While walking through Simon Park a while back, I saw a young man sitting on the edge of the Kris Allen Stage, his legs dangling over.

He was unwrapping a package, about the size of a baby.

I am curious.

"Look at this!" he invited.

It was a ukelele.

I beamed.

"For only 30 bucks! From the music store right up the street!"

"Do you play?" I asked.

"Not yet, but I heard it’s easy."

I took it from his arms, and in the middle of the day, in the middle of town,  I lost all shyness with this stranger.

Somewhere from the depths of my fading memories, it all came back.

I played and sang "Sweet Georgia Brown."

The ukelele is back.

Just saying that makes me happy.

According to Time magazine (Jan. 31, 2011), sales of ukeleles are up, and the humble instrument is regaining popularity.

Some real virtuosos are coming forth. (I suggest you Google Jake Shimabukuro on You Tube playing George Harrison’s "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Amazing.)

New wrinkles are lessons online and ukelele apps for the computer.

Our family’s love affair with the ukelele goes way back.

My sister already knew how to play before she went to Hawaii as a Methodist missionary in 1953. She made friends easily, and her singing and proficiency with the Hawaii-born instrument helped draw young folks near.

My beloved aunt, the late Kathryn Rosencrantz, taught fourth grade in Stuttgart schools for decades. She taught every child in her classes to play the ukelele, and at the end of the year, there was a concert, with all the kiddos plink, plank, plunking on stage.

I didn’t get to be in her class, so I learned to play from one of her students the following summer. (Thanks Mike Shupe!)

"Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer, do," we played and sang, over and over while sitting in the glider on the screen porch.

Four strings. Three easy chords. In waltz time. Over and over.

The article in Time says during The Great Depression, only two musical instruments did not decline in sales: The harmonica and the ukelele.

It could happen again.

In fact, Darren Barry at Conway Music said he completely sold out of ukeleles before Christmas. He sold all kinds, all price ranges, starting from $30 to $300. 

"It’s the first time in 11 years I’ve been sold out of ukeleles," Barry said. More are on order.

It’s explainable: Portable, inexpensive and no download time.

Yes, the ukelele is back, and My Dog Has Fleas.

Not really. I’m just tuning my uke. (G)My (C)Dog (E)Has (A)Fleas.

Happy plunking.

(Becky Harris can be reached at 505-1234 or at becky.harris@thecabin.net)