Throughout life, we are often parted from friends, unsure if we will ever see them again. But Austin-based fiddler Ruby Jane Smith can attest that the time and distance that separate us from the people and things we love can make reunions that much sweeter.
Earlier this month, the musician was reunited with the $10,000 custom-made fiddle she affectionately refers to as "Danny Pipkin".
"I'm extremely relieved. I think I'm still kind of in shock. I don't think it's even sunk in yet that I have it back," Smith explains.
Smith and her mother JoBelle were carjacked at gunpoint after a gig in Houston in December 2011. The thief got away with their SUV and all of its contents, including her priceless fiddle, a mandolin, a guitar and other equipment and merchandise. The vehicle and guitar were soon recovered, but Ruby Jane's fiddle and mandolin remained missing for more than a year.
The fiddle helped make the Austin-based musician a household name, and the instrument is so dear to her that she gave it its own Facebook page. Smith says during the past year, she never lost faith her most prized possession would be recovered.
"Realistically I thought you know what...maybe they had just thrown it away or destroyed it. But I was always hopeful so it was just amazing that it popped up. I wish it could tell a story of what happened in the last year because I can only imagine where all the fiddle has been."
Smith says on January 4, she learned that her stolen mandolin had been found in a Houston pawn shop. The very next day, the Smith's neighbor was contacted by a friend who thought he'd spotted Ruby Jane's missing fiddle on Craigslist.
"He was just looking on Craigslist for violins and saw it, and it registered in his mind I lost one," Smith explains. "So he contacted [my neighbor] and she came over and told us."
"Obviously it takes a lot of people to be able to bring something like this back, and it's just divine providence that he happened to be on Craigslist and remembered and cared enough to reach out to us." - Ruby Jane Smith
Smith says except for the removal of a sticker that said "made for Ruby Jane Smith," Danny Pipkin is in good shape. She says investigators don't believe the man trying to sell the fiddle on Craiglist was involved in the carjacking, and he claims he didn't know it was stolen.
With all of the instruments recovered, Ruby Jane's excited to make some more music. She just returned from a week of writing and recording in Los Angeles with her favorite fiddle in tow. She says her main focus right now, besides breaking the fiddle back in, is writing new material for her next album.
"It's just incredible to be surrounded by a community that cares so much. And honestly, it's because of that that we've been able to get the instruments back. We are so appreciative to Austin and everyone around us."