TEXARKANA, Ark. — As a local retiree for the last 10 years, Ned "Railhead Ned" Cheever decided early on to trade in his golf clubs for an accordion — and he's never regretted it.
For the last year, the 79-year-old has spent evenings playing his accordion at the downtown Texarkana weekend Crossties festivities and he keeps enjoying it.
"I retired when I was 69 and I started to play golf, but my golf game really started to turn sour, so I decided I wanted to try something new," he said. "I really liked Cajun music so I learned how to play the accordion."
Born and raised in Little Rock, Cheever played the coronet in high school. He later moved to Atlanta, Georgia, before eventually moving on to Texarkana in 1972. Here, he worked for a construction and roofing company before retiring in 2010.
"I decided to invest in an accordion and once you invest in something, it's a good idea to go ahead and learn how use it," he said. "So after I bought one, I found information on the Internet and I also found instructions on how to play it from watching DVDs."
Along with being self-taught, Cheever said he made several trips to Ville Platte, Louisiana. a town populated by just under 7,500 resident and well known for its noticeable abundance of both Cajun and Creole culture, particularly where music is concerned.
"People travel from all over the world to go down there and learn about the Cajun music as well as the rest of the pop culture," Cheever said.
During his journeys to South Louisiana, Cheever said he got to meet Dewey Balfa, a prolific Louisiana-born Cajun fiddler and singer.
"Dewey just sat down with me in his house and asked 'what would you like to know' and he would then go on and tell me what all he knew about Cajun music," Cheever said.
Besides Ville Platte, Cheever said he would also visit New Orleans, where the streets were full of musicians of every kind — something that eventually influenced him to play his accordion in Texarkana's downtown area.
He can usually be seen on weekend evenings just outside the Railyard Saloon, near the Wood Street and East Broad Street intersection.
"You see musicians of all kinds, playing on the street corners in New Orleans and that's what I like the most about what I do now," he said. "My goal in life is to make other musicians here in town feel comfortable doing the same thing I'm doing."