't be done in the lab."

"If this is some kind of test..."

"Hey, chill man. I promised no tests on you, and you offered to come along with me. I swear, man, this is a real experiment. It's for a paper I'm writing on insider/outsider relations. You see, the theory goes like this. In any community, such as the Irish music community, 'praise' and 'blame' gossip determine who has membership of that community and who is outside of it...ow!" He rubbed his head in annoyance where Jim had clipped him.

"Can the lecture, Darwin. And the drinks are on you." As Jim disappeared into the interior gloom, Blair glared at his retreating back.

Inside, Jim took a seat at the bar, and nursed a glass of Guinness while Blair headed over to the corner. A motley group sat there, holding some weird looking instruments on their laps, while a singer regaled the enthralled bunch with what seemed to be a surreal satire about a goat:

Oh I am a year old kid
I'm worth scarcely fifteen quid
I'm the kind of beast you might well look down on
But my value will increase
At the time of my decease
For when I grow up I want to be a bodhrán

I look forward to the day
When I leave off eating hay
And become a drum to entertain a crowd on
And I'll make my presence felt
With each well-delivered belt
As a fully qualified and licensed bodhrán


The final word in each verse sounded like bow-rorn, and Jim wondered what that was as he gazed absent-mindedly at the array of unfamiliar drink advertisements above the bar. He didn't have to wait very long to find out because, as the song wrapped up, he heard Blair ask, "Hey, I've brought my bodhrán. Mind if I join you?"

A ripple of unease appeared to run through the musicians but, despite that, Blair was waved to a seat, where he opened the large, round bag he was carrying. From its depths, an object was produced that reminded Jim of something you might pan for gold with; but, narrowing his vision, he could see it was actually a drum of some kind.

The musicians appeared to be studiously avoiding looking at Blair and, for a moment, Jim felt his protective hackles rising as he watched them shift in minute increments, their body language unconsciously shutting Blair out of the circle, even though none of them had actually moved further away. Then Jim shrugged off his unease. Insider/outsider relations, huh? This kind of thing was Sandburg's turf. Jim had to trust that he knew what he was doing. Taking a sip of his Guinness, Ellison settled back to watch the show.

Someone lifted what looked like a violin - 'fiddle', Jim corrected himself - and the first notes of a lively tune sounded. Then, gradually, the rest of them joined in. And Jim watched, enthralled, as Blair lifted up a small stick, and began to rhythmically and expertly tap along; the resulting sound both subtle and melodic.

It was like Moses parting the red sea. The tenseness in the other musicians swept away, taking with it the rigid set in their shoulders, as they flowed into an alignment that not only ceased to exclude Blair; but that positively included him.

Jim shook his head in amazement. He knew Blair was musical - he'd heard him play the guitar often enough - but that he could do something like this as well, so proficiently was, for Jim, yet another insight into Sandburg's hidden depths. Vaguely, Jim wondered when and where Blair had found the time to learn to do this, even as his heart swelled absurdly with something that felt like pride.

Several tunes, and several glasses of Guinness later, Blair and the musicians seemed to have become old friends, as they regaled each other with jokes. "What do you say to a bodhrán player in a suit?" The speaker was the guy who had sung the song about the goat who wanted to be a bodhrán. As they all shook their heads, he delivered the punch line; "Will the defendant please rise!"

Blair apparently didn't want to be outdone. "Hey, what's the difference between reflexology and a bodhrán player?" At their blank looks, he chortled, "One bucks up the feet, while the other..." the musicians dissolved into laughter, the two nearest punching Blair playfully on the arm.

A short while later, Blair came over to join him at the bar. Jim grinned at him. "Hey, Junior. Did someone get your goat?"

"Naw, man. I left the goat back there. Niamh is going to borrow it for a couple of tunes. I just thought I'd check on you."

Jim took a sip of his fresh pint. "So,” he asked, “was the experiment a success, Buddy Rich?"

"Oh man! Did you see it?” Blair gesticulated as he spoke, his eyes sparkling with academic fervor. “Bodhrán players have a really bad reputation in Irish music. People who haven't got a clue bring 'em along all the time and mess up sessions, because they think it looks easy. And the bodhrán jokes are a kind of blame-gossip, keeping those people on the fringes. But if you can prove yourself, then you get welcomed into the community. Man, this worked so well. Now I'm one of them, someone who can actually play. The fact that they feel it's okay to include me in telling bodhrán jokes shows that they've accepted me as an insider. I can't wait to write this up."

"Hey Chief?" Jim interrupted. "I've always felt like a goat."

Blair paused. "Really?"

"Yeah. Ever since I was a kid!"

"Oh man!" Blair thwacked him on the arm, then bounced happily away to rejoin the musicians.

Now I think you've had enough
Of this rubbishy old guff
So I'll put a sudden end to my wee amhrán
And quite soon my sorry bleat
Will become a steady beat
When I start my new existence as a bodhrán




The End



Comments are welcome, but absolutely not necessary - all of my stories are offered freely and without obligation. If you do wish to comment below please sign your name/pseudonym if you are not logged-in to Dreamwidth or Open ID, or alternatively you can email me at fluterbev@gmail.com



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Date: 2007-07-31 09:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] elmyraemilie.livejournal.com
Muahahaha! Love it. You really do make the most of the banter, you know. Sometime when we meet, remind me to tell you about the traveling salesman and the goat.

Must go and look up the tune for the song, too.

Date: 2007-08-01 07:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Yay! You're my first commenter ::twirls you::

I'm really glad you liked this little ditty! It was a sentinel Thursday piece, back in the day, and I had such a lot of fun sticking three of my main interests in there - TS, Irish music, and Eliasian sociology. Now all I need is for Blair to come and play at our local session ;-)

And oh, I do hope we meet. And I really want to hear that story! LOL

Date: 2007-08-01 12:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] klgrem.livejournal.com
What a fantastic little piece. :) Loved it!

Date: 2007-08-01 08:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
LOL! Thanks :-)

You wouldn't know...

Date: 2007-10-27 12:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] starshine24mc.livejournal.com
...exactly what the bodhrán does to me, but combining it with Blair just about made me fall off my chair! Thank you for a story I could enjoy on several levels!

ps.

GreatBigSea.com

These guys gave me a great love of the bodhrán--Sean McCann does things for me I can't talk about in public *L*

Re: You wouldn't know...

Date: 2007-11-02 02:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Hee! That is so funny. It's great that it worked for you in that way!

I had a wee look at the site you linked to - very nice music indeed. Not quite as hard-core trad as the stuff I do, but I like it anyway!

Re: You wouldn't know...

Date: 2007-11-02 09:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] starshine24mc.livejournal.com
We Canadians have watered down the traditional music a bit, it's true. But if you get a chance to hear Sean McCann singing "General Taylor" live, I guarantee you'll shiver in places you didn't know you had! :D

And for days now I've had a Blair drumming plot bunny roaming round my head!

Other musician jokes.

Date: 2008-01-10 08:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zanesfriend.livejournal.com
What is the difference between a terrorist and an organist?
With a terrorist, you can sometimes negotiate.

What is the difference between a viola and an onion?
When you chop up an onion, you cry.

What is the best sound an accordion can make?
When it lands on the banjo in the dumpster.

What do you call a rock musician who has had a fight with his girlfriend?
Homeless.

How do you get two flutists to play a perfect unison?
Shoot one of them.

You are lost in the woods. You come to a clearing containing Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, an out-of-tune sax player, the Tooth Fairy, and an in-tune sax player. From whom do you ask directions?
The out-of-tune sax player; the others are hallucinations.

What is the ultimate picture of optimism?
A bagpiper carrying a pager.

Re: Other musician jokes.

Date: 2008-01-12 05:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
LOL! I've heard variations of a few of those before, and others are new. The flute one (since I am a flute player) is priceless. I've heard it before as "How do you get two flute players in tune?" :-)

Are you a musician too?

Re: Other musician jokes.

Date: 2008-01-12 06:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zanesfriend.livejournal.com
Yes. I'm a singer and I also play keyboards. I grew up around musicians--my late mother was an Eastman grad and taught music at the local college.

Re: Other musician jokes.

Date: 2008-01-12 05:30 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fluterbev-fic.livejournal.com
Oh, and another good bagpipe one I just remembered. This from a Scottish musician friend of mine:

Q. What's the definition of a gentleman?

A. Someone who knows how to play the bagpipes, but disnae!

Re: Other musician jokes.

Date: 2009-05-05 04:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zanesfriend.livejournal.com
How do you get a trobone to sound like a French Horn?
Stick your hand in the bell and play a lot of wrong notes.

How many sopranos does it take to changes a lightbulb?
1. She holds up the lightbulb and the world revolves around her.
2. One to climb on the stepladder and the rest to kick it from under her.

How do you know there's an alto at the door?
She has the wrong key and doesn't know when to come in.

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