Tonight, someone mentioned the didgeridoo, and I began to cry,
I teach writing and literature at a community college, and one of the ways I foster community in some of my classes is an online “meet and greet” discussion forum where students introduce themselves. In one of those discussion posts, a student mentioned learning to play the didgeridoo, and I immediately thought of C. Ridge Floyd.
Ridge was, by trade, a landscape artist (and I use the word “artist” not euphemistically but literally), but in his “side gig,” he was a musician, composing beautiful, often lyrical pieces for piano. He also was a beautiful human being. I was lucky enough to meet him when I was studying at Schreiner University (then Schreiner College) in Kerrville, Texas: One of my English professors, Kathleen Hudson, is also a Texas music scholar and had connected with Ridge Floyd long before I met him; she also sometimes invited him to perform at our college coffeehouses, where I cut my teeth as a writer reading my own early attempts at writing.
Ridge was a warm, open, magnanimous person, always ready with a huge, inviting smile and a seemingly genuine interest in whatever anyone had to say. He had that “active listening” trick of leaning in to make sure he’s hearing you; he laughed at everyone’s jokes; he offered conversation that showed he’d really been engaged with whatever you’d been saying, even if you were a nobody college kid trying to sound smart. (Reader, I was that nobody college kid; I did not sound smart. Ridge Floyd was exceedingly kind to me.)
Several years later, as I was drafting a short story, I borrowed heavily from Ridge Floyd—both a description of him and a feel for the music he played—to create my character of Thomas Highland, insurance salesman-turned-professional musician, in my short story “Barefoot in the Guadalupe.” In fact, the titular image comes from the CD artwork for Ridge Floyd’s 1997 album FM 1340.
Recently, I had cause to share Ridge’s music with some of my students, so I went searching online for any links I could upload to my class’s online course. Instead, I found an obituary.
C. Ridge Floyd died in November 2021, and was memorialized at a ceremony in March 2022.
That’s all I know. Ridge Floyd died, far too young (he was 58 years old). Both his parents and his brother predeceased him; he is survived by another brother and a niece and nephew.
His obituary mentions both his music and his landscaping careers, and it hints at who he was as a person (“Friends and fans knew Ridge as wickedly funny, fiercely loyal, a musical prodigy and a living treasure”), but even that beautiful sentence does little to capture just how radiant a person Ridge Floyd was.
I tried to capture his infectious energy and joie de vivre in my fictional character based on him, but really, there is no containing Ridge Floyd. He was larger than life—larger than his own life, even—and any tribute I pay him is but a shadow of what he brought into the lives of others.
I am grateful to have met him and known him even a little bit; I am heartbroken that he is gone from our world, and I am convinced that our world is a little less because of his absence; I am hopeful that my meager tributes—both this blog post and my fictional version of him—do even a bit of justice to the beautiful human being that was C. Ridge Floyd.
And if you are ever able to find his music, buy it. It’s a rare treat.