by Remy Abeyta
It was during the summer before starting my first year of high school. I had worked hard bucking bales ($1 an hour wages in those days) and had earned a little money. I shopped around and settled on what I could afford, a $13 Stella guitar. I purchased it at, of all places, a furniture store in downtown Fort Collins.
At home, I did my best to try to play but it probably wasn’t even in tune. One evening, we had invited a Mexican migrant worker who was here without his family to share supper with us. After suppertime, he saw ‘Stella’ sitting there and asked if he could play it. First, he showed me how to tune it, then showed me how to play a C chord and a G7th (have always been grateful for that). Then he played a few songs and some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard started flowing from that cheap Stella guitar.
In the following days I tirelessly played those two chords over and over again. I didn’t own a guitar pick, so I improvised. I would break a few teeth off hair combs searching for just the right ‘gauge’. A properly selected hair comb tooth provided a surprisingly good sound on the guitar strings. My mom wondered why the hair combs all suddenly started missing teeth…
I quickly outgrew that Stella guitar, it had a very high action and was rough on my tender fingers. A nearby friend had a guitar for sale. His folks had bought it for him but he had lost interest, offered to sell and I bought it for $10!
It was a beginner’s guitar with numbers imprinted on the fretboard and had slightly improved playability over the Stella. While many other guitars would follow during my lifetime, that Stella guitar will always remain in my memory.