IDA’S LEG AND LAST RAG, A TRIBUTE TO IDA LANE AND HER RAG TIME MUSIC
Celebrating what would have been my mother’s 96th birthday…
AUGUST 18th, 2015
Ragtime piano player- 1919-1989
“A lost ball in high weeds.” Chester Loback
Eleanor Lillian Loback was born 1918 not too far from where the Chatahoochie River keeps Georgia Georgia and, if you’re from Georgia, as she was, it keeps Alabama something else. She grew up in Blakely, down yonder near the fish camps, bootlegged liquor and endless groves of pecan trees. It’s a fact that when the first folks from Europe drifted over to Georgia, displacing the native Indians at the behest of Britain’s King George, pecan trees were native giants reaching up and out hundreds of feet toward the Georgia sun. To harvest the nuts, they simply cut the trees down.
Eleanor grew up to be the legendary Ida Lane, an eccentric ragtime piano player who had pulled up her southern roots and stuck them back down in the tundra of Alaska, pounding out furious rags at the Malemute Saloon in Ester city, population twenty-seven. She was notorious for her wild escapades and practical jokes and none compared to her famed Cinnamon Screamers.
It happened this way. In 1965, after a long night of pounding the ivory and a generous course of bourbon, Ida slipped out of her fancy piano dress and into her comfortable hiking clothes. She often had a hankering for searching out abandoned cabins at 3 am when Alaska’s summer sun was perched damn near straight up. If she found one, she’d break into it, then drag back what she could to her own cabin—old miners’ hats, gold pans, berry pickers, ancient soda bottles, mastodon molars; almost anything she could fit into her pack.
This particular excursion was one of poor pilfering, but on her return, she did stumble across a pile of year old moose droppings on a narrow trail that split a field of thick fireweed. It should be pointed out that moose droppings have about the same shape and size as good Georgia pecans and I don’t imagine this went unnoticed as she scooped up a mess and carried them back to the camp kitchen. She set about making a thick flour batter with a dash of salt and baking soda. Into this she poured about 25-40 moose droppings. Then she delicately dropped them into a deep pot of hot grease until they plumped up nice and crispy. She drained them, sprinkled them with sugar and cinnamon and let them cool a bit. Then she put them in a shallow basket, on which she attached a sign that read “Cinnamon Screamers: 25 cents.” She toted them down to the saloon where they sat on the bar between the pickled eggs and dried salmon.
The wily bartender and waiters managed to sell everyone of them within thirty minutes. Customers were later queried as to their satisfaction. One old miner said, “Mighty sweet on the outside but dry as hell in the middle.” When he found out the true ingredients of Ida’s Cinnamon Screamers, he had a long pull of whiskey and said, “It kind of takes your breath away, don’t it?”