Though nonprofessional, I had played violin since boyhood. When I retired from the classroom, I stopped playing by ear and learned to read music.
Recently my senior citizens club heard I was a violinist; I received an invitation to play for the group. This performance concluded with moderate applause.
A member came to congratulate me. He said he had an old violin for which he had no use and would bring it to the next meeting and sell it "cheap." I expressed my interest in the instrument.
It was definitely old. He had removed the damaged leather covering from the case and painted it black.
Naturally I was curious about its origin. He explained that as a driver of an tractor-trailer he had once stopped at a company storehouse to load up. Going into the attic, he came upon the violin in a dark corner. The owners of the storehouse told him he was welcome to take it.
My friend would only accept $15 for the instrument, to cover his work and the cost of the paint.
I cleaned the violin, gave it a good polish, and replaced the deteriorated gut strings with steel ones. My new instrument sounded unusually good when I played it with my own bow. The old bow was useless. However, I had to put the instrument aside immediately since other priorities demanded my attention.
Meanwhile I received another invitation to play for the club. I decided to leave the made-over instrument at home. But when I picked up my violin to tune it, I discovered that the E string was broken, and I didn't have an extra. A friend was at the door to pick me up, so I grabbed the old violin and hoped for the best.
That evening I played everything from "Amazing Grace" to "Yankee Doodle." I had never felt so comfortable playing a violin, and it sounded so beautiful. It seemed as though the violin was caressing my cheek.
I received greater applause on this occasion, and an elderly lady stood up to say, "That's the sweetest violin I've ever heard, and one of my daughters is a concert violinist." She and her husband came to the stage to shake my hand.
"I can tell you something about this violin," he said. "It was made in Germany and sold through a catalog by a mail-order company. I remember when I was boy that this catalog offered instruments ranging in price from $60 to $6,000. Yours is not a lost Stradivarius, but you can be proud of it. The case has green felt inside, and that means the violin wasn't cheap."
What it is, mainly, is a mystery.