Folk music at the bottom of suicide hill

There was a park down the road from the house I grew up in. The park was home to many hills. Some of them were big, others were small, some were steep, some weren’t. There was one particular hill where we liked to toboggan. It was the biggest and steepest of them all. It was flanked by trees, but was clear down the middle. It was fast, the perfect toboggan hill, aside from one thing: it was dangerous. That’s where the name Suicide Hill came from, you had to be at least a little crazy to go down it. I remember a couple of times when I fell off and lay on the ground winded but was okay after a few minutes. The hill had its casualties. The occasional broken bone when things went really wrong, or so the tales went.

That was during the winter. After the snow melted and the June rains had come through the hill became lush and green as the park around it bloomed.

It was early June when the concert happened at one of our community parties a relatively famous folk musician who had grown up in the neighbourhood would be performing. I had never heard of him before that day. My dad was a huge fan and got me to go despite my lack of enthusiasm. I had always trusted my father’s taste in music, but I didn’t think it was going to be anything special. I was wrong.

After the barbecue wrapped up and all of the potato sack races were finished we went over to Suicide hill. We spread our blankets and staked out our territory. At the bottom of the hill was a stage with room for two guitar players. The concert was intimate to say the least. We sat with our neighbours, there were less than thirty people there. The musician was one of us, he had grown up here, walked out streets and tobogganed on this hill.

His songs were poetic and slow. He was accompanied by his brother. He admitted that his brother was the better singer, even though he was less famous. Afterwards we went down and chatted with him for a few minutes before walking home.

That was one of the last summers I spent at my parents house. The community you grow up in stays with you forever. That park and that hill are a part of me, just like they’re a part of that musician and his brother.


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