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Classifieds contain their own stories

I met Reath Blickenderfer through the Herald classifieds.

A story on National Public Radio caught my ear a few weeks ago. Classifieds are news, too, the story said.

So, I thought I would check it out and try to find a story behind the story.

This ad caught my attention:

VIOLIN — w/case, bow & fine toners: $95.

I gave the number with the ad a call. I learned Mr. Blickenderfer buys violins, refurbishes them and then sells them.

He recently bought four of them at a large flea market in Ohio.

He does most of the refurbishing himself, but for some things, like setting the sound post underneath the bridge, a special tool is needed, and a friend who has that tool helps him out.

Recently, he replaced the bridge — the device that holds the strings away from the body of the violin.

“The distance from the top nut to the bridge is 12 and 15-16 inches. It’s got to be that,” he said.

In addition to repairing violins, Mr. Blickenderfer is a musician.

He plays in bluegrass jams around Manatee and Sarasota.

Bluegrass is all acoustic music. Nobody plugs in.

Musicians gather with their fiddles, banjos, guitars, mandolins and bass, and someone will sing a lick and pause, and then one of the instrumentalists will take a turn.

“They go around to each player. There are a lot of guitars and singers. They will step up and start singing. Then they’ll stop and a fiddle or dobro will put in and play a little bit,” he said.

Music has been his life. His father and brother also played violin, and his brother, who went by the stage name “Montana Blick”, once had a cowboy band.

Reath Blickenderfer, who’ll be 77 this month, made his living as a square dance caller and a sales supervisor for a food company. He called square dances for 18 years.

In addition to the bluegrass jams, he still entertains at condo associations with his fiddle and keyboards.

“I’m just blessed, I guess,” he said. “I’m mostly self-taught.”

The next jam is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Bee Ridge Park, 4430 South Lockwood Ridge Road, Sarasota.

I’m glad I got a chance to hear Reath’s story. I’m still curious about some of the other classifieds, whose stories remain untold: the Marilyn Monroe plate collection; the 19-foot sailboat, ready to sail for $1,299; and the Betty Boop items for $100.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor can be contacted at 708-7916.