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Playlist: Jon Earle's Portfolio

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Drumming Out Trauma

From Jon Earle | 04:42

A Vietnam War veteran plays the Irish drum to ease his PTSD.

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Dave Brown, a Vietnam War veteran, lived with undiagnosed PTSD for decades. Instead of getting help, he dealt with the lingering stress of combat by staying really, really busy – working multiple jobs, raising a family, and mastering hobby after hobby. Most of those hobbies came and went, except one – drumming. That's because in addition to being fun, drumming helps to calm Dave's nerves.  

Dave recently joined a new drum circle at the Cotuit Center for the Arts aimed at veterans with PTSD. The group is run by Sam Holmstock, a former touring musician, who believes that drumming can help all sorts of ailments – from Alzheimers to PTSD. Recruiting vets has been a challange, Sam says, because veterans are generally reluctant to admit they need help.  In the past two years, Dave's finally been diagnosed with PTSD and started seeing a counselor at the Veterans Administration.

Now 71-years-old, he says his symptoms are minimal, but they'll never go away entirely. And so, for pleasure and for therapy, Dave Brown of Osterville will continue to drum on.

This story was produced with Transom.org at the Transom Story Workshop (spring 2015).

The King of the Rings

From Jon Earle | 05:37

The story about the ring-catching game, played at the Flying Horses carousel on Martha's Vineyard, and my search for the greatest ring-catcher of all time.

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This season marks the 140th for the Flying Horses, the oldest operating carousel in the country, and a major attraction in Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard. The carousel has a special feature that has mesmorized generations of riders: a ring-dispensing arm. As riders go around, they reach out their hands in the hope of catching the legendary "brass ring" and thereby winning a free ride.

That's the game that tourists play. Locals and carousel workers play a different game. Their game, the so-called "ring-catching" game, is not about catching the one brass ring, but about grabbing as many steel rings from the ring arm in a single go – a few seconds a most. Islanders love to argue about who's the all-time champion. So I went looking for this elusive figure.

He wasn't too hard to find. His name is Jared Meader, he's 40 years old, and he's worked at the carousel on-and-off for 28 years. His mother, Robin, is the ride's long-time manager. Jared says that a quarter century ago, when he was a teenager working at the carousel, he once, and only once, snagged nine rings – a truly incredible number, since five is considered a strong score.

It's entirely possible that somebody, at some point, has caught more rings than Jared. But I couldn't find any evidence of it. That being said, in the absence of written records, it seems likely that islanders will continue to catch rings and spar over ring counts for many, many years to come.   

This piece was produced with Transom.org at the Transom Story Workshop (spring 2015).