by Rita Leydon
One day last spring, I met some new folks at my coffee shop. Betty was a guitar instructor and Marty played cello. Marty went on and on about some new type of synthetic bow he’d found on the internet. It was zany and razzmatazzy, amazing in all ways and he was thinking of getting himself one. He wrote down the name of it on a napkin: Incredibow.
I checked it out. The site showed bows in oodles of colors, enough to make any desirous heart happy. Violin bows, cello bows, bass and viola bows. You could order up any length you wanted, different frogs, with added weight or without. The flaming rainbow Aurorabow Realis tickled my fancy. It wasn’t very expensive as bows go, had a can’t-possibly-lose guarantee and was odd enough to be a real raucous attention grabber. This is the perfect gift for Peter Puma I thought as I dialed Ed Wilcox to discuss a nyckelharpa version. Nyckelharpa wasn’t in Ed’s vocabulary yet.
Peter probably didn’t need a new bow, especially not a synthetic one picked out by Rita. Preposterous idea. Even if he did require a new bow, he’d get himself a proper horse hair with a wooden stick variety. He’d get a real bow. But I know Peter, and he enjoys one-upsmanship, and showing off a bit now and then doesn’t hurt if you're a performance artist. Strutting your stuff and wowing the public. I envisioned him whipping out the zany flashy bow for a number or two, the spotlights making it dance like crazy, and the audience sitting agape in wonder of it all. Perfect.
Ed understood that the bow was intended for a world class Swedish musician who would undoubtedly give the bow exposure in places it hadn’t yet been seen and proposed sending me two flaming bows for the price of one. He was way ahead of me from the git go. I didn’t think so much of it other than how nice to get an extra bow. What a deal!
So I wrap up the bow all pretty and fly to Sweden, drive up to Hälsingland and hand deliver it to Peter along with all manner of verbal babbling, apologies and disclaimers for my seemingly absurd gift selection. Peter smiles that killer smile of his and accepts the offering. He’s got no clue what I’m up to ... and I’m feeling like maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all ... hoping he takes it as a lighthearted gesture between friends. Hoping he doesn’t think I've lost my mind completely. Peter looks at the translucent, shimmering stick, grabs a cake of rosin and gives it a rub down. Peter’s wife Karin is in the kitchen too and we girls hold our breaths and sit with rapt attention as the Puma puts the new Incredibow from America through its paces. Karin lets out a squeal of delight at the unexpected rainbow shimmers coming from the stick. It's alive! Peter glances up at us with a smug smiling nod indicating that all is well. After a bit he pauses long enough to declare it a fine bow. Phew ... I was totally exhausted!
The next day as I was preparing to shove off, Peter pokes his head into the guest room and says that he really likes the new bow and wonders if there might be an opportunity here. Opportunity? Wadd'ya mean? Well, he says, it’s getting harder and harder to find people who want to make the traditional bows and this might be a good, and at the same time, cost efficient alternate solution. He’s serious. Aha! Peter and Ed are on the same page while I'm obviously trailing a bit behind.
I flew back home to the US, and Peter stowed the Incredibow in his gig bag along with his other bows and started incorporating it into his public appearances. When that bow is in motion, it mesmerizes a room ... people fall all over themselves wanting to see it better. Peter found himself showing and talking up the bow pretty much every time he played. Interest was keen and some folks would have bought one on the spot.
We decide to approach Ed Wilcox about some arrangement regarding nyckelharpa bows. Sure thing, no problem. Peter had some suggestions and wishes for a better nyckelharpa version and Ed made up a new prototype. We came to an agreement with Ed, and voila, we’re in the bow business! We are now the exclusive resellers of nyckelharpa Incredibows and non exclusive resellers of any other sort of Incredibow, should we meet, say, a fiddle player who just has to have one too.
This isn’t what I had in mind when I locked eyes on that first razzmatazzy bow, but then ... one thing just led to another ...