skip navigation
Support KUOW
Listen to News


question mark


Fiddling Draws Far-Flung Southeast Oregon Residents Closer

Anna King


BURNS, Ore. - Just about every Friday night in the remote southeast corner of Oregon, fiddlers and guitar players travel far distances to play music together. They’ve been doing it for decades. Recently, two of the players have become fast friends, even though one is 85 and the other is 14. Correspondent Anna King has this high desert audio postcard from Burns, Oregon.

At first, 14 year old Maria Thompson was kind of bothered by the idea.

“Why would I go in and play with the Old Time Fiddlerswhen I could be out with friends?" Maria thought. But over time, she found the fiddle group was "really fun."

"And where I live you don’t really do anything on Friday nights, I mean there is no one to hang out with anyways, so why not?” Thompson says.

Thompson lives in Diamond, Ore., which is about 60 miles south of Burns, Ore. As she describes it, "nowhere.”

Thompson says she's found that she acts differently as school than she does playing with the Old Time Fiddlers Group.

“I’m very immature at school. I’m a 14-year-old girl. That’s how I act at school. But when I’m around people here I can be more like how I am at work. It just feels like I am more around people my age, even though I am not that age, if that makes any sense whatsoever. I am just really mature around these people. I don’t know, it’s nice feeling mature every once in a while,” Thompson says.

Thompson fiddling mentor with the Old Time Fiddlers is 85-year-old Ruel Teague. He takes great joy in teaching young musicians in private lessons and while jamming at the Old Time Fiddlers group most every Friday night.

"I suppose if I sat down and played fiddle I could remember, I could probably play ‘til tomorrow morning,” Teague says.

Recruiting young fiddlers is an important goal of the group.

“If we let these kids go we have nothing for the future. This kind of music will die," Teague says.

For Maria Thompson being part of this fiddlers group is part of the experience of living in the high desert of southeast Oregon. She describes it as "special."

“Like you don’t have cars outside all the time. You don’t hear the traffic. And you can look out your door and you don’t see skyscrapers, you don’t see buildings you see the sun coming up and the canyons and the willows and the creeks, it’s seeing the world how it’s supposed to be,” Thompson says.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio

Oregon Old Time Fiddlers Association