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Archive for September, 2013

Songs For My Mother

Last winter I was working on making a CD for a friend. He is 81 years old and his health hasn’t been the best. I placed rhythm and bass tracks on about 9 songs with the plans for him to do his instruments and vocals at a later date when his health was better. Upon realizing the reality of this not happening, I became interested in placing some tracks down for myself as an instrumental CD.. Out of the blue I decided to try my hand at singing on this track. I added more instruments and before I knew it I had a song with seven or eight tracks.

The image for the CD of my mother sometime in the 1940 time frame.

The image for the CD of my mother sometime in the 1940 time frame.

I do not sing and for this to happen still amazes me! One day my wife, Laurie came home while I had the earphones on working on some guitar parts and asked her if she wanted to hear this. She couldn’t believe she was listening to me singing. I couldn’t believe I let her in as to what I had done.

A friend, Marci Williams learned of this through our conversation and she wanted to hear it sometime. She did and discussions occurred and suddenly the concept of doing a CD for my mother evolved. Marci is a great artist, musician and singer and she suggested to sing some harmony and the rest is history!

I began searching for old country-style songs that my mother would be familiar with. In total twelve songs were decided on. Most of the songs were from ones I heard as a boy growing up around the house. My mother, Ruth Smail liked such artists as Buck Owens; Hank Williams; Merle Haggard; George Jones; Hawkshaw Hawkins; Charley Pride; Ray Price; Johnny cash; Mel Tillis and many others. A couple of the songs on the CD are more recent artists such as Vince Gill and Keith Whitley  and Lorrie Morgan.

The process of writing down the words  and determining the best key to sing in and arranging happened next. After many, many hours I had the twelve songs down with a lot of tracks per song. My good friend and fellow musician, Dick Vernon placed a number of steel guitar tracks down and the mixing work began.(We don’t allow Dick to sing!) I played all the guitar tracks and the bass guitar.

I, also, borrowed an electric keyboard from my sister Ruthie and by using homemade cheat sheets learned enough of the piano to play on several songs. A few others I used the strings sounds on this piano to sound like orchestration. There was a lot of faking going on here!

Marci sang harmony on all but one song. She sang two-part harmony of a couple of the songs. She did some mighty fine lead vocals with me on a couple of songs. I sang harmony with myself on one song.

Throughout this process, my sister and, I and even my mother, searched for a 1940 era photo of my mother and Hawkshaw Hawkins. This was planned for the CD cover. We couldn’t find it, but we did find a photo of around 1943-46 era  of ma holding a guitar. This became the surprise cover. (Hawkshaw Hawkins was a big name country singer who passed away in the very same plane wreck with Patsy Cline in 1963. One of his songs, Lonesome 77-203 is featured on this CD.)

Very recently, I surprised my mother, now married to Bob Miller, with a copy of the CD while at a campground playing music. She wouldn’t believe I sang on a CD since she hadn’t heard me sing since I was 17 years old. She thought this was one of my tricks. When she finally listened to the songs she became teary eyed and later, when I saw her couldn’t thank me enough.

Having her as my mother is thanks enough!

Songs on this CD are: Lonesome 77-203…Hawkshaw Hawkins;  So Afraid Of Losing You Again….Charley Pride; Today I Started loving You Again… Merle Haggard; Heart Over Mind… Mel Tillis; Til A Tear Becomes a Rose…Keith Whitley and Lorrie Morgan; Together Again…Buck Owens; Jackson….Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash; Walk Through This World With Me…George Jones; Crazy Arms…Ray Price; From a Jack  To A King…Ricky Van Shelton;   You Win Again…Hank Williams; Go Rest High On The Mountain...Vince Gill

 

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Muskie Stocking

Joe Houck placing muskies into his boat.

Joe Houck placing muskies into his boat.

I knew of the scheduled muskellunge stocking for this day. The Pennsylvania Fish Commission stock truck was to be at Rosston, Pennsylvania at 12:30. I arrived on site about ten after twelve and much stocking had already taken place.

Joel Morrow helping fish commission to empty truck of remaining muskies.

Joel Morrow helping fish commission to empty truck of remaining muskies.

Crooked Creek and the Allegheny River at Rosston

Crooked Creek and the Allegheny River at Rosston

My friend, Frank Maus was already “out to sea” with his boatload of the muskie fingerlings when I arrived on site. Other muskie fishermen such as Joel Morrow and  Joe Houck were loading up to go out into the waters of the Allegheny River to scatter their future catches. These men and others were on hand to stock the fish throughout  various areas of the river. They are members of Muskie.Inc. The organization adds financial aid to help the fish commission with the raising and stocking of the young muskies. This is joint effort. Their web site is: www.muskieinc.org                                                                                               DSC_0011

The estimate of survival is somewhere around 10%. Predation is high on all fish. Other musies will eat these fish whenever the opportunity exists. A total of around 1400 fish were stocked this day at several locations.

DSC_0022     In a few years we will be catching these beauts!

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Some Muskie Fishing!

DSC_0051   My friend, Frank “The Muskie” Maus and I spent some quality time on the great Allegheny River  in our quest for the muskellunge! Frank has had a dry streak and he was hoping his “good luck charm” would change the fishing.

The morning was a beautiful fall-like one with cool temperatures. Beautiful wisps of fog could be viewed lifting from the still waters of the river. We saw a small flock of turkeys and a deer while traveling to the fishing event.  Would these sightings be a positive omen.? Time would tell!                                                                                                                                     DSC_0049

The method of fishing this day would be continuing casting lures hoping some hungry ‘ski would chase and gobble up. We casted and drifted for a long time catching up on the many stories of spring gobbler hunting and fishing and other friends and past working partners.

DSC_0055    At one site, Frankie had a swirl of a fish coming close to his lure and, later, I felt a bump and saw the flash of some unhooked fish!

later while retrieving my lure I felt the tug and in short saw a muskie. Unfortunately, the muskie threw the hooks and swam away to fight another day. (We were fishing near Dan’s favorite place!) We, laughingly, kept saying that we didn’t want to catch any skies anyway for then one would have to remove them.                    DSC_0056

Well, that would be it for any fish action. In a way, the good luck charm worked for we had three potential times when fish could have been caught. So, I will take credit for that!

Frank battening down the hatches!!!

Frank battening down the hatches!!!

Other critters of the day were a great blue heron, buzzards, geese, and an osprey.

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Odds & Ends

Cowanshannock Creek

Cowanshannock Creek

Since the return from the western adventure I have been busy and involved in many things.  I have walked a few times. The places have been around my homestead; Buttermilk Falls trail and the state game lands. I have been playing some music too. I have played at such places as the maple Grove Campground and the recent WTYM Country Jam. I have some other music dates coming too.

Spotted Jewelweed

Spotted Jewelweed

 

 

DSC_0007I have been restructuring and adding to a deck; yard work; landscaping and driveway work too. I am, almost, done with a new  CD I have been working on. This has been a long time in completing.              DSC_0020

I have helped a few friends over the last week. I joined a force of about 18 or so friends last Saturday morning. The project was to form a firewood relay. My friend, Slim has been feeling poorly and the force carried a large pile of firewood to his porch and stacked it. It is a great feeling helping a friend in need.

Pale Yellow Jewelweed

Pale Yellow Jewelweed

I aided another friend, yesterday, in posting his property line. The problem was that it is on those steep river hills! We managed to do in a few \ hours. A couple of older guys struggling, at times, to maintain balance is a sight to behold.

Goldenrods

Goldenrods

 

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DSC_0344   Our western adventure is coming to a close. This last item on our agenda with any western flavor to it will be a visit to DeSmet, South Dakota. This is the homestead of a Mr. Charles Ingalls and his family.

Giddy-up mules!

Giddy-up mules!

In case this place and name are causing you to scratch your noggin allow me to add a few descriptive words. Charles Ingalls was Pa Ingalls on the television show called “Little House On The Prairie.” The star showed Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert as Laura Ingalls.

IMG_1508   This homestead and the writings of Laura Ingalls later in her life were the inspirations for the hit show. Laura Ingalls wrote a series of books on her families exploits doing her earlier years.

Was it good for you?

Was it good for you?

A dugout home was here on site to explore. A dugout was a home-built with sod and grass. Remember trees were scarce  in these grassy prairies.

Making flour

Making flour

 

Homestead

Homestead

A claim shanty was built at this site in 1878. Soon the Ingalls family built their lives on site. Today there is a reconstruction of their home  and barn. An outhouse is on site too. Laurie was impressed how small the home was. Ingalls dug a six feet deep well. A workable hand pump can be used by visitors. I remember using these and the outhouses in my early days through my teens.

We jumped in a covered wagon motorized by two mules. Laurie took the reigns as we traveled across the property to an original one room school house. She enjoyed that!                                       IMG_1515                                                           IMG_1523

We entered the school and sat in old desks several of which were original to the school. This school was not the original to the site. The first one burned down in and around 1887 I believe. We had a chance to be educated by a school teacher of the time.

Charles Ingalls planted many Cottonwood trees. Only five of them currently exist.

The five Cottonwoods

The five Cottonwoods

We had chances to make things as the early pioneers  did. The projects included making rope; grinding wheat into flour and making corn cob dolls.

The trip east towards Pennsylvania is now full swing as we travel. Some other wildlife species we saw included the Sandhill Crane and Snowy Egrets.                                                                                IMG_1513

IMG_1520   We arrived home on August the 23rd around 8:00 P.M. from our trip to the west. We had a great time seeing many sites. Many more months would be needed to even touch the surface of everything to see. happy Trails to you all.                               IMG_1521

 

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The Badlands

The Badlands

The Indians claimed this area of South Dakota to be “bad lands” hence the name. I have to admit as a Pennsylvania boy I am used to lush greenery. My home lands here do not compare with the countless acres of Badlands. But the Badlands do have a strange beauty about them.

Note layers of stone and vulture

Note layers of stone and vulture

The Badlands are primarily a barren, arid, sandstone and rock piece of real estate. There is little vegetation around in the immediate Badlands. However, there are grassy, prairie-like plants on the places where erosion hadn’t washed away any amount of top soil.                                                      DSC_0320

The day we were visiting them the temperature was 104 degrees. I imagined early native and trappers traveling along. I, easily, envisioned outlaws heading into and among the massive eroded slopes and rocks.  Deep, steep hills and gullies make up the Badlands. How does anything survive? How did anyone exist here?                                                                                                                                    DSC_0323

IMG_1462  I watched a turkey vulture soaring about with its shallow V-shaped wing position. Rattlesnakes are living here as well. I hoped to see one for photographs, but, I failed to see any of the ratting serpents. Other wildlife species survive and exist within this bleak-looking landscape.

The rock formations yield an array of colors. One can see whites, yellows, reds, blues, purples, browns and pinks depending on the time of day and sun positions.                                                  IMG_1497                                                     IMG_1464

As we traveled about the loneliness of the badlands began shaping more into grassy, yet treeless areas. Erosion had not reached these places. We noticed the white earthen mounds scattered about . these sometimes would cover acres of ground. We were witnessing Prairie Dog colonies.

I don’t know why these little groundhog-like mammals intrigued us so, but we were exited to see them. We really wanted to see them up close and when we stopped at a close colony we did just that.

Prairie Dogs

Prairie Dogs

We immediately could see a lot of Prairie dogs. Occasionally, one would, while standing, arch its back and pull the head backwards and give out a squealing type of bark.                                                  DSC_0337

DSC_0338  One Prairie Dog, upon seeing me, walked up to me to gnaw on my shoe. I moved away allowing the little guy to approach Laurie. He did the same thing until the teeth started towards  the shoestrings. We backed off.

Two predators of Prairie Dogs are the rattlesnake and the Black-Footed Ferret. The ferret was once believed to extinct until some were found in Wyoming in 1981. Reintroduction programs appear to be promising. Let us hope so!

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The Devil's Tower

The Devil’s Tower

The Devil’s Tower is a great natural wonder to view. However, the smoke of distant forest fires had hazed over the area. This smoke caused a bluish hue over the tower. Regardless, we still had an opportunity to finally see this unique formation of nature.    DSC_0275

Devil’s Tower became America’s first national monument in 1906.  In recent times, the tower was used in the movie, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” In the movie, the United states government had built a place to meet with UFO landings on the top of the tower.

The Native Americans of the region treated the tower as a sacred object.                                                              DSC_0274

Later, we stopped at the U-Cross Ranch for a meal and horseback-riding. The ranch was a horse ranch, but, also, conducted organized hunting on the property. A ladies’ hunt for pronghorn antelope was in their future.

The people who were owning and working the ranch proved to be down-to-earth individuals. They were not political correct and that is always a positive in my way of thoughts.

Happy trails to you!

Happy trails to you!

DSC_0283 Laurie and others elected to go horse-back riding. I chose to walk about the ranch area and take photos. I enjoyed some quality time with an old-timer. (He was older than I am.)

I heard and saw the Eurasia Dove. This species of dove is larger than our native Mourning Dove. they, also have a distinct variance with their cooing. I witnessed a magpie perched on a wire too.  I am always seeking wildlife species to observe.

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