Stuff I Talk About

by Christina Ledbetter

Stuff I Write About

Sometimes I write stuff that I have daydreams about making into a book one day. (Hey publishers, call me. [insert coy wink]) Here are the first few rough paragraphs from one of those pieces. Once I finish this and hopefully fourteen other essays chronicling my existence, I’ll let you know by begging you to buy my stuff.


When I was six, Chad, my older brother by four years, suggested we have a singing contest. We were in the back of my dad’s truck headed to Richway for a new sprinkler and had grown bored. I immediately agreed to the competition, eager for any positive attention from my brother. Chad then decided that he would be the judge of the contest, and for reasons that puzzle me today, I accepted this as a satisfactory deal and even grew hopeful of the outcome since he told me I could go first.

I chose my song easily, as we’d been practicing “Barnacle Bill” in music class. Barnacle Bill, to my knowledge, was a guy who learned to perform new tasks each year of his life. When he was three, he learned to climb a tree, and mastered closing the door at four. My song had rhyme, it had a loveable character, it had climax (“Would he or wouldn’t he learn to climb to heaven by seven?”). Done and done.

I cleared my throat and passionately began my song, singing while staring out the window of the camper top secured to the back of my dad’s Ford. When I finished, I turned my head and stared straight at my brother, confident in my performance and future win.

Chad then sang. This being the year prior to his discovery of Pink Floyd, he, too, chose a song he’d learned in music class, though his song contained a bit more depth than my own, involving something about the stars. He sat up very straight and sang with a focused face. When he finished, and after no pause for thought, he announced his decision. He had won. (Shocking, I know.)

I protested. “I think I won.”

“No, you didn’t. Listen…” he said, and then repeated a few verses from his song in efforts to show me that clearly he was the better singer here. (To be fair, he did end up leading a garage band in the nineties and landed a gig at his high school singing in the gym one night, so it’s possible he really was the better vocalist.) In the end, his original decision stood, and I lost the contest…

[Author’s note: In writing this story, I Googled the “Barnacle Bill” song to refresh my memory of Bill’s accomplishments. Seems Bill had a checkered past, and was a horny sailor who sang his way into ladies’ panties in the early 1900s. Why my first grade music teacher chose him as a role model, I do not know. How she went from the original lyrics of “It’s me and my crew and we’ve come for a screw” to Barney climbing trees, is beyond me as well. But what do I know? I’m the one who let my brother be the sole judge in his own contest.]

Categories: Family

2 replies

  1. I’ll have to look up the Barnacle Bill song. The boys love pirates!

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