Last Saturday we stopped off at Ballarat, Calif., just outside Death Valley National Park, on the way to a strenuous but terrific hike of Porter and Sentinel Peaks.
Ballarat is a ghost town, founded in 1896 at the base of the Panamint Mountains. It sort of petered out in 1917. Its most famous resident was Seldom Seen Slim, the last of the old time prospectors who passed away in 1968.
It had a saloon. The saloon is now run by the one resident, who sells cokes and beers. You can shoot his black powder rifle for $2. I wouldn't show up there with a Obama sticker on my bumper, if I was you. When we were there they were discussing the procedure for making ammonia nitrate flour.
Anyway, on the porch of the old saloon, under a roof, is an old upright. My guess is it's at least 100 years old. It hasn't been maintained since at least 1917 is my best guess. Nobody knows how long it has set on the porch, but Panamint Valley is pretty dry.
I gave it a try with Bach's Prelude in C Major. It actually worked! Sort of. While all the keys produced a "tone", most of the keys had to be pulled back up with a thumb before they could be played again. It sort of slowed down the prelude.
I didn't try the pedals.
It was kind of cool to play what I consider a historical instrument. Back in the day, that saloon must have been pretty lively with thirsty miners. It must have been an interesting crew of players that preceded me on that instrument. I wonder who they were and what stories they'd tell.
I wonder how many of them got plugged? I looked around but didn't see a "Don't Shoot the Piano Player" sign. You can see the piano on the right of the porch: