I was reading a post tonight in which someone asked what that meant: “More cowbell”. Around the web it usually refers to the SNL sketch featuring Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken about the recording of the song “Don’t Fear The Reaper” by Blue Öyster Cult. It is actually pretty funny.
Cowbell has a whole other meaning to me though. When I was a kid I went with my parents to visit some “old guy” one weekend. This guy was a teacher who also sold antiques and collectible things out of his home or garage, I can’t really remember. Since my father was also a teacher, I think this is how he knew the man and the reason why we went to visit. Eventually, that “old guy” would become my seventh grade home room teacher. That’s another pile of stories and would be several years later. His name was Fred Smart.
The one thing that my parents purchased, or maybe Mr. Smart gave to them that day (perhaps as some kind of twisted cruel rural humor) was a cowbell. It looked a lot like this: Click here. I think it was more like a 5 or 6 inch bell though. It looked like that, all brown, worn and sort of rusty. There was a handle on the end and a clapper on the inside. Perhaps this was going to be something that my mother would apply naval jelly to, wire brush it, flat black it and hang it on our kitchen wall with all of her other treasures.
This would be used to reel us (my brother and myself) in from neighborhood adventures. If it was time to come home, time for supper, getting too dark to play – Mom would stand on the top of the back steps and ring the living crap out of that cow bell. It had a distinctive clunky low tone but could be heard for several blocks. When you live in a town of 1100 people, several blocks covers things pretty well. The bell was used for many years. The entire town seemed to know who was supposed to respond to that bell. ( I was going to say “for whom the bell tolled” but that would be too easy) Around the time of the bell ringing, there was also a dog food commercial on TV for “Gravy Train” in which a dog would chase a miniature chuck wagon into some kitchen cabinet. On the commercial they would yell “GRAVY TRAIN”. When Mom would ring the bell, neighbors near and far would also yell “Gravy Train”. By the time we were on bikes and venturing out farther away from home – out of cowbell distance – people could still tell us it was time to head home because they knew that neighbors yelling Gravy Train also meant we were supposed to go home. The thing got used so much that eventually the clapper fell out and ringing the cowbell became a two handed operation.
So, in summary, way back when I was a kid I also had a fever and the only prescription was more cowbell.