Over the weekend, I spent the day exploring Meridian, Mississippi with my father. He was born and raised there prior to Saturday, my interaction with his hometown was limited to passing through on I-20/59 going home from somewhere else.

One of the first stops on our trip was a visit to the historic Dentzel Carousel which he rode for fifteen cents as a child. After our ride on the beautifully restored carousel, we walked across Highland Park to the Jimmie Rodgers museum, stopping midway so I could film the Muscovy ducks preening on the banks of a small pond.

When we walked in, we were greeted by Bill who stood behind an ornate cash register that I later learned was in operation as early as 1860. Mr. Bill is a retired veteran and though cordial, he was all business as he took our $5 per head admission and sent us on our way with the reminder that no videos or pictures were allowed.

I made my way around the circular room and stopped in front of a large safe. The doors where open and behind a glass partition was a Martin guitar with the name of Jimmie Rodgers emblazoned up the neck. There was a small temperature and humidity gauge in the bottom right corner, but there was nothing to indicate the value of what I was looking at.

'Mam,' Bill began. 'I couldn't help but notice you staring at this guitar. Did you know this is the most valuable guitar in existence?' He shared the story of how Mr. Rodgers came into possession of the guitar and offered interesting tidbits on photographs that featured Jimmy with the guitar insured from somewhere between $800,000 and $1,000,000.

'One day,' Bill said as he propped his arm up on one of the safe doors. 'A man walked in and told me he wanted to hold the guitar. I obviously assumed he was out of his mind and declined his request. 'Don't you know who I am?' he asked me.'I'm Merle Haggard'. I wasn't about to let him hold it, but I felt bad for him so I told him I didn't have the key to unlock the glass. Merle told me he'd been here three times and each time there was a different worker. All had turned him down, but he was going to keep coming back so that hopefully, someone would let him hold it. '

Later that afternoon, I was thinking about Bill's story and I felt bad for Merle Haggard but my sadness was soon erased by sheer joy.

While taking video of the ducks, I'd inadvertently kept recording and captured the most valuable guitar in existence.  Merle doesn't have that either.

Sorry, Merle.



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