Wednesday, September 29, 2010

" Mistakes Were Made" review or family checklist?

Mistakes Were Made, Bill Harley Live ( with adults)

The afternoon was quiet. The rain passed by and the sun was out and the orange and yellow leaves falling. I was settling a summer long office move into new quarters. The new office arrangement includes a CD player. My family left for a afternoon of work and I settled down to do a little work in my office. I slid a CD in the player and settled back at the computer, but I couldn't work. Bill Harley's voice was coming from the speaker, the familiar strum of his guitar the inflection and the dissolving to laughter.

So this might take awhile, I decide and relax to listen. The first super hero to streak by sounds like Bill Harley but the image in my mind is a small cowboy. Boots clicking on floor and plastic spurs spinning. Soon a Sailboat comes into view and I wonder how these guys can all be cut from the same cloth, as out in my backyard there is a boat. A big old Criss Craft my son brought home. It was an abandoned boat, homeless and hungry. He told me" anything free is worth saving up for" and the boat slid into our possession. The dreams of cruising the lakes, windblown hair, girls in bathing suits and a bunch of guys who saved a boat and made it whole. Or at least patched the hole! Summer of 17, the stuff of dreams and ballads.

Then comes a trio written right from the combat zone of teaching and raising teenagers. The masterful handling of life's toughest questions and the commentary ,uh-huh, yep, sure, anytime, whenever, no problem, and a duo departing saying what was that all about. Could be there, could be here ,of course Bill has taken a moment in life that is as common as a sixteen year old and made it into a masterpiece.

My next flashback is to 1963. My parents had just become the proud owners of a 1751 colonial. It was straight from the movie Money Pit with sagging, leaning gaping, rotting structures. From the large hole in the wall where a stove pipe had been thrust comes an intruder, a bat. I remember sitting on the edge of a bathtub, my mother frantically stuffing towels under the gap at the bottom of the door. It was both a little entertaining and a little scary, at 5 my judgement weighing the mix of delight and fear. The sounds of her shrieks, and the crashes as my Dad, corn broom in hand rode herd on the solitary invader. Once again the magic that is a Bill Harley works in the blur of moment, in the strum of a guitar, I am swept into memories so distant and clear.

Thanks Bill and if you don't mind I've shut off the player as the last notes of Sweet New England fade and now I will get some work done...... but I'm smiling and happy and wishing I had been there Live ( with adults)! 2002 Round River Records

Monday, September 27, 2010

Seacoast Fringe Festival

Will you be coming to Portsmouth, New Hampshire or will you miss a great event? October 8, 9, 10, 2010 is the new and exciting Seacoast Fringe Festival.
The venue list is being formulated and will be posted on the website soon. The crew aboard the Fringe Festival committee are busy matching the wide variety of acts to the perfect venue. Puppets here and dancers there, a band over here and African drummers, oh yes they will go well over here but where do we put a storyteller?
I will be in the Discover Portsmouth Center! ( the old library) The Discover Portsmouth Center is a museum and performance space. Catch my historical stories in such a perfectly chosen venue on Saturday October 9, 2010 at 1 p.m. Historical Story is my favorite so be sure to come see me
The heart of Portsmouth opens and turns up the beat to many performers over the three day Festival. Be sure to check out the website and come back for frequent updates as venues and performers are matched. If you are in the area stop on by the Festival Office at 39 Ceres St. Portsmouth, that is right near the famous Tugboats.
I'll be around town on Friday catch me as I visit some of the other venues and promote the Festival and the Saturday 1 p.m. Historical Storytelling. If you don't see me I may just be walking a New Hampshire beach or savoring some tasty New Hampshire lobster at my favorite restaurant Ray's Seafood in Rye.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Move over John Wayne, look out Clint Eastwood

( rider: Tim Stearns)

What did you accomplish over the weekend in 16 seconds?

In cowboy mounted shooting, the fast action rodeo type equine sport 16 seconds is a good run. For the Ct. Renegades State Championships Sept 18 & 19, 2010 Cowboys and Cowgirls from all over the Northeast descended on Enfield, Ct.'s Round Tuit Ranch for some high stake thrilling runs. Each competitor rides six patterns or stages in a championship and the accumulated time and penalties for missed targets settles out the placings sometimes by 1/100 of a second.

BLANKS are used for ammo and all are provided by the competition to insure the safety of the event. A Rangemaster - combined referee and safety official is in the ring to direct the riders and officiate. The guns are Colt 45 type as used in the Old West and in the Rifle Division a Revolving Carbine or Lever Action 45 Long Colt, ( remember the Rifleman TV show?)

Costume is a big part with dress requirements to be clothing of the 1880's or from the Silver Screen Stars of the West. They take the costuming serious with penalties for a ride in inappropriate dress. For this reason we always have at least one photo club on the rail taking pictures. Their lens catching the flaming end of a pistol at dusk, the flared nostril of a horse, the sweat stained brim of a cowboy's hat and the windswept manes.

Over in the announcers booth I am calling out the time each course is completed in and more importantly the next few riders. With a new rider needed in the ring every couple minutes we have to have them ready and waiting or lose audience to long boring waiting time and even worse not finish all the rides before dark comes.

Where can you catch up with this fast action sport? There are clubs in almost every state. We belong to the Connecticut Renegades There are any clubs in the Northeast and you can find all the sites on the National Association website

A favorite competition in the Northeast is called Border Wars. The two day event pits Ct. riders against our neighbors in Mass. in a fun two day cowboy weekend, at stake a red and black flag and the right to fly it at the forthcoming years events. Saturday the Mass Six Shooters host the event and Sunday the Ct. Renegades. A new venue will welcome riders this year, Goss Farm in Dunstable Mass. will be the site on Oct 30-31, 2010. I can't wait for the weekend. ( good weather only won't risk injury to horses or riders in slippery conditions) The friendly competition, campfire and BBQ, the storytelling around the fire, Cowboy Church Sunday morning and a second day of competition before we all go back to the 21 st century, shake the dust from our chaps and hang up our spurs until another weekend.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bugle Boy

Day is done gone the sun, ...... hearing Taps takes me back to Girl Scout camp, Camp Laurel in Lebanon, Ct and my introduction to Taps as an ending to a day and a final night at camp when natural log boats were set out on the lake each bearing a candle and a wish, we watched them float away as Taps played. I was nine at the time, now in my minds eye I can see it like yesterday.

I recently read in the Ct. Boy Scout online newsletter that the Bugle Merit Badge was reinstated. The badge had been discontinued but an outpouring of comment from present and past Scouts in support of the Bugle Badge and in honor of the 100 years of Boy Scouting, saved the ill fated badge, it should be so. Taps and bugles are synonymous with our respect. The badge reinstated will hopefully urge more young people to learn to play bugle and share Taps at Scout and other functions. What a great honor for our scouts to play at Memorial Day, and other events even for lights out at camp!
Taps was born of the myriad of Bugle Calls used in the American Civil War and fitting with the 150 th anniversary of that war coming in 2011 for us to re-devote ourselves to some of the positive things that came from that bloody conflict. Around the world the 24 haunting notes of Taps are recognized as a melody of farewell and honor. It was the television coverage of the funeral for President John F. Kennedy that brought Taps to the world. I remember watching the funeral and seeing the bugler, and the caisson, and the Cavalry horse, riderless with the boots in the stirrups reversed, the symbol of a fallen soldier.
It is Military Funerals and Memorial Day functions that see the playing of Taps is still a daily event in our Nation. Unfortunately there are not enough Bugler's to play all the military funerals. How sad to serve your Nation and on the final day there is nothing more than the whir of a tape recorder playing Taps to bid a soldier his or her final farewell. An organization has sprung from that need which helps supply buglers to services. As a volunteer effort they are in need of more to help as well as resources, and they need the word spread about the volunteers who will provide that final call. Be sure to check out the work of operation Taps at
"Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" made playing Taps a rage for a time. As songs leave the top 40 play list the impact they make grows dim, until they surface again. Call a radio station and request it on holidays or in memory of a Fallen Soldier! The military still use bugle calls as a way to keep order in camp and signal changes in the routine. In the Civil War it was used for many events of the day, the Cavalry had a few calls of their own added to the Infantry. , the Call to Boots and Saddles, To Horse and Charge being the most common.
Pick up your old trumpet, pick up an old bugle and learn the call to Safely Rest, play TAPS!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

There Must Be A Story Behind It!

No need to rub your eyes, you aren't seeing things. Truly that is a cow in harness and pulling a cart. Don't you wish you knew the who and the WHY!? It is what makes finding stories so fun. Some are right there in front of us, some shock us, and others are just so darn funny. This cow was enjoying the Fall Festival at Blue Slope Country Museum in Franklin Ct.

Never saw a button museum? Maybe there is only one. It was at Coventry ( Ct.) Historical Society a couple years ago

How many places have you gone by, seen something odd or a sign and wondered about it. How did it get that name, why is that here, you drive a little further and think,
there must be a story behind it!
Tell It!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

In Awe of Learning

I hope to be in awe of learning my whole life, how about you? There are so many things new to learn and discover. We get complacent in life so easily and miss opportunities. I hope to feel as excited as my Granddaughter is to learn something new. Seeing places through her eyes is like seeing them again for the first time. I never enjoyed the Mystic Aquarium as much as when we took her there. To see the wonder and delight at each new tank and sensation was to learn again as I did as a child.

I worry how we are turning that natural love of learning off. Why doesn't it stay with us. How do we reignite the love of learning. I got mine going again through my desire to be a storyteller. I am constantly seizing learning moments. They abound when we are open to them. The more I learn the more alive I feel!

I am a non- traditional learner and outside the box thinker, and I now know that it is a really good thing to be. It was not always accepted in school, they like everyone to do it the same way and are geared to education for the masses. We are all unique but that is hard to address in the public education scenario. I will continue to seek the off beat educational opportunity and draw my granddaughter to those unique experiences every chance I get.

I was visiting her last year and we went to a Civil War Museum. The guide looked less than thrilled when we joined a group going on a tour of the buildings because we had a baby with us. I was anxious to see and hear about this portion of the Civil War and the signing of surrender of the Army of the Confederacy at Bennett Place. I assured them I would make sure the one year old would not interfere with the groups ability to listen and would step away if she fussed. I got a look of skepticism from the guide. Off we went down the dirt road and I pointed things out to my Granddaughters along the way. I stayed to the edge ready to distract her if the need arose and yet listening intently to the guides interesting dialog of the surrender. I asked a couple of questions. My granddaughter stared into my face each time I spoke. We went into the tiny house where the actual surrender was signed. A three room cottage, quarters were cramped. A small bed chamber was roped off around the corner I could barely see but again kept the respectful distance so she not disturb any of the guests on the tour. The guide spoke at length about the time of surrender and pointed out a couple of interesting items in the room and many of the group leaned in to see. I stayed back. They all backed away and continued to listen. At that moment my Granddaughter leaned way out from my arms and craned her tiny neck to peer with interest into the small bed chamber. I answered her physical request by stepping closer to the door and telling her softly, " See then old style bed and crib. What an interesting room." She looked it all over with interest and looked back at me. "It's a nice museum and very important things happened here," I told her. She was content and listening the whole time. That was when I noticed a look on all the guests faces, awe that the baby was interested, and maybe that I took hold of the teaching moment. I hope that they all greet every tour with a baby on it in the future as a learning moment for all.
I am so glad that by age one she had been to a museum and had seen how to be interested in a historic site. I hope I can give her my love of history and all the common people's stories that make the rich fabric of historical story. Historical story is by far my favorite genre. You can see more about that at my website

I want to be sure that I introduce her to many wonderful places. I can't wait for her to be old enough to attend a storytelling festival and share all those learning moments with me. Someday I will take her to the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, Tn.
There together we will share some awesome learning moments through story.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fall Begins

It is the beginning of fall, the buses are running and the parks are empty of children. All have returned to the scheduling and bells of the school year.

I do not anticipate the return of school or routine. I can't wait for the cool autumn days to walk , take photographs and enjoy the outdoors in temperatures warm by day and cool by night.

There is something special and fleeting about fall. It arrives on the tail of scorching days and the return to cooler temps signals us all to be more active and to not waste time because winter is close at hand. I don't want to miss one glorious day of the fall weather. I can't wait for the first trip to the orchard and the first pie out of the oven afterward. I'll be headed out to Horse Listener's Orchard soon.

Remember the first morning you can smell the woodsmoke on the morning air and the crunchy grass when it is white with the first frost. All these memories would make many shudder with cold just to think about them, but I love the cool weather and most of winter don't mind the cold.

There is nothing quite as special as natures last hurrah of the year as she paints her maples and sends the leaves floating by.

A lone leaf is waiting on the granite rock and reminds me of all the years we made place mats for the tables with wax paper and an iron and a few choice leaves such as this one.

One fall day I met up with the local third grade. It was their annual field trip around town as part of the know you town and state curriculum. The youth were all excited and I heard them coming long before I could see them winding through the woods on a trail . I was waiting, at the top of Wolf Rock in Mansfield. The preserve is in a land trust called Joshua's Trust. Joshua was the Native American son of the Chief Uncas. He deeded land to the settlers when they arrived. It is the goal of the land trust to preserve beautiful and distinctive pieces of that original land grant area. The holdings of Joshua's Trust have reached the 4000 acre level!

That day I was waiting on Wolf Rock looking out over the valley in the peak of color. The day was perfect! As soon as the students were settled with their lunches on the sun warmed granite I was introduced. I shared stories of wolves and colonial Mansfield

Here at the edge of the cliff is a glacial erratic, a huge stone dropped by a glacier long ago. On this Wolf Rock day I used a piece of campfire charred wood to scratch the mark of Joshua son of the sachem Uncas onto the stone.

Before they left I had a chorus of all the children's voices howl the Wolf call from the top of Wolf Rock. The Wolf voice has been gone from these hills since the colonists erradicated them, I imagine the deer in the deep valley below shuddered at the howl of a wolf in children's clothing.