On the radio, country music, classic or young, is playing everyday. Just about every Saturday, bluegrass is what you will find around here. It could be at the firehall, the community center, or local restaurant. If you are attentive, you might even find a local politician in the crowd, or on the stage… No, this is not Brother, Where Art Thou. Our first exposure to the local bluegrass scene occurred when we were building our cabin. One of the crew mentioned that local musicians gathered at the Trout Pond Grocery on certain Saturday evenings. He eventually invited us to join in. Maybe it helped that I look like Randy Travis. We joined them. The grocery store owner cleared out the central part of the store, set up a dozen or so chair. Anyone with an instrument, voice, and willingness could congregate at one end of the store. Someone would name a tune, or just start playing.
When the grocery closed, some years ago, about the time the N & S Family Restaurant opened in Mathias, WV, the “Trout Pond Pickers” moved to the new location. There is a core group most 2nd and 4th Saturdays, and anyone with an instrument, voice, and willingness can step up to the stage. The rest of us hum, mumble or bellow what words we can recall as one tune after another becomes inspired. No one is really in charge, though often musicians say, “you pick this time…”, volunteering someone else on stage. This is not performance, per se, but more related to the Irish tradition of “sessions” at local pubs.
Bluegrass is essentially an American version of Irish music. The practicality of life and faith of our ancestors is embedded in this music and these evenings. A cheating song (sin) leads to an oh-so-lonely song (repentance) to a gospel song (forgiveness) to a passing to eternity song (death, resurrection, heaven), seamlessly. The Old Rugged Cross is a waltz.
The N & S Family Restaurant sits unassumingly in a gravel parking lot at the south end of town. The food is home cooking style, with plenty of sandwiches, burgers, meat-and-potato meals. You will go home full, with money left in your wallet. Save some room for the pies, which are to die for… I think that it is those special ingredients her grandmother used in the crust, which is the only way to make a pie crust worth eating!
The building has expanded as business has grown. This gives an interesting architectural feature in which the former windows have been removed between the older and newer sections. But, these have been roughly framed in and curtains left in place. So, someone in the old dinning room just sticks his head out the window to talk to the folks in the new dinning room area. Just about everyone here knows everyone else.
Now this brings up some interesting fine-print on the last page of the menu. There is a notice that for “our international customers” tipping 15%- 20% is our tradition, depending on your satisfaction with the service. Hmmmm. Who is an “international customer” in Mathias? A Yankee from north of the Mason-Dixon line? Sod Buster from west of the Allegheny mountains? A Clam Digger from east of North Mountain? A Valley Person from south of Broadway, VA? Well, Come-Heres, drive up the valley to Mathias for some home cooking and bluegrass, and don’t forget to leave a tip.