It’s November – time for Buck Fever in West Virginia. Bow hunting season started September 30 and runs through the end of the year. Muzzle loader season is December 4-9. But he season that gets by far the most action is the two week Buck and antlerless deer season November 20 – December 2.
One of the most celebrated Appalachian fiddle tunes celebrates deer hinting – the Forked Deer. It is played throughout West Virginia and Virginia by fiddlers young and old .One of the most celebrated was Senator Robert C. Byrd, who learned it from a recording by Kanawha County fiddler Clark Kessinger in the late 1920s. Byrd’s fiddling was an important part of his campaign style, especially in the earlier years of his career. The Senator recorded “Forked Deer” in 1978, when he was Majority Leader of the US Senate.: youtube.com/watch?v=Q5L0aB-lycU (To enjoy this article fully, you should check it out at hashtagwv.com, where these music links will be live.)
Musicologist Alan Jabbour wrote about this tune: “Forked Deer” is a quintessential fiddle tune of the old frontier. It is old and widely distributed, yet it cannot be traced to the Old World or the northern United States. “Forked Deer” begins with and gives greatest emphasis to the high strain of the tune. And it is fiddled with a fluid bowing style using slurs to create complicated rhythmic patterns, in the manner of the old Upper South. Its title both evokes the forest and (though few fiddlers in the Appalachians realize this) names a river in West Tennessee. An 1839 printed set from Southside Virginia (Knauff, Virginia Reels, vol. 1, #4 “Forked Deer”) establishes the tune’s longevity under that title in Virginia.”
You can hear Pocahontas County fiddler Jake Krack’s contemporary version of “Forked Deer” at youtube.com watch?v=dhmeAeJqvCk
So to all you deer hunters- good luck – and enjoy some local music. – like at the Purple Fiddle in Thomas Friday, November 17 (here doing a Jimmy Martin tune – youtube.com/watch?v=LPsqgnC6-uk), the Davis and Elkins College Appalachian Ensemble Friday, December 1 and Morgantown’s own Hillbilly Gypsies Saturday, December 9.
Follow the Mountain Music Trail on Facebook for other tradition-based musical performances up and down US 219 in West Virginia during November.
And a final note – the first week of deer season is known for serious business in the woods – but sometimes the second week turns into a party, as celebrated by Da Yoopers, a band from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan: youtube.com/watch?v=TLnmA653f94&t=94s
– Gibbs Kinderman. HashtagWV #95. November 2017.