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The Jackson Steel Guitar Commute

May 25, 2019 by Dawn Jackson

Third thunderstorm of the day.
Hank is in the bathtub.
Hank is my dog. 
Audrey Mae is asleep in her chair behind me.
Cat.
The caramel in her calico matches the caramel suede of the high back rocker.
And her black splashes and white add a nice contrast to the earth tones and woods of the guitars that surround her throne.
 
Wonder why storms affect big dogs most.
Little dogs seem to do alright with it.
Audrey Mae sleeps right through the thunder and lightening and rain relentlessly attacking the metal roof like mini shrapnel spewing from cannons in heaven.
There are no gutters so the cabin is completely shrouded by a veil of pouring water.
Kinda resembles the view behind Keown Falls.
That’s one of the bazillions of waterfalls along the endless miles of heavily canopied trails around here.
This place is considered a rain forest.
Rabun County is said to be one of the rainiest counties east of the Mississippi.
We supposedly get as much rain as the Pacific Northwest.
I learned that after I moved here.

Hank at New River Amphitheater

Hank and I travel back and forth from my cabin in Clayton to Dad’s place in Dahlonega.
Its about an hour twenty minute drive across the North Georgia backroads.
Sometimes Audrey Mae comes with us. She kinda likes to travel and explore too.
We can either wind through Lake Burton, down to Sautee Nacoochee and Helen then toward Suches.
Or head south on 441 toward Toccoa then cut across through Clarkesville and Cleveland.
All about the same, give or take ten minutes.

Or an hour.

Just depends on what kind of mood I’m in.
Or what kind of mood the weather is in.
 
My cabin is a little farther north and deeper into the Appalachian mountains than Dad. 
About as far northeast as you can go in the red clay state.
Fifteen minutes from the borders of both North and South Carolina.
Dahlonega is more in the foothills. 
That’s where the Appalachian Trail starts. 
Or ends, I guess depends on which way you’re looking at it, but a larger percentage of the AT thru hikers start south and head north.
Springer Mountain is where the southernmost blaze is painted in white on a rock.
Not the usual tree suspect.
And there’s a plaque dated 1934 that reads
    Georgia to Maine
        A Footpath for
        Those who seek
        Fellowship with 
        the Wilderness
Dahlonega is also where the second significant US gold rush occurred, only behind….wait for it….
North Carolina! 
Yep. California was number three. Fifty years later. How bout that.
 
So, the three of us (Hank, Audrey Mae and I) stay in the apartment over the shop when we’re there.
Some evenings Joseph comes up and hangs out and plays his mixes for me and we might work on a song.
There’s a bronze sign outside the lower door with the Jackson Steel Guitar logo and “Established 2005” under it.
That’s fifty years after my grandfather, Shot Jackson, started putting foot pedals on Fender guitars.
Hey, and he was born in North Carolina!
A gold nugget.
Papaw’s first shop was a chicken coop behind his neighbor’s house.
Our shop is behind Dad’s house.
Still pulling strings. 
Waiting on the next gold rush.
 
We build pedal steel guitars, lap steels and all kinds of components that go on guitars and bend strings.
My dad is David. He comes up with all kinds of designs on how to bend a string better.
Uncle Harry lives outside of Nashville in Lebanon, Tennessee.
He has a shop behind his house too.
He helps machine and perfect the parts that help bend a string better.
 
We take raw wood and raw aluminum and cut and mill and drill and tap and glue and sand and spray and assemble rods and pullers and keys and pedals until they all move and work together and it starts looking like an instrument.
Then we put strings on and tune them up until they learn their first sounds and begin to make beautiful cries.
Then we send them out into the world so others can enjoy.
 
Not a bad commute.

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