CATEGORY: MORE PORT TOWNSEND
THE FIRST BAGPIPE
By Jean Anderson
This is a story about bagpipes. That is an esoteric subject unless you, as I, happen to be curious about this curious instrument. For example, did you ever wonder how bagpipes came to be that shape? And did you ever wonder where they came from in the first place? Long ago I was told by an authority on the subject that bagpipes originated, not in Scotland as I had always thought, but in Turkey, so I spent most of my life believing that bagpipes, like towels and tubs and turbans, oozed into being in the miasma of Turkish swamps. But then one evening, I attended a Yugoslav folk concert, and I was amazed when one of the musicians came onto the stage playing—well, it looked like a pig, and it sounded like a pig, but they said it was a bagpipe. They said it was the first bagpipe! This seemed a glaring contradiction. Then I thought: well, a long time ago, Yugoslavia was, after all, right next to Turkey. Shortly after that, I learned the true story of the very first bagpipe, and that is what I am going to tell you now.
Once upon a time, there was a Yugoslav farmer named Stojan Hulev. Stojan was really only one fourth Yugoslav, but it was the forth that counts. It was the fourth that bore his father’s name: Hulev, son of Hulev. The other three fourths was Turkish through and through. Conversely, his farm was three fourths in Yugoslavia and one fourth in Turkey.
Although Stojan was only a young man, he was a farmer of substance. Due to his father’s early death, he suddenly found himself the sole master of thirty hectares, a house, a barn, two oxen, three cows, seven goats, six sheep, ten chickens, twenty geese, two guinea hens and a turkey. It was a one hundred percent Yugoslav turkey. He also inherited a faithful house keeper who was indispensable to the running of the farm. She had been with his family almost all her life and considered the farm her home.
Now Stojan was not just a farmer. He had other talents. One of them was that he was a musician. He could play the kaval and the chuperlinka. For convenience, when speaking English, we will call these the flute and the ocarina.
Because of his many possessions and abilities, Stojan was the envy of all his neighbors. So wouldn’t you imagine that he would be full of joy? That was not the case. Stojan was not happy. His sudden inheritance had made him overly proud and slightly arrogant, but once he had settled into his newly enhanced life he began to brood. He refused to play his flute at sunset. He turned up his nose at goose eggs for breakfast.
And why? Here is the reason, if you can believe it: it was because he did not have a pig. Other farmers had pigs—some even in abundance. Some even had pigs living in their houses. But because his father had broken out in spots whenever he got near a pig, there had been no pigs on the farm. So Stojan had no pig. Secretly he coveted pigs. At night he dreamed of pigs: white pigs, black pigs, red pigs, spotted pigs. He imagined pigs around him in circles dancing. He saw pigs in the sky. Many cloud formations seemed to resemble whole bevies of pigs.
Now, one would think that a farmer such as this, young though he was, could easily acquire a pig with no problem at all, or even several if he wished. In fact, many times Stojan had been offered pigs by his neighbors. However, they always wanted something in return: a goat, five chickens, three geese, a hectare of hay. Even money!
Stojan was what one might call parsimonious. As much as he wanted a pig, neither did he want to part with anything that was already his. Once, for several weeks, he pensively considered trying to trade his female servant to a neighbor, whom he knew coveted her, for a very large sow. But………..the thing that had make this woman desirable to the neighbor was also the thing that made her desirable to Stojan.
And what do you think that was?
It was her very great weight.
Because of this weight, combined with proportionately large feet, she could crush more grapes at wine-making season than ten other women and in half the time.
Ah, but it was not just her weight alone! It was also that there was a veritable mystic quality about her weight, because it always seemed to be there whether she ate or not, like mushrooms burgeoning out of a dead stump. She was a clever huntress and would come home with whole strings of grouse and prepare stuffed grouse la’orange, scalloped potatoes, buttered squash and cream pie, and eat huge quantities at a sitting. But afterwards, she might not eat anything but wheat gruel for many days. Stojan always had the feeling that as soon as his back was turned, she ceased to eat completely, and yet she never lost one ounce of her glowing bulk.
Stojan pondered this phenomenon, while at the same time he pondered the perfect properties of the sow. It made him thoughtful for days on end. And so he hesitated and procrastinated and kept putting off actually suggesting the trade until one day, quite suddenly, the sow died. This was a traumatic occurrence, because Stojan had come to think of it as already his, even though he had always known that he would never really part with his faithful house keeper. Furthermore, the pig’s death made him suspicious of anyone else offering him pigs for trade, because he imagined that the pigs were already infested with divers diseases.
And so it went on and on in a negative downward spiral.
Now in a neighboring valley there lived another farmer, if one could call him that, named Binko Bronco, Donko, Darko Dulitch. Darko, as people called him, had only two and seven-eighths of a hectare that had been left him by his grandfather, and that was all he had, except for…….pigs! He did not even have a house. He lived with the pigs.
Darko could not read or write or even speak very well, and he was all covered over with mud and smelly muck. He did not have shoes. He did not have a comb. He did not even know how to comb his hair. His hair was growing through his underwear, and his toenails were growing through his socks. Those were the only pieces of clothing that he had. Furthermore, he had bad breath which made it difficult for him to make friends.
Darko didn’t know how to eat like other people either. He had never heard of dishes and silverware. He ate acorns and berries like the pigs; he had confidence in their habits. As a result, he never ate any pigs, and that was why he had so many. The only time he parted with any of them was when the tax collector came once a year. Darko paid his taxes in pigs because he had no money.
Every so often, by some accident of nature, one of Darko’s sows would give birth to a particularly fine litter of piglets; or so they would look until a lean year came when the acorns were scarce. But it was in a very verdant year that Stojan Hulev happened to be passing through the valley once removed from his own on the road that passed Darko Dulitch’s farm. And that is how he happened upon THE PIG OF HIS DELIGHT. That was an expression that, due to his passion and his long search, had become permanently embedded in the Turkish part of his bones. It was a little red pig that was still pink around the ears and was as fat and happy as a little pig could be. It had beady black eyes, cocky ears and a winsome smile.
When Stojan saw this pig, he stopped in his tracks. He stared at the pig. The pig stared at him. It smiled its winsome smile. Stojan’s heart beat so that it almost broke his ribs. He knew that this was the pig for him. He imagined that the pig knew it too, but in fact the pig didn’t know anything. It may have been fat and happy, but its bliss came from ignorance. It didn’t even really have a winsome smile. That was just something that happened to its upper lip when it smelled anything that it thought might be edible. It had smelled Stojan and was eying him for possible bite-sized pieces at a reasonable height. Stojan was wearing shoes and lederhosen, so the pig didn’t see anything it could get its teeth into.
After the initial impact of the encounter had run its course, Stojan began to be aware of other things. Since the only other things in the immediate vicinity were other pigs, that was what he became aware of. The PIG OF HIS DELIGHT had brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins. It had a step mother (its real mother had become a tax payment). It had step fathers, possible fathers and a real father. It had grandfathers and grandmothers and step brothers and sisters, half brothers and sisters, and on and on. Then Stojan noticed that one of the pigs was walking on two legs. It took several minutes for him to realize that it was actually a human being all covered over with muck, whose hair was growing through his underwear and whose toenails were growing through his socks.
Stojan blinked his eyes and shook his head. Then he said “Hello” in as polite a way as he knew how.
Darko said, “Hzpstur-m-m-stip.”
Stojan said, “Are these your pigs”?
Darko said with great pride, “Shwurnfp! URMP”! That was the end of the conversation because Stojan could not endure Darko’s bad breath.
It was from his house keeper later that same day that Stojan learned the story of Darko Dulitch and his pigs. Women know about things like this. This woman even knew the tax rate in pigs that Darko paid on his land, and that he faithfully went to visit his still-living tax payments on Sundays. She also told Stojan that Darko’s mother had been named Mia Pia Zia Maria Zablenski, and that she had died at the tender age of fifteen while giving birth to her only child.
But Stojan didn’t hear the last part of this dissertation, because a plan was forming in his head. Then, quick as a crow eating jellybeans, he decided THE PIG OF HIS DELIGHT would be his!! He would steal it!
“And why not?” he asked himself as his conscience pricked him, for Stojan, although parsimonious and possessive, was really quite an honest sort of fellow. Why should he pay someone like Darko, who would never know the difference and for whom pigs had no value. Would Darko eat this pig? No! Would he trade this pig for buttons or boots or buckle straps? No! Would he sell this pig at market and use the money to buy more land? NO! In fact, thought Stojan, Darko cared so little for his pigs that he left them alone on Sundays while he went larking off somewhere; Stojan had forgotten where exactly, but it didn’t matter. It was proof of carelessness. So despite acute feelings of irreverence, it being the Sabbath day, he chose the very next Sunday as the day for this nefarious deed.
He went early that morning and sat on the hillside until he saw Darko leave. And then……… well, it was so easy. He simply went down and picked up the pig.
Ah, but that was only the beginning! When Stojan picked up the pig, he squeezed it a little too hard, and the pig started to squeal. Now, when a farm is only seven-eighths of a hectare, it tends to be hedged about with other farms, and that means neighbors. And neighbors have ears. So when the pig started squealing, Stojan, quick as a snap-trap, clamped his hand over the end of its nose.
But the squealing did not stop. From somewhere deep within the pig’s inner being, a lonesome sounding, prolonged and urgent wailing welled up and grew, with a droning, hollow intensity. Oh the mystery of it! It was like his fat house keeper who sustained herself of grouse and gruel. This pig could take in air through the hairs of its skin! It could sustain itself on ether!
Stojan clamped his hand down even tighter. But because the pig kept struggling, his fingers kept slipping. And with each slip, it was as if………as if……… the sound seemed to change with….each…..YES! Suddenly, to his utter amazement, Stojan realized that the pig’s mouth and nostrils were like the finger holes on his flute and ocarina, and that he was actually playing the pig!
He was stunned beyond thinking! Staring straight ahead, he just paced slowly along toward home with the pig under his arm, and by squeezing it a little and moving his fingers, he made a sound that was almost like music, but at the same time so full of squeaking and squealing and wailing and moaning and whining and droning that everyone who heard it ran away into the woods and hid. They thought it was a banshee.
Gradually, over many months, Stojan improved his technique, and he came to be so happy with his pig and with his playing that it quite changed his personality. He rewarded his house keeper for her long services by giving her a bonus and raising her wages, and he asked the Powers That Be to forgive him for even thinking of trading her for a sow. He even went back into the next valley and paid Darko twenty guineas (which was a lot of money) for his pig, while apologizing for stealing it.
And then Darko surprised everybody by taking the money and buying himself some shoes and a neck tie—and a gold ring for the nose of each one of his pigs. He did not mind the loss of the pig that Stojan had taken because he knew that its neuro circuitry capacities were insufficient to sustain it in a problematic year. Darko was more intelligent than anyone gave him credit for. And he knew pigs! Besides, it delighted him that his pig had become a musician.
Stojan played the pig for many years, until the two became quite famous. The Yugoslav army even asked them to accompany it and play before each battle because of the devastating effect the noise had on the army of its enemies.
When the pig finally died, noble in years and accomplishments, Stojan’s faithful house keeper preserved its skin intact. She blew it up with air and stood it on a chest in the hall.
Stojan grieved for his beloved pig for a whole year while all the hills and valleys rested from the noise. Then, one day he took up the skin. He had found a reed that made spooky noises when the wind blew, and he carefully fitted that into the right front leg. He called it a drone. Then, appropriately, he put a mouth piece where the mouth had been so that he could blow into it and keep the body cavity always full of air. Then he put a fingering piece in the other front leg. When he was finished, it was almost like the real thing because, quite as if by habit, it would still play when he squeezed it, and the sound it made was almost identical to the original.
Stojan called it a “pigpipe,” but as the idea spread to other countries, the name got changed to “bagpipe.” I don’t know how that happened, except that sooner or later (you can depend on it) someone will come along who doesn’t know a bag from a pigpipe, or a pig from a bagpipe, for that matter, and they just will get in there and muddle up the works. It could have been the Scots that did it because they came to use the bagpipes most of all: almost like a national symbol. So they might have felt the urge to elevate the image beyond an association with pigs. They even let it out that the original bagpipe was a goat skin.
But you and I know—and this is for sure—that the whole thing started with Stojan Hulev (who was three-quarters Turkish) and the PIG OF HIS DELIGHT.