Sunday, October 17, 2010
One of my favorite peoples is a guy named Erich "The Red" Knierim. Red is a master carpenter, stone mason, blacksmith, songwriter, roofer and general craftsman. He lives with his girlfriend Allie, on the banks of the James River in Buckingham county located in the heart of central Virginia. Until about a year ago he lived there without running water or electricity. He might be the happiest person I've ever met and he's surely one of my favorites. He doesn't have an email address and he barely has a phone - which he leaves off and checks messages once every few days. He's never heard of facebook or twitter and I'm certainly not going to be the one to try and explain the ways of our stupid world to him. Red is a museum that you just want to support but needs nothing that you have to offer.
When he wanted to put a sink in his house, for instance, he just built a form, went down to the river collecting sand from the banks, mixed it with the river water and mortar mix and poured himself a concrete countertop. The kind of thing people in Vermont pay millions for, Red does out of convenience and accessibility.
Sometimes he'll put his guitar in his canoe and paddle down to Scottsville to play some songs in exchange for drinks. Once he's had enough he just paddles on home, upstream.
I first met Red when I was 18 and we were working for McRaven Restorations. We met on a roof and immediately became close friends. Our tasks at that job were all over the place. Sometimes we'd be told to go way off into the National Forest and collect rocks for stone jobs. It was illegal and we'd have to sneak around the park ranger for days until we filled the truck! I remember having to crawl through the attic of some tavern that Thomas Jefferson allegedly frequented, that was filled with snakes and wet insulation - we found a receipt for a slave up there, by the way. Pretty wild times.
About a year later I recorded Red, playing songs in my brother's shed in Charlottesville on a 4 track. I'll try and post them soon.
Here's a video of him singing a new song he wrote for his rooster that just got eaten by a hawk last week.