Welcome to Skippin' Rocks

I originally Started a blog to run off at the mind on politics, hopefully witty and humorous ramblings, and just random thoughts. But, I'll make a new one for that and stick to short stories here. I hope you liked what you've read so far.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Music Faded and the Dance Ended --- Part8 (New beginnings --Adulthood --Music --Ect)

Sharlene couldn’t handle staying in that place after Pat’s death, so she rented it out and prepared to move to town. I went up to Pat’s to get my equipment. His brother Jim was on his way to pick up Pat’s stuff to keep for Travis so Sharlene had everything stacked in two separate piles. Pat had that Gibson guitar of mine in his possession from the day I bought it up until the day he died. It was easy (given her state of mind and emotion) to assume it belonged to pat and placed it on his stack. Fortunately, I made it up to their place before Jim did.

I loaded my bass, amp, and accessories in my car, then went back in for my Gibson. I gave Sharlene a hug and walked out of Pat’s home forever. With my head hung low, I closed the gate behind me and wondered where I was going to go from there.

Jane and I were to be married in April (nearly four months after Pat’s death). The grieving process was difficult, but had it not been for Jane’s and my up and coming wedding and our relationship in general, it could have been a lot worse. I asked Rick to be my best man in Pat’s stead. Rick was more than happy to step up to that plate.

Jane and I found a house to rent on a 750 acre ranch in Kings Valley. We moved in on our wedding day. The old man who owned the ranch died not long before Jane and moved in. He left behind his wife and their two sons Terry and Tim. Our old Landlady lived in the big house on the hill. She left the Landlord and maintenance responsibilities with their youngest son, Tim. I never even had so much as a conversation with Tim’s mother; I never got to know her, but I believe her name was Ruth.

The oldest brother Terry lived on the east end of the ranch in a big beautiful new house with an in-ground swimming pool. He spent most of the time away on his personal business ventures; I never saw much of him.

Tim lived in an old farm house on the north side of the ranch near the barns, shop, and various equipment sheds. You know, --the working side of the place. Jane and I occupied the other old farm house right across the driveway from him and his wife. Our houses overlooked a ten acre lake. I know, I can hear you right now saying “that ain’t no lake, it’s a tank!” To us it was a lake; there was a boat dock, an aluminum row boat and canoe. There was a great swimming hole and the water was full of huge cutthroat trout. There was a backdrop of an aromatic stand of Douglas fir trees and an oak grove to the west. It was beautiful there and very private.

The dock had broken away from the ramp and drifted out to the middle of the lake It was like an island. The ramp became the dock for the canoe and boat.

Jane and I would row the boat out to the old dock and sunbathe for hours. We once fell asleep in the row boat and were awakened when the bottom of the boat ran aground at the earthen dam on the northwest corner of the lake.

That summer was like a three month honeymoon and music seemed like a world away from me. I would still take my guitar everywhere we went but I hadn’t played in a club or a bar in quite some time. Jane and I would go out dancing once in a while and attend the county fairs and listen to the bands. Mostly, I would play the guitar in the evenings and Jane and I would sing together.

We had a huge four-poster bed that my ex-boss (the carpenter that I met through Beau) built for our wedding set up in the master bedroom, but most of the time we just unfolded the hide-a-bed and fell asleep in front of the TV. We would never miss ‘Dallas’ followed by ‘Fantasy Island.’

We spent a lot of time of the time fixing up the old house and I would help Tim with chores every chance I got. We became pretty close friends and when the chores were done, we’d go to the Fort Tavern and play ‘Ship, Captain, Crew’ for beer money. We’d have a few beers then head home for supper.

I was logging for my cousin Dwayne running ‘skidder’ and chasing the landing. The work was hard, the crew was fun, and I made a decent paycheck. Jane was working as a ‘loan secretary’ at a local bank in Corvallis. Our rent was low and our credit was good and we were doing just fine even during the poor economy of the late seventies.

The winter of 78-79 may not have the coldest we’ve had, but the freezing weather stayed around longer than any winter I’ve experienced in my half century plus. The lake froze over thick enough to go anywhere on it without even one crackle.

Ted’s cousin (and my friend) Alan came over for a visit so I took him down to the frozen lake. The boat and the canoe were high on the bank and placed upside down for the winter. We grabbed the aluminum canoe because it was lighter and took it down to the ice. I was wearing my corked boots so I had all the traction I needed to have some fun with Alan. I pushed him in the canoe all over the lake. He laughed and laughed and had a great time. I finally got tired and we went back up to the house. I kinda wanted a ride too, but a logger is real partial to his boots. They weren’t coming off for anything.

I learned a very important lesson that winter: leave the black pitch in the woods where it belongs. Use it to start a VW Micro Bus-sized chaser’s fire on the landing, but don’t take it home with you, like I used to.

I threw some black pitch in the stove to get the fire going and got our house toasty-warm. Jane and I invited my brother Calvin and his wife Sue over for supper and a visit. We had finished eating and were sitting around talking when all of the sudden there was a pounding on the front door. It was Tim; he said, “come on, we’ve gotta fire!” I looked over at his place and asked, where?”

“Your house!” he hollered as he ran to the shed to get a ladder.

I turned and looked up at our roof and a whole square of cedar shakes was already gone; and I could see the rafters through the flames.

Tim ran back with a ladder and a fire extinguisher and handed them to me and shouted, “get up there and I’ll get a hose ready.” I told Calvin to fill the bathtub and soak as many towels, blankets, and clothes he could find and get them in the attic. I climbed up on the roof and hit the fire with as much as the fire extinguisher had. It knocked the fire down a little, but not much. Tim passed the hose up to me and I put the fire out.

Once we were sure there no hot spots left, all the pipes on the ranch froze up solid. Not one drop of water could be had. We were lucky. To this day, I wonder what I’m going to see around that corner or just over that hill when I’m coming home.

The winter finally passed and then spring gave way to summer. Tim and I were down by the lake standing on the ramp. Tim looked over at me and said, “Charley, “Let’s fix this up and make it like used to be.”

We grabbed some poles out of one of the sheds and rowed our way out to ‘Old Dock Island.’ We pried our way through the water on that old heavy dock and made our way to its point of origin. We butted the old dock into place at the end of the ramp and anchored it with cables. This was great! Now we could dive into deep water from here. I said to Tim, “I always thought a diving platform would be nice” He agreed and off we went for boards, nails, bolts and plywood. We spent a good part of that day building our platform. We both took a dive into the water and it was even better than the old days. Tim said, “You know what --? --I got a better idea; get in the truck and let’s go for a ride.

We left the driveway heading east on Maxfield Creek Rd., turned right onto Pit Rd. that bordered the east end of the ranch. We turned up Terry’s driveway and went right on up to the house. We headed for the backyard where Terry’s new swimming pool had just been put in. It was full of water and nice and clean. The diving board wasn’t attached yet and was just lying over by the fence. We loaded it into the truck and went back to the lake.

“Aren’t we going to get into trouble over this?”

“What’s he gonna do –beat me up?”

We added more boards to the platform, added some struts, plywood gussets, and guy lines in the back; we were doing back flips off the end of the board in no time.

I never did find out if Tim caught any hell over the board because we were notified that the ranch had been sold and we had to be out by a certain date. We had a few months to think things through and look at all the options that we had.

It was around this time the music started to seep its way back into my new life. Cousin Joe –remember Cousin Joe? He somehow hunted me down and contacted me by phone. He had booked a one-night-stand over in Lapine and was desperate for a bass player. Most of the bass players were working and those that weren’t were smart enough to know that a five hour one-nighter clear over the mountains, into the central part of the state, couldn’t pay enough for the gas to get there and a place to stay It simply wasn’t worth it and Joe was getting turned down over and over –until he asked me.

Jane and I loved to camp, especially in the pines of central Oregon. We both needed a break anyway. Between the long hours Jane was putting in at work, my logging, the chores and playtime me and Tim were doing, added to the uncertainty of our very future, we jumped at the chance of getting away for a while. Besides, I was itching like crazy to get back on stage. We had two or three practice sessions before the gig and I thought we sounded pretty good. The job was an annual street dance marking some local event or tradition.

Jane and I arranged a few days off and decided to make an extra long weekend out of it. We loaded up our car with my equipment, camping gear, clothes, and as many coolers of food and drinks we could stuff in. We left the house on Thursday morning en route to Lake Billy Chinook

Our plan was to spend two nights at Billy Chinook in north central Oregon, pull up stakes and set up camp at South Twin Lake near Wickiup Reservoir just outside of Lapine, play Saturday night, and spend an extra day at the lake. Well, --things never quite go as planned.

There were no campsites left at Billy Chinook, so we drove south on the back roads along the Metolious River. We found a small Forest Service campground and decided to camp there. There was one other camper at that site way out in the middle of nowhere so we did a drive by just to check them out before we set up camp. I turned out to be a friend of ours who I had just been on a logging job with. We pitched our tent, built a nice fire, and invited our friend over for evening.

There’s nothing like bacon, eggs, and hash browns with black coffee when you’re outside among the scent of pine needles and campfire smoke. We enjoyed it too much and spent more time there than we realized. The back roads slowed us down, also. It was too late to make to the lake, set up camp, and get back to Lapine in time to play; so we found a roadside campground, got settled in, then went to town to meet up with the rest of the band.

We were given the address and directions to Joe’s sister in-law and her husband’s house. I love meeting people who you can just feel their warmth and happiness, --comfortable people with character. Jane and I were drawn to them.

This event was always an annual street dance. They would close the street and dance and party on into the night. I was looking forward to that! That sounded fun. I’m not sure of the reason (I assume it was for liability reasons), but the powers that be nixed the ‘street’ part of the event and moved us all into a large paved lot at a local sawmill.

Our stage was a semi truck with a flatbed trailer on one side of the lot, there were booths, concession stands, and tables and chairs one end, tables and chairs on the other end, beer trailers at every corner, and a huge pile of scrap wood across the lot from us. It was a huge place and I was a little nervous. Number 1) I was nervous because I hadn’t been on stage in a long time and we’d had too little practice, 2) if this dancing area were full, it would be the largest crowd I’d ever played for, and 3) if this place doesn’t fill up, it would be a very down and depressing night from the stage perspective.

We got busy setting up our equipment and making a first-pass sound check. Joe was well-off enough to spend high dollars on his equipment and had all the power he needed for this big of job. I had a decent amp, but really could have used another 100 watts of power and another speaker or two. I teetered right on the edge of sound and distortion.

Everything was tuned up and ready to go. We left the stage and we went to get something to eat. Cousin Joe informed us that we were not going to take any breaks. He said he wanted to hold the crowd. I thought --WHAT? He had to be kidding. What do I do if I had to ‘go’? Besides, if you can’t hold a crowd without having to play straight through, then you’re way out of your league.

The people steadily flowed in and we ended up with what appeared to be a nice crowd of folks by start time.

As darkness fell on the evening a cold breeze blew across the snow-capped Cascade Mountains. The people danced just to keep warm. It’s great to see a large parking lot full of dancers. If you take a small amount of people in a small place it’s a big crowd, put the same people in a big place, it’s a very small crowd, but this parking lot was full.

The later it got the colder it became. They built a huge bon fire clear across the parking lot from the stage.

We in the band were wearing nice clothes. I don’t remember if we matched, but I can tell you this: we weren’t wearing coats or even tee shirts. And, the shirt I was wearing was skimpy and not made of cotton.

About two and a half hours into the music I was getting real pissed at Cousin Joe! My left hand and guitar neck was pointed right into the wind. My fingers were freezing and starting to numb. I could no longer hit all the notes that I wanted to. I turned to the drummer and said, “When this song is over, I’m heading to that fire. I don’t care what Joe thinks, he can do this alone as far as I’m concerned!” It just so happened to be the drummers plan too.

The song finished, and my bass was off my shoulder before the crash symbol faded. I jumped off that trailer and headed for the fire followed by the drummer, Joe’s wife, and after getting the dumbfounded look off his face, the esteemed “Cousin Joe” followed suit.

The fire was hot and inviting. It didn’t take long to thaw out. Jane and I mingled with the folks around the fire for a time and then Joe's sister-in-law approached us and said her husband was going to leave early and warm up the camper in their back yard and put us up for the night. We gladly accepted the offer.

After about a twenty minute break, we went back to the stage and finished out the night.

The sun peeked through the white curtains over the small camper window. We woke up to the smell of bacon frying in the house. We freshened up and headed in for breakfast.

We spent the whole morning visiting and basking in the warm hospitality of our hosts. It is a memory I’ll keep with me and cherish for the rest of my life.

Jane and I went to get our camping gear hoping it was there after leaving it alone all night. It was, so we gathered it up and headed west into pines and beautiful lakes of central Oregon.

We spent the night at South Twin Lake. It’s so pristine that even back then, before the environmentalists got their clutches into most of Oregon, you couldn’t use motorized boats in the crystal-clear water.

The next night was spent at Wickiup Reservoir then it was homeward bound for us.

As we headed west on highway 20 we were unaware of two major events that would change our lives forever.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Music Faded and the Dance Ended --- Part 7 (From Enchantment to Despair)

Playing lead guitar in a three piece band was new to Pat. He really poured his heart and soul into it, though, and developed his own style that turned out to be great. I’ll never forget how he played ‘Steel Guitar Rag’ on that Gibson of ours; he kicked ass. His singing and entertaining of the crowd was exceptional as always. We played for the crowd and for each other. We loved our music, and the folks seemed to like us too. We had a number of new-found friends following us around from place to place. There was always a welcome table on the breaks.

Musicians came out of the woodwork, in those high times of the seventies, and everybody and their brother had a band, it seemed. Some of them were good and worked together for years; but a lot of them didn’t last but a few months. And, some of them never got out of the garage, at all.

The beer joints would only sign a one-month contract because that was what they thought they needed to do to keep the crowds. We would do a month or two, here and there, in the taverns, for fill-in, but we stuck mainly to the lodges and clubs. The atmosphere was more relaxed, and it was great to play more of the laid-back ‘Night Life” sound along with pure country and 50’s mixed in. And, you never had to worry about getting your throat cut, a beer glass thrown at you, or some drunk falling into your equipment.

We had built a pretty good name for ourselves and then one day Pat decided that we needed to dress the same --like the other popular bands were doing. But, it wasn’t going to be dress shirts, slacks, and vests; it was going to be blue jeans and flannel. It had to say: we’re Home Brew!

Pat stopped by some store and bought three red gingham style flannel shirts. They were the only three-of a-kind shirts they had that day and the only problem was; they were all XL and I wore a Medium.

I went up to Pat’s to see what he picked out; and when I put mine on, it was like throwing a blanket over me (way too big).

Pat said, “Don’t worry Chazz, I can fix that!”

He went to the back room and brought out a sewing machine. He had Sharlene go find the straight pins.

With the pins in his lips, he had me hold my arms up and straight out for fitting. I was a little uncomfortable with this. My hero? Sewing?

Pat pinned up the slack, then took my shirt, turned it inside-out, and went to about sewing it up. He trimmed the excess fabric, and threw at me and said, “Try this on.”

Damned it didn’t fit just right and look pretty good, too! (Jack of all Trades).

On stage, we were cool. Not only were we were ‘down-home,’ but, sort of professional looking at the same time.

We were playing the Corvallis Eagles lodge on a three month contract one summer when a middle aged couple came in that I didn’t recognize. Their names were Ken and Joan.

Ken was tall, thin, and sported a fine Stetson hat, Justin boots, and a leather vest. Joan had blonde hair, a thin frame, and a face that looked as sweet as her personality was.

They danced together beautifully, and to almost every song. They requested song after song and fortunately we knew most of them. They became our biggest fans. They showed up every weekend and I would notice if they were late coming in. we spent most of our breaks at their table. They were fun and open to us.

One night Ken and Joan came in with their three daughters and their only son-in-law. I had gone to school with all of them, but never ran in their circles and never really knew them. I do remember having a bit of a crush on the youngest daughter, Jane (for some reason she reminded me of Mickey).

We had a great time on the first break. We were introduced to everybody and carried on the conversation of the moment. The break went by way too fast.

We started the next set and Ken danced with all of his daughters. When he and Jane were dancing past the front of the stage, Jane would give me a connecting look with her eyes and flashed me a warm smile. I was stunned! Pat was the one that always got this kind of attention.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of her the whole set.

Just as we were playing the last note of the last song of the set, Jane picked up her purse and headed for the door. OH NO! I couldn’t get that bass off my shoulder any faster.

I hustled my way through the crowd as fast as I could, and just as Jane was reaching for the door, I asked, “you’re not leaving yet, --are you?

She turned to me and smiled. “I thought we could dance to the jukebox one time before you go,” I said, with confidence I never knew I had.

I plugged the jukebox and played ‘Welcome to My World’. We danced the one dance and then she left.

I was pleasantly surprised when she showed up with her mom and dad the very next weekend.

She came almost every weekend and I finally got up the courage to ask her out. She accepted, and we went for dinner and a movie on our first date.

I don’t remember where we ate that night, but I do remember the movie. It was a movie that you should never choose for a first date. It was called ‘The Groove Tube.’ I was really embarrassed until Jane started laughing and enjoying the show. She thought it was a silly idea for our first date.

As the weeks went by, Jane and I drew closer and closer together. We would ride together to the clubs where I played every weekend, and when we left at 2:00AM, we would park on an old logging road near her folks place and have our ‘alone time’ until 5:00 am.

On my way home one night I fell asleep at the wheel. I was dreaming of driving down the straight stretch of road near my place when something told me: this isn’t right! I woke up to find myself heading toward a cliff. I swerved to the right and just barely kept from going off the road and crashing onto the rocks below. It would have been certain death, had I not awakened. I got home and the adrenalin kept me awake until sunrise.

Jane and I spent several nights together on that logging road. It was there where we had a very strange paranormal experience (a whole different story). It was also where I asked her to marry me. She said, “Yes.”

Of course I had to ask her father for her hand and Kenny accepted me into the family. We set the date and started planning our wedding.

One day Pat and I were heading to the Kings Valley store for something. We had just driven past the old Fort Tavern (where we first played for money together) when I turned and told him about the engagement and then asked him if he’d be my ‘best man.’ There was a very unsettling long pause, and then with the most sincere tone I’ve ever heard coming from Pat, he said, “Charley, I would be honored to be your best man.”

Although Pat and I didn’t spend as much time together, we remained the best of friends.

I built a shop on my parents place and Pat helped me out with the initial push out and the pouring of the slab. He helped me lift the walls, and as far as the rest of it goes; I did much of it on my own. I was getting to know my way around a tape measure, Skill saw and a hammer.

The front door on the manufactured home that replaced the old house that burnt down was falling apart and my mom and dad asked me to put a new one in. It was past mid December and very cold; it needed done badly. They acquired the door and Jane and I went out there for me to work on it.

It was just getting dark and I was nearly finished with the project, when the phone rang. It was Pat. He was on his way home from a Christmas party at work and stopped at the Elk Horn gas station to fill up. He called me up out of the blue and asked how the door project was going. We talked about it and a few other things and when he was ready to go, he said, “I’ll pick you up to tomorrow night.”

Pat and I hadn’t rode to work together in months so that sounded a bit strange. There was alcohol at his party so he could have been a little drunk.

I finished the door and picked up my tools. I needed to get Jane home so we headed for Philomath.

It was a dark, cold, and rainy night. When we topped Wren hill and started down the other side, we came to a near stop because the traffic was backed up for almost a mile. I knew there had to be a car wreck down there. We inched our way along then finally went past the crash site.

I looked over at the mangled car and knew it had to be Sharlene’s car. Nobody else had an orange Volkswagon fastback. All I could think of for the next six miles was: Oh my God! Sharlene and the kids! Oh no! Sharlene and the kids!

We got to Ken and Joan’s house and I bee-lined for the phone. There was no answer up at Pat’s so I called Ted’s place. Sharlene answered the phone and I told her what I’d seen. She called me back confirming Pat was in an accident and she wanted me to meet her at the hospital.

Jane and I headed for the emergency room at Good Samaritan Hospital in Corvallis. We were walking down the hall when I saw Sharlene and her Sister Charlotte walking toward us. When we met up with them, I asked, “How’s Pat?”

Charlotte looked up and said, --“He’s dead.”

I fell against the wall and started to collapse. Jane literally held me up. Pat was a lot of things to a lot of people and to me; he was a father, brother, and best friend all rolled into one, and then some. We lost him in a blink of an eye.

Pat left behind his wife Sharlene, his daughter Judith 5, and his son Travis 2.

I joined the family at the memorial service in the funeral home, and at the graveyard; Beau and I were the front two pall bearers. I was on the left and Beau was on the right. The only thing heavier than the coffin was my heart. My bloodshot eyes were fixed on the ground before my feet as we carried Pat’s flag-draped coffin past the honor guard and to his grave.

When the bugler played Taps and the honor guard fired the 21 gun salute, there was not a dry eye around, especially mine.

I went home, wondered around in the backyard for a while, and then ended up down by the river. I sat down on the root wad of an old leaning alder tree, dropped my head into my hands and cried for hours.

Patric Hanyan Kasner
Born August 5, 1946 -- Died December 22, 1977

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Music Faded and the Dance Ended --- Part 6 (Home Brew)

The weekends off were great. I did my best at making up for lost time with my high school friends.

Dave, Rick, Craig and I were either fishin, huntin. Dirt biking, or just down on the Luckiamute, skippin’ rocks.

Music was still very much a part of my life. Pat and I were best friends and I continued to hang out at his place and play the guitar and bass. There came a point when the student was teaching the teacher. We would take our guitars to backyard gatherings like BBQs and birthday parties and on occasion, we’d be over at Beau’s playing bluegrass.

I really loved the down home feel of bluegrass music. I went ahead and bought a banjo from Ray down at Music West and set about learning some songs. Pat, of course, could pick a little banjo and taught me how to play ‘Cripple Creek’, ‘The Ballad of Jed Clampet’, and ‘Dueling Banjos’. I never took the time to go further with the banjo, but I did have one fantastic experience playing those three songs.

Craig was in the drama class in our senior year. Rick and Dave and I gave him so much crap about that, too. “Whatcha takin’ next semester, Craig, --sewing –knitting? Hahahaha.”


Craig enjoyed his drama class and somehow roped me into playing a bit part in the senior play. The play was called “Hillbilly Weddin’,” and the only reason they wanted me in the play was to have me pick the banjo just before the last act.

There was an underclassman that played a real kick-ass bluegrass acoustic. His family had cut some albums and they were very good. I had to demand he play with me in order for me to even attempt this thing. I got my way, and Jim played backup for me.

Randy was a senior along with me and was a part of that trio, playing rhythm guitar. Randy didn’t quite fit with the feel of the music but he was there just the same. His folks bought him a new Martin D35 acoustic guitar with mother-of-pearl inlay. My God! That was a beautiful box. The solid spruce top was flawless and the solid rosewood on the sides and back were among the most stunning pieces of wood I’d ever seen. That guitar sang sweet music!

I don’t know whatever became of that guitar, but I do know what became of Randy. He parked his car one day, wondered out into the woods, and shot himself in the head.

I was terrified to sit on that stage with the spotlight right on me. Jim sat next to me and Randy was on the other side of him. There were nearly a thousand people in the bleachers and on chairs in the school gymnasium. With the lighting set the way it was, all I could see were the first two rows. The microphone must have been three feet away and behind it was a video camera. The pressure was intense. I was trembling on the inside like an earthquake.

I had chosen my own words carefully and practiced them for days. My voice quivered on that first line, but then the sound system was so high quality that it helped me relax. I finished the introduction to the song and we kicked-it-in with ‘Dueling Banjos.’ When Jim and I got to the pickin’ part of the song, I could see the folks stomping their feet and clapping their hands to the music. A feeling of euphoria rushed through my body and washed all of my timidity away.

It was just a twenty minute gig and I had great fun doing it. When we finished and the crowd applauded, --I can’t even begin to describe the thrill I felt. I rode on that high for days.

When I told Pat about it, he smiled big with pride. He couldn’t have been happier for me. I also think he was a bit jealous.

When God puts a golden nugget in your mouth and says, “Go forth and use my gift,” you ought not spit it out.

Pat missed the lime lights and the folks. I sensed his yearning; and it nagged at him more than Sharlene ever could.


Rick, Craig, Dave and I graduated high school and Dave went on to college. He worked odd jobs on weekends to help himself through. He went to work for a logging company doing fire watch. Basically, he would go out to the operation after the loggers went home and stay the night to make sure that no rouge spark from a chainsaw smoldered in the underbrush and caught fire. He had access to a radio and a fire truck (just in case).

He would also stay from Friday afternoon to Monday morning. It gave him a lot of time for study, but the loneliness and boredom sets in rather quickly.

He called me up on the phone one day and asked me if I’d spend the weekend with him. Nobody wants to be out amongst the cougars, bears, and Sasquatch; who wants to die alone? I figured, "sure, why not?"

Dave brought a book for me to read while he was hitting the books for school. He’d already finished it and wanted me to check it out. It was called, ‘How to Make ESP work For You.’ It was an easy read and I got through it in no time. Dave and I thought, ‘why not give this a shot?’

Now, I pride myself on having fairly decent reading comprehension skills, so I must’ve missed something in there. Danged if that stuff didn’t work at all! I tried and tried to have an out-of-body experience, but for some reason, it just didn’t happen. Monday morning came around and Dave drove me home.

We rounded the corner before my place and I couldn’t believe what I saw. There were four-foot flames dancing on the embers of what used to be the home I’d spent my whole life in.

Everybody was safe, but very little was saved. The old house went up like a match. I lost my acoustic guitar, my electric, and my banjo. One of Pat’s guitars was also a casualty, and Rick lost his set of drums. My bass, amp, and some other stuff had been up at Pat’s; so it wasn’t a total loss.

I had gone to work for Brothers Builders (the guys that built Beau’s house) and learned to frame houses. We built custom houses, and a lot of love went into that work. We cut every board down the 1/64 of an inch and we hammered every nail by hand. I enjoyed it and looked forward to going to work everday.

I drove an old 68 Ford Falcon with a 6 cylinder engine and three-on-the-tree. It had a bad clutch and there was a blown exhaust manifold gasket on it; so it sounded like hell, drove like hell, but it always started and got me back and forth to work.

I’d been looking forward to payday because I was in a position to put some of my paycheck toward a hollow-bodied electric guitar.

After work I chugged into Ray’s parking lot. I went into the store to see if Ray might have a decent used hollow-body.

Ray was behind the counter doing paperwork. He gave his usual greeting as I approached him. I told him about the house-fire and said I was there to see what he had in the way of a used guitar. Ray came out from behind the counter with a grin; and we headed for the guitar racks.

The racks were set up with the electrics on the top and the acoustics on the bottom. The used guitars were on the left and the new guitars went from cheap the more expensive, from left to right. I headed for the left side and Ray went straight for the right end.

He pulled a guitar from the wall and said, “Charley, I just got this in today and you really have to see it!”

I’m the kind of guy that admires beautiful things; so I went over to take a look. He held in his hands, a brand new Gibson ES335TD with a walnut finish. I didn’t know whether to take into my hands or bow before it. It was gorgeous!

When I wrapped my left hand around the neck of that guitar I knew I was holding something special. It was like taking a bite out of the sweetest, juiciest, shiniest, red delicious apple you’ve ever seen. I looked at the price tag and handed it back to Ray, and said, “Ray, I can’t afford something like this!”

I’d done all my business with Ray for many years I’d bought two basses, three guitars, two amps, and a banjo. Ray had a ledger that kept track of my payments over the years. He still had it although, at the time, I owed him nothing. Ray said, “Sure you can! What did you figure on spending on a used one?”

I said,“Between a hundred and a hundred fifty, I suppose.”

He said, “Charley, your credit’s good here. I’ll write this down on the ledger, you just write a check for a hundred dollars, and you can owe me six-hundred fifty. – and I’ll go get the case.”

I walked out of that store feeling as though I’d just taken out a 15 year mortgage with an ARM. I was ecstatic on one hand and was scared s**tless on the other.

I snuggled that guitar up to me in the seat of my ole car and grinned ear-to-ear all the way home. On the way home, I was thinking to myself, “wait ‘till you see this, Pat!”

I got home and called Pat right away. “Hey! I got something to show you! –you busy?”

PAT: “naw, just come on up; you know you’re always welcome. Besides, it’s been a while, and I’ve been wanting to talk with you.”

“okee doke, I’ll be up in a minute.”

I was in a hurry so I stopped my old falcon about 50 feet from Pat’s gate. I put the car into first gear and dropped the clutch; and that worn out old clutch plate allowed my car to creep along on its own.

The car started to chug its way toward the gate. I ran to the gate, opened it, and my car, chuggity-chug --chuggity-chugged, its way through gate by itself.

Once the car was in clear of the gate, I hustled to get it closed and locked, then ran to catch up with the car. I then, raced up to the house.

I couldn’t wait to open up that case. When I did, Pat’s jaw hit the floor. It was almost as though there were beams of divine light emanating from the case.

Pat pulled the guitar out of the case and wrapped his hand around that neck, and felt the same rush I got over at Ray’s.

That guitar was as quality as quality gets. It was the type of guitar that can make a mediocre guitar player good, and a good guitar player, a musician.

We broke into song after song and loved it. Pat set there for a moment, staring into space, then turned to me and said, “Chazzly! I can do this!” I just smiled real big.

We smiled at each other then looked at Sharlene, she looked back at us, and we looked at each other, then back at Sharlene, (who, by the way, had a look of surrender on her face.) --I said, “I’ll call Rick tomorrow” and Pat said, “I’ll call Chuck at the Eagles, to see if has any openings.

Pat cased up my guitar and handed it to me. I took it from his hands and then made an appropriate decision.

“You know what Pat? I think this beauty is safer up here with you; besides, you need to practice on your lead licks; --if I want to play it, --I know where it’s at.”

He smiled a big smile and then kissed Sharlene. I noticed him reopening the case as I was headed out the door for home.

When the three of us got together at my folks place to practice for the first time; we knew, on-the-spot our polish was still there. We weren’t worried about the job.

Now all we needed was a name and a logo (eh, and a PA system). We kicked around some ideas for our band name and nothing was ‘floating our boat.’ Then my dad suggested, “Peter Payne and the Shots.”

I giggled my butt off, but Pat stood there with a ‘not too impressed look on his face.’ He was an ex Navy man and probably had some painful memories that cut a little too close to home. I doubt it, but who knows?

Brevity is the soul of wit, and I liked the idea of a one-to-two word name that would reflect our music and our lives. Our music had a down-home feel, and my dad was brewing home-brewed beer, at the time. Pat had a still cooking in the old house on his ranch.

“How about if we call ourselves ‘Home Brew’” I asked. --It was a fit with all of us! I drew up a logo later that night.

We went to Ray and worked a deal on a PA system; then went to the lodge to set up our equipment. That first Friday night, we played our hearts out.

We were home. Home Brew

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Music Faded and the Dance Ended --- Part 5 (Sometimes Life Just Gets in The Way)

Pat was a handsome man with a powerful personality. He was very outgoing and could instinctively gauge the crowd. He knew the most appropriate song to play at any given time. He was a great communicator and entertainer and would talk directly to the people. It only stood to reason that there were many women in the crowd that swooned over him.

If I had a dollar for every time I saw a woman dance past the front of the stage and flash a smile at Pat with her wanting-bedroom eyes, I could buy a David Hartley signature ‘Rains’ SD10 pedal steel guitar, a top-shelf volume peddle, a digital delay, a peddle steel chair, and still have enough left over to take you all out for steak and lobster afterwards.

Pat was as human as anyone else and I’m sure the temptation was overwhelming at times. I was more than just his bass player and sidekick; I was his marital safety device. I rode with him every night to and from our gigs. I was stuck to him like glue and had to bring him back down to Earth, on occasion. –“Pat! This is poison, man! And, I need a ride home! –shut it down!” He knew, and he did.

Pat held to his commitments to his family, and Sharlene never really had to worry, but she did, anyway.

Pat was very smart, articulate, and had no fear of people. One time we played a one-night-stand for a private business in the huge ballroom at the Elk’s Lodge in Corvallis. The band showed up early to set up, tune up, and to set the balance for the acoustics in the room. Mike’s wife June, and I’m not sure who our other guests were, but they were to show up a little closer to start time. When they showed up, the guy at the door refused to let them in. He came to us and even after discussing the situation with Pat, was not backing down on the fact they weren’t allowed in. Pat called the person that booked the job and simply said, “If they’re not good enough for this place, neither are we. We can break this stuff down easier than we can set it up.”

Needless to say, we finished the night out.

The guy that gave us all of the trouble at the door joined the crowd and decided he was going to lock-horns with Pat. I don’t know if this guy had a strong personality/ego that clashed with Pat’s, or whether or not he was just a pure, plain and simple idiot. My money’s on the latter.

This man stood in front of the stage and would belligerently tell us we didn’t do this right or that right. He eventually became more confrontational towards Pat. Pat didn’t seem too phased about it, but I was pissed. I wanted to put the back of my brand new Fender Precision bass up to the side of his head at full-swing. Pat turned and said, “Calm down Chazzly! I’ll have a talk with him on the break.” (Chazzly is the name Pat called me by)

By the time I sat my bass down for the break, Pat was already halfway across the dance floor making a bee-line for that a$$hole. Pat approached the man and firmly tapped him on the shoulder. It was too far away to hear what was going on.

The man stood up and they spoke for nearly a minute. The guy sat back down and Pat turned back toward us. He mingled with the folks until he finally made his way to our table. He sat down and jumped right into our conversation as if nothing ever happened.

I asked, “So? What did you say to that guy?”

“Oh that guy? –He’s alright,” Pat said with a smile.

That man never moved from his chair the rest of the time he was there. He didn’t even so much as turn around to look at us. He left with his tail between his legs long before our last set.

Pat was around 6’4”, 225 to 250lbs of pure muscle and guts. I once watched him carry a large calf in his arms, backwards, up hill, and over 300 yards to his barn in order the get the ailing mother cow into where he could tend to her. He didn’t even break a sweat.

Pat was a strong man, but his real strength was his family.

Pat and Sharlene had a daughter they named Judith. She was probably two years old by this time. Pat was working his excavating business and was busy drumming up work for his cat, taking care of his family, paying the bills, and having to understand the worry Sharlene had to have felt while he was out with us in the clubs every weekend. He was burning the candle at both ends and had to make a choice.

One night Pat picked me up and we headed for the Eagles lodge where we were playing; we played a great night of music and when the last call was called. Pat said, “I’m gonna go get our money, but I want to meet you guys here for a band meeting.”

What the hell is a ‘Band Meeting?’ We’re flying by the seat of our jeans here!

Pat came back to the table and divvied up the cash.

Pat sighed a deep sigh and said, “Guys, --you know I love what we’re doing; the music couldn’t be better. You guys are my friends, really close friends! And, I really hate to do this to you, but this is my last night. I’d like to tell you why, but I can’t. You’re my best friends and I’m sorry. It tears my heart out to leave you high and dry like this, but it’s either this or my family.”

Mike, Rick, and I were shocked. This was outta the blue. I knew him well, but I really never saw this coming. We scrambled to figure out how finish out our contract.

I helped Pat load his amp and stuff into the car, then pondered at the empty space he left on that stage and in our music.

On the way home, Pat opened up his heart to me, I knew then where he was coming from and I never second guessed him after that.

As with all relationships that are based in emotion, hard feelings find their way in. the band broke up before the contract was filled.

True friends always stay together and we all worked it out over time.

Mike moved on to bigger things in the music world, and Rick and I rejoined our old friends at the fishin’ hole.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Music Faded and the Dance Ended --- Part 4 (The Spirit of Song)

When Pat was pushin’ dirt with his dozer, he befriended a man named Beau V.

Beau had a backhoe business and he and Pat worked together on many building projects during the housing boom of the 70’s. They became good friends (I’d like to think he was his second best friend). It turned out that Beau was a musician, too. He had an old --old ‘Martin’ guitar and a dobro, and played them both very well.

I was a little jealous of Beau until the day Pat dragged me along to a backyard outing at Beau’s place. It was a nice place nestled in the woods on the other side of Philomath from us.

The guy that I eventually went to work for, framing houses, had built Beau’s house. It was big and beautiful with massive decks. In fact, I think my future boss was there that day. It was a new clique that I soon became a part of.

On their deck was a huge stainless steel vat chocked full of boiled shrimp, all the food and side dishes you could imagine. We ate, then ate some more, talked, joked, laughed, and then we finally brought out our instruments.

Being the young’un of the bunch, I felt a bit uncomfortable to say the least. It wasn’t until we started playing when I felt a little more at home.

There must have been twelve of us strummin’ along to Pat’s singing. There was a banjo player, fiddle player, mandolin picker, and Beau playing his dobro. It was Bluegrass! It was all new to me.

I learned what bluegrass music was all about. I loved it! It was based on fun, family, and tradition. What a day that was!

“Chicken in the Bread Pan Kickin’ out Dough…” –How cool is that!!!!

Beau dragged out his old Martin; and I swear –that small old-fashion-looking guitar put out more sound and prettier music than all of the rest of our guitars put together. I wish I knew the history of that ole box. It rang like a bell.

I was still very intimidated with all of these older folks, but I hung in there the best I could. Pat sensed my immature feelings, as well. He knew when it was time to go.

The party faded out and we ‘headed for the barn.’ For tthose in Miami Beach (Rush), that means we went home.

On the way home from the party, we got to giggling and laughing about this or that, and the day turned out to be great. As Pat would say, “it was one for the books.”

After that day I started to understand that all music had a ‘feel’ and a purpose to it. I broadened my horizons, so to speak, and opened my ears to other artists and the feeling of their music.

Mike G.:

I really hate to admit it, but I was a hippie wannabe back then.

There was a man by name of Mike G. (not to be confused with Mike our lead player) who was the first man I'd ever seen with hair over his collar. As a matter of fact, he looked like girl from behind. Damndest thing I ever saw!

Mike was a hard worker that worked for the V&S railroad, on the section crew (tamping ties and driving spikes with a sledge hammer). It was said that he could drive a spike with just one big WHACK! He was as skinny and boney as me, but nothing could put him down.

Mike G. loved his pot. He was a hippie! He used to ride the train up to his ‘garden’ during his harvest season. He would wait by the tracks, with a bag full of dope, for the return trip of the train and catch the caboose back to Hoskins where he lived. The old engineer Sam would slow the train to a stop so Mike could load his stash and get onboard. Nobody ever said a thing.

Mike played the guitar also and as with most hippies, he was into obscure music. He wasn’t so sick as to be into sitar and pan flute music, but he liked a lot of stuff that were never hits.

He had old albums by Graham Parsons and Willie Nelson before they became household names. He was also talented with the writing of his own music and lyrics.

Pat and Mike G. played a sit down job together at ‘The Coffee Shop’ in Corvallis one night, and when Mike started playing his song called ‘Shit out of Luck,’ the owner literally pulled the plug on them.

Mike G. and I would smoke a little weed and listen to various types of music on his high-end Marantz stereo system (back in the seventies that was a big deal). I really liked the lyrics of Willie Nelson’s work. I never cared much for his vocal styling, but some of his songs are immortal. Ray Price made famous a song written by Willie called ‘Night Life.’ I came to characterize that title with the particular sound that can also be found in a lot of Motown music, like Etta James’ ‘At Last.’ I loved the mood of that particular flavor of music. I call it ‘Night Life’ music.

I continued to explore this new world of emotion that touched me through the strings, the beat, and the vocals. I liked some of this, and some of that, and not so much of the others.

Bubble gum music was cheesy and disco was one step above that, in my opinion. Metal, well, let’s just not go there. These three styles are hardly worth mention, but music was music. I took it all in and listened.

There are classical instrumentals that can put a tear in your eye for no reason other then the love of God and the effort and love of the musicians playing it. Opera holds extreme emotion, too, and can make you cry no matter what language it’s sung in. I say that with the exception of the female vocalists. They grated my nerves more than to hear the voice of my second ex-wife ~shudders~.

Personally, I LOVE the heart-felt, love-based, feeling of yearning in the old country songs.

My interest in all the types of music was one thing, but the music Pat, Mike, Rick, and I were playing on stage together was another.

We read each others minds. I knew what they were going to do before they did it and they knew the same. I swear we each played to what we knew the others were going to do and we complimented every note. We were playing out of our hearts and not from a sheet. We played to and for the folks, and of course, ourselves. It was a high!

One night, we were playing a song. It could have been ‘Silver Wings’ or one of my other favorites; I don’t remember which. The dance floor was crowded and we were clicking right on time with each other with the music, the mind, and the soul.

As the song ended, a chill went through us. When the sustained notes from our guitars and Rick’s symbols faded to silence, Mike turned and said, “Whoa, did you feel that?”

Yeah, we all did!

It was as if the Holy Spirit himself passed through us, stood before us, and applauded, as if to say, “beautiful music my friends, you did well.”

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Music Faded and the Dance Ended --- Part 3 (Silver Wings)

The weekends turned into months, --then years. My learning escalated along with my confidence. I was in a whole new world that was as seductive as it could possibly be. Pat thrived on it too. I could tell by the way he moved up to the microphone and then poured his soul into the feel of the song, just after one of Mike’s mesmerizing lead breaks.

Pat played up his talent and sang straight from his big heart. Mike was great, also. Our band became more of a marriage of souls with the purpose of touching the hearts of the folks who came in, sat down, drank, danced, had a great time, and then became a part of us.

I was still a minor, but I learned to mingle with the crowd. I was young enough to not be spoiled by the pain and turmoil that comes with the years of adulthood. I communicated with them in a naïve kid-like way, but still was able to reach the love that was in their hearts. I loved them. I would give anything to step back in time, stand on stage and watch those folks two-step around the dance floor again, and dream on each other, --one more time!

As the boom in country music built during the seventies, we went from place to place. We would play the lodges, clubs, and the beer taverns. We kicked butt! Like all bands, we developed a following. I may not remember their names, but I remember their hearts.

We had other bands come in and check us out where ever it was we were playing (ya know, what’s our competition? And how do they sound?) And, when time allowed, we did the same. I remember a band that came into the Kings Valley Tavern to check us out. The bass player of this well-established band came up to me and told me what a SOLID bass payer I was; I swelled with pride. We became good friends after that.

As the weeks went by the places, that hired bands, sought to bring in the crowds. Money is money and capitalism is a great thing.

Sunday jam sessions became very popular. There was always a jam session somewhere every Sunday. It was a strange day to pour drinks and play music, but it as fun as could be.

Those jam sessions were great for us. We either got jobs from them or we just met other musicians. We got our name around and we got to know a lot of other players in the area. It was one hell of a hay-ride (to say the least).

Although, this new life for me was so cool, my teenage years suffered badly and my high school friends, pretty much, went their own way for the most part. My high school friend Rick, on the other hand, was a bit different. He started learning to play drums in school and loved music. He was a good friend (the first day we met we got into a fist fight while walking down the hall after Math class. Kids are stupid!) He eventually became our drummer and stayed a life-long friend.

It really would have been nice to go camping, fishing, hunting, or just bombing around with my buds, but I was playing, and that seemed to matter most to me. To this day, I’m not sure why, but I still wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

A brief but very important aside (Misty):

Ted’s folks took in Foster children and gave them a warm and loving country home for a time. Most of the time, they provided that home for teenaged girls. Ted’s place was a magnet for the boys in our community. I was no exception. During the week I was in high school, but on the weekends (during the day), Id either be at Pat’s place or Ted’s.

They took in a girl named Misty. Misty was a couple of years younger than me. She was a petite brunette with green eyes, pretty face, and a sweet voice. I was captivated by her from the get go. She became more than just puppy love to me. She was the real deal (or so I thought). There comes a time when a boy becomes a man; Misty changed my life forever.

The music took on a whole new life to me. I had a love in my life to center my emotions around. The songs had a truer meaning than ever before.

During this intense and naïve love affair, Misty got the chance to go spend a week with her brother who lived out of state. She caught a plane there and that was one of the most difficult weeks of my life, and then some. At the same time Pat was teaching me a new song (new to me, anyway) that was more complicated in the chord progression than what I’d been used to. The song is a Merle Haggard song called “Silver Wings.”

We played the song the following weekend and, that emotion, that song, and that particular moment in my life has stuck with me as one my fondest memories.

Silver Wings (by Merle Haggard):

Silver wings shinning in the sunlight,
roaring engines headed somewhere in flight.
Their taking you away, leaving me lonely,
silver wings slowly fading out of sight.
Don't leave me I cry, don't take that airplane ride.
But you locked me out of your mind. Left me
standing here behind.
Silver wings shining in the sunlight,
roaring engines headed somewhere in flight.
Their taking you away, leaving me lonely.
silver wings slowly fading out of sight.
Silver wings shining in the sunlight,
roaring engines headed somewhere in flight,
their taking you away. Leaving me lonely.
Silver wings slowly fading out of sight.
Slowly fading out of sight.

Misty came back but she wasn't the same person. I knew She was leaving my world as I felt my music world growing, at the same time. I had no choice but to pour my love into song, now that Misty was gone. And, I did it with a passion.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Music Faded and the Dance Ended --- Part 2 (The Band Came Alive)

Over the years I’ve heard many musicians and actors state they’ve done their best shows when they felt fear and nervousness going into the gig. Those emotions take you straight to the here-and-now of the moment. Your concentration level is high and you put your best effort into your performance. If I had the talent, at the time, I’d have been a star that first night playing bass, I was scared to death.

Although, I only had a week to practice on the bass, I did fairly well considering the fact that one year earlier; I’d never picked up an instrument in my life. Pat covered my back, though. He turned the bass level up on his guitar and filled in the parts where I went weak.

After Cousin Joe and Boots left the band and Roger and I replaced them, it became a whole new ballgame. The sound was totally different and took some getting used to.

Roger was a far better guitarist than Cousin Joe. Not only was he technically superior, he was humble, friendly, and had stage presence.

I was no Boots on the bass, but that first weekend went well, all in all. It was a whole new band with a new sound and the folks danced and really enjoyed it.

The following Monday I had to return the rented amplifier. It was a sad thing that my first real business transaction in my new adult-like life had to turn as sour as it did. I couldn’t have been more careful with that amp than if I had been holding a nest of hummingbird eggs.

The man did a quick inspection, went right to a very small tear in the vinyl on the back of this used amp, and then charged me five dollars for damages. I was mad! I knew I needed my own equipment, and fast.

Pat drove me into town to the music store where he usually did his business and introduced me to the owner, Ray.

Ray was your typical salesman. He was a middle-aged man with big white teeth and a Cheshire cat smile.

Pat explained our situation to him and Ray seemed to drop any age worries he may have had, and set out to sell me some stuff.

Ray had a used Fender MusicMaster bass on the rack and a brand new Fender Bassman 10 amplifier and that combo looked like the perfect setup for an amateur bass player in transition from a six-string guitar. Pat helped me negotiate terms of payment (there went his silver tongue of his again) and we walked out of Ray’s store that day with my new equipment.

I went into Music West every week after that and made the agreed payment until my debt was paid. It was done solely out of the money I made on weekends playing in the band, and I was very proud that I stood up to the plate and paid it off, on time, with my own money.

I spent a lot of time with Roger, at his place, learning songs he wanted to do. I learned some great instrumentals from him like ‘Night Train’, ‘Walk Don’t Run’, and “Chicken Pickin’”. We would play on into the night until his wife ran me out.

Roger’s wife, Penny, was a very troubled woman. She would show up every weekend, but she did it more to watch over Roger than to enjoy him. Your first, second, and third impression of her was: She was a B****. It became clear years later; she was just very mentally disturbed.

Roger had a friend and fellow lead guitarist named Mike who got along better than anyone else could with Penny. He tagged along on weekends and kept her company while Roger and we played. That arrangement went well for a few months until one night Roger informed us that he had a shift change at work and could no longer be a part of the band. He recommended Mike as his replacement. We hated to see him go.

Mike was into “The Beetles”, “The Ventures”, and other sixties and seventies music.

He showed up on his first night and played well. The only problem was, we were trying to hear pure country, and he was playing more of a sixties pop style. There was a twinge of concern in the private conversations that weekend, but by the next week; Mike had taken what we done together, and, in Pats words, “He broke it down to the nuts and bolts and put it all back together to fit.”

Mike’s lead breaks became a time for us to drift into his brilliance. Sometimes we’d struggle to get back into our own parts.

He became a fast and forever friend of mine. Mike is one of the nicest and most giving men you’d ever meet in you life.

I was learning the bass at what seemed more on an hourly basis rather then daily or weekly. The music became more and more alive to me and my ability and confidence grew. I continued to learn from Pat on the guitar (finger pickin’ and such) and sometimes shared it with Mike, and describe the way I was hearing a particular song. He always had an open mind and I felt like a peer more than just a snot-nosed kid learning to play the guitar and bass.

The time came when our stint at the Eagles was over. It had been more than six months of steady and evolving work. We needed a new job to take the band to, so Pat put his silver tongue to work.

The laws had just been changed to allow dancing in taverns, thus bringing about a boom in country music, in our neck of the woods anyway. Prior to that change, dancing was only allowed in certain lodges and night clubs. The work opportunities became plentiful.

Pat contacted the owner of a local tavern and assured him we could bring in a lot of customers. He told him we weren’t that expensive, and the beer and good times would flow. The owner agreed to give us a try and see where it went. We packed up our equipment, from the Eagles lodge, and moved on to new scenery.

Kings Valley Tavern:

Kings Valley Tavern was not a stand-alone building. It was the northern half of what was the local store and gas station.

It was a fairly large and old building that replaced the old store that burned down early last century. The floors throughout the building were just planks. If I remember right they were rough sawn 2 X 10’s. They would treat the floor with motor oil every now and again. The southern side of the building was the store side.

The store was very antique. Going there was like stepping back to the early years of the twentieth century. In my memory, I can still see the old wood-framed glass candy display case and the old antique cash register.

The bar was long, straight and extended more than half the length of the tavern. There were pock marks on the old wood floor from the years of the logger’s corked boots as they came in for a cold one after a hard days work. There was no stage, but there was sufficient room for a dance floor in the rear of the place.

I made a make-shift poster letting people know that music was coming to our wide-spot-in-the-road, and taped them to the windows of the store and tavern.

It was just a Saturday night deal and, when we showed up, we didn’t realize how much this place wasn’t ready for us. We had to beg and borrow extension cords just to turn on our amps. There was a dangling wire from the ceiling with a single light fixture with an incandescent light bulb hanging over us (which we unscrewed; we were looking for mood and affect). The people came in, danced, had a great time, the tavern made money and they were very happy with the first night. We assessed what we needed to do to make it into more of a ‘night life scene’.

That week we got busy. I found some low watt incandescent colored light bulbs that we could put in our only pseudo-stage’s light source (the dangling wire). Pat and I built some speaker enclosures for our new Bogen PA system, and Mike upgraded to a Fender Twin Reverb amp.

The word got around about our music and by that next Saturday, we were ready. We packed 'em in like sardines. It was wild.

There’s a huge difference between the clubs, lodges, and the beer taverns. The clubs and lodges were mundane and reserved, whereas the beer taverns were very lively. People could just cut loose and have fun. The downside of that was that the fun could turn to violence at the drop of a beer glass.

You never really worried about that sort of nonsense at a lodge because the people were restrained by the rules.

We were lucky. Kings Valley Tavern was fun, exciting, and, for the most part, people behaved themselves. We packed 'em in every Saturday night and they filled the dance floor. They loved us and we loved them. We shook that place so much that Ivan the bartender had to take a hammer, on the breaks, and pound the nails back into the floor.

One time Ivan brought me up a coffee cup full of beer and sat it on my amp; he was trying to be discrete. I drank it and later he brought up a pitcher and sat it there. I poured my beers and joined the party. We were way out in the sticks, and we never got caught.

Mike and I can tell you: of all the years we’ve worked together, the somewhat big names we backed up, the fancy places we played, and all the lighting and sound technology that we could ever hope for, Kings Valley Tavern holds the deepest place in our musician hearts. And always will!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Music Faded and the Dance Ended --- Part 1 (The Rudiments)

How can something so important to someone just seem to vanish from their conscience thought? --I’m talking about an actual gift given by God. Well,--He gave me --Love.

Don’t get me wrong, I have not lost love. I will always have love for my Lord, my wife, my kids, my dogs (same thing), family, friends, and mostly everything else. But, I seem to have blocked out the one thing that defined me as a person for most of my life. It was a passion that poured out of me during the early and most impressionable years of my life. God gave me the gift of music.

I know the love of music is a gift to all, but to have the music flow from your heart, through your soul, then into and out of your hands, straight to the hearts and souls of others, is a gift like no other. I am a musician. Well, I used to be.

I was 15 years old when it all came together. First, I had the unexpected pleasure of tagging along with my oldest brother Raymond and my older cousin Buck on a weekend out. We managed to come up with the supplies we needed for the weekend and a place to stay, thanks to my friend Kelly Plunkett, who we picked up hitchhiking that day.

Kelly’s dad owned the store, a house, and a cabin in Burnt Woods. Kelly’s dad let us have the cabin all to ourselves for the weekend. Wow! This was heart-pounding fun.

The cabin was very rustic. It had vaulted ceilings, a loft bedroom, living room, TV, kitchen, bathroom, but sadly, --no action. We got bored real quick and decided to go to Harlan –yeah, like there was any action in Harlan. Harlan is a very small community nestled deep in the coast range that’s very unassuming, but there is a campground there. Camping was more our style so that’s where we decided to go.

We pulled into the campground in Buck’s two-toned metal-flake green ‘56’ Chevy. The mag wheels glistened in the moonlight. The 8 track was blaring out the Manfred Mann song, “Quinn the Eskimo”. Yep –It was all cool --I was cool! --Here I am hanging out with Buck and Raymond on a party weekend. I finally made it; I'm one of the big boys now.

Once we settled down a little bit, we realized there were two local girls camping there, too. We invited them over, and I am forever grateful that they came. I fell in love for the first time in my life. I fell head over heels for the younger of the two sisters. Mickey was her nick-name. I got to experience the passion of a first kiss that night, and the awesomeness of ‘making out’. Yes Sir, I went from a boy to a young man that night.

(No, there was no sex).

I only bring this up because it was pivotal to all that followed.

Although I never saw her again, the time I spent with her was a major turning point in my life. She brought out the part within me that made me pine for the love and affection of a woman….

Enter country music:

My oldest brother Raymond was home on leave from the Army that summer. He had brought with him a cassette tape of Charley Pride (Best of Charley Pride, volume II) he bought at the PX. The album featured “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” which was on the top 40 list at the time, and was a great song, but there were others that had the raw emotion that I was feeling at the time; I couldn’t get enough. The rest of that summer was bitter-sweet and I fumbled my way through it best I could.

Some time later on, I rode my bicycle up to my friend Ted’s house and there, on the porch, sat a huge man with a well-groomed beard, playing a guitar and singing country western songs. This man was a top-notched guitar player and singer. He could flat-pick and finger-pick with the best of them. His vocals were exceptional. His voice was deep, rich, and resonated with total control. Most of all, he sang and played from his heart. He was in his mid-to-late twenties and I wholeheartedly believe, had he been in the right place at the right time, he would be a household name to every country music fan out there. His name was Patric Kasner. --I didn’t even make it to the front door; I just grabbed up a chair and sat and listened to him until he was finished.

Pat had just gotten married to one of Ted’s sisters and bought a small ranch right across the river.

Every weekend was family weekend at Ted’s and Pat would usually be there. I spent almost every one of those days up at Ted’s listening to and getting to know Pat.

Art is an expression of the soul and Pat was an artist. Having grown up with a poet father, an artist mother, and being an artist myself, I knew in my heart I found my new medium. I needed to learn to play the guitar.

I asked my mother for a guitar for Christmas that year and asked Pat if he’d teach me. I received the guitar I asked for, and Pat began teaching me around mid January the following year.

Me –n- Pat:

Pat was ten years my elder and I looked up to him in many ways. Not only was he an accomplished musician, there wasn’t a task that he wouldn’t take on, and do well with, whatever it was he tried. He used to refer to himself as a Jack of all Trades, Master of None. I never fully understood the true meaning of that cliché until recently.

When I first showed up at Pat’s place, he was outside working on his ranch. He said something like, “Charley! I’m not quite ready to sit down and play yet, but if you come over here and help me with this, we can get started on the lessons after.”

It was funny how that seemed to happen every time I went up there. But, I learned how to work, to love my work, and to pour my heart and soul into my work. Pat became my best friend and mentor. We did many things together.

Pat served our country in the U.S. Navy as a Sea Bee and was very experienced in operating heavy equipment. He bought a dozer and started an excavating business. He pushed around a lot of dirt and gravel for a living. The work was always there, but when it came to collecting the money owed him, the money didn't always come in. He finally sold out and went to work cat-logging for a local gyppo logging outfit. I became his chocker setter. I don’t remember what I was paid, but I loved that job!

While Pat was taking a turn of logs to the landing and I was presetting the chokers, we would both be composing limericks, trying to outdo each other in wit. I got a few good ones in, but he usually outwitted me. The days went by too fast. We sure got a lot of logs out though, and we had a lot of fun and laughs doing it.

Pat was very intense in his personality, in that, he was very confident in himself and would watch and learn very quickly. It never took him too long to get the picture. I remember a time when he picked me up one morning and took me to a neighbors place to help out with shearing their sheep. I got paid to stomp the wool while Pat helped the shearer tend to the shearing of the flock. Looking back, I know he was there to figure out how to do it himself. As stated earlier, Pat was a Jack of all Trades, Master of None (emphasis on the ‘Master of None”); it came time for Pat’s sheep to be sheared. Shearing sheep is a skill that takes some time to master, but this time it came down to just Pat and me.

I showed up early that morning and we went right to work putting the sheep in the barn. We corralled them in one area with another holding area on hand for after they were sheared. Then, there was a trough with medicated solution in it, on the floor, for them to walk through once their hooves were trimmed and delousing could occur while they were on their way out the barn door (multitasking). We were all set. Pat had all the necessary equipment to get the job done –equipment doesn’t make the man (to be touched on later in this narrative).

Pat fired up the shears and I grabbed a ram or a ewe and pitched it out of the corral gate to Pat. He took the knowledge that he received from the one day he had watched a professional shearer do his job and proceeded removing the wool from the sheep. Once completed, he chunked the critter into the holding area we had set up. One after another we sheared his sheep.

If you have ever been in a closed barn, on a warm day, in the middle of shoulder-to-shoulder, wooly, sheep, the stench of lanolin, the flies, the heat and the sweat, then you’d know that it is almost a relief to take a break, jump into the wool bag and stomp down the removed wool (pieces of flesh and all).

After all this work the sheep were finally sheared. We then set about the process of clipping the rot off of their hooves (which, by the way, smelled like decaying flesh). I held back the urge to gag because I didn’t want to appear to be a wuss in front of my hero. –He probably felt the same, with the exception; a hero is not supposed to be a wuss.

We drove the sheep through the trough, patted them with pesticide, and dabbed them with purple dye so we knew which ones were done, then sent them out of the barn and into the pasture to do what ‘field maggots’ do (eat, poop, and just be stupid).

When our work was done, Pat and I kicked back on his shaded porch, had cold drinks, played a little music, and bragged to his wife Charlene about what a good job we did.

We sat there and looked out over the pasture and watched those pathetic creatures that now looked like a bunch of Michelin Tire Men with flat tires, gaping bloody wounds, and purple splotches.

But, what the heck, the sheep survived the ordeal, Pat made a little money on the wool, and we had a kick-ass time. We did well. That’s what it was all about. And, I got my guitar lesson.

They say ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained”, Pat and I took on many like-projects and learned and gained our way through all of them without a single casualty.

Pat and I were inseparable; we formed an almost telepathic way of communication. The type of communication between us, and our band, brings me back to the main subject:

The Music:

From day one, Pat seemed to instinctively know the best teaching method. He put his own ego aside and brought himself down to my level and did not even so much as strum a chord while I was there. He drew a diagram of the fret board, described each string’s note, and showed me how to tune the guitar. It was like –come back when you got that down. I went home and studied with steeled determination. I wanted to know everything about what I had just learned by the following week.

I showed up at Pat’s a week later, and by God, I knew my way around the neck of that guitar; I just didn’t know how to make any music with it. Pat, seeing that I was more that just willing to try this, knew I could start learning chords.

He taught me C, F, and G to start with. I went home and practiced until my fingers couldn’t handle it any more. I learned the chords, but I couldn’t change between them very fast. The next week Pat taught me some transitional runs that would put my fingers in a better and easier position to change the chords on time. I figured it out after another week. Then, it was time to put what I had learned into a real song.

The next lesson involved timing, beat counts, chord patterns, and strumming techniques in 4/4 and 3/4 time. The first song I learned was the old Engelbert Humperdinck song: ‘Please Release Me’. It was played in three chords and was simple in the beat count and chord pattern. Before long I was playing it! Pat picked up his guitar, sang it, and played a little lead along with me.

The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. I played until my fingers literally bled. They were black-and-blue with cuts from the guitar strings. It hurt so bad I tried to put bandages on them, but I needed to feel what I was doing, so I took them off. My family got real tired of hearing me playing ‘Please Release me’ all day and all night.

In the middle of the night, one night, I was under the covers in my bed practicing. I was trying to play real quiet-like so as to not wake anyone up, when I heard my mother stomping across the floor toward my bedroom. I felt like I had just got caught under my covers with a flashlight and the lingerie section of the Montgomery Ward catalogue. I was busted! In a nurturing way, she calmly said, “PUT THE DAMN THING AWAY AND GO TO SLEEP!”

Pat and I went through his songbook and worked out many songs with similar cord patterns. He showed me other chords and how to transpose a song from one key to another. My determination never ceased and by June or July we had enough songs worked out to where we could go down to the local bar and play a few hours of music for tips-out-the-hat. I think we made 15 or 20 bucks each. That made me much more eager to learn.

I believe I had a hand in rekindling Pat’s love of performance in song, because, by that fall he put a band together and arranged a Friday and Saturday night gig at the Eagles lodge in Corvallis.

The job was a two month commitment and he managed to get his old drummer to play and found a lead guitarist and a bass player. Pat played rhythm guitar and sang lead vocals. He called the band: The New Country Ramblers (I know, but it was the early seventies and it was a take-off from his last band’s name).

The lead player’s name was Joe (we always referred to him as ‘Cousin Joe’) and the bass player went by the nickname ‘Boots’.

Cousin Joe was mediocre at best with both vocals and the ability to play the guitar, but he was a ‘country star’ in his own mind. He would show up with sunglasses on a winter night and he would be sporting his highly-glossed white patent leather shoes. He was low on talent and high on ego.

Boots, on the other hand, was real in his heart. He had a sense of humor that wouldn’t quit and could thump that bass real fine. He was an older man, --tall, thin, and had a huge handlebar mustache. He would lodge his cigarette in his ear while playing a song and dance around like an idiot. He was a clown and always had something funny to say. He became a good friend.

Pat arranged for me to come in and play with the band as a second rhythm guitarist. I was under-aged and not a paid member so I don’t know how he pulled that off, but knowing his personality and his silver tongue, it probably wasn’t too big a deal for him.

I had just entered a world that was still years out of my reach, but for some reason, I settled in just fine. I loved the music, the people, the dancing, the dim colored lights, the smoke, the clinking of the glasses, the din of the patron’s conversations, and of course: the short-skirted waitresses.

Pat kept me close enough to him on stage to help me learn the songs. He would turn toward me at times to let me see his fingers on the fret board to show me where the changes were going to be. During breaks he’d teach me the chords and patterns of the complicated songs we were going to do on the next set.

I learned many new chords and patterns and how to feel the changes coming. I learned how to play songs, on the fly, that I’d never ever heard before. The music started to come from a place within. It’s impossible to describe.

After the two months were over, the lodge wanted us to stay on longer. Cousin Joe and Boots had other commitments and couldn’t play. Pat wanted to keep the job so he went ahead and booked it. Pat contacted a local guitar player named Roger to play lead guitar, but still needed to find a bass player. He looked at me and said, “I think you’re ready to do this.”


Pat borrowed a bass from the neighbor and had me come up to his house to get started. He had already shown me the basic bass runs when he first taught me the chords on the guitar. He went over a few walking patterns with me and then turned me loose. I went home and practiced like I always did (sorry Mom).

I arranged the rental of an amp, and then, that following Friday night, at the age of sixteen, I became a paid and working bass player in a four-piece country-western band.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I Love Ghost Towns

When I was a kid I would lay if front of an old black-and-white television set. We had maybe two channels that would come in just barely enough to watch. When the wind blew, one of us would have to go outside and turn the antenna to get the signal back. The screen was always ‘snowy’ and would have ‘ghost’ images.

As I laid there at night, I would watch old westerns, one after another. I became fascinated with ghost towns. You could see the empty buildings from the unkempt dirt streets with the tumbleweeds rolling to the other side of town. There was something about the emptiness of a ‘once thriving community’ to the now, utter desolation. I always thought; someday I’ll go to a real ghost town!

Several years ago I stumbled across a book of Oregon ‘Ghost Towns’. I was surprised to find that the community I grew up in and the one that I live in now (4 miles away) were listed as ‘ghost towns’ (Hoskins & Kings Valley, Oregon). How can that be? I ain’t no ghost! But, then again, I used to watch The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, too; so who knows? The point is: There is history behind wherever it is you live.

I could do some research and find the history of Fort Hoskins (a Cavalry era military fort), and tell you what’s been written. But, from what I understand, it was established to maintain peace between the Siletz Indians and the settlers coming in from the Applegate Trail, settling land disputes, and securing the boundaries of the reservation. (Don’t quote me on that! I got a ‘D’ in History. It would have been an ‘F’ if my history teacher could have stood seeing me in his class for another semester). In class, I would scuff the floor with the heels of my shoes and stare out the window.

After the fort was disbanded, the Franz family bought the old fort property and built a sawmill in Hoskins. It then became a logging community.

As the years went by, the logging activity went further upstream on the Luckiamute River toward the Siletz Valley Basin.

In 1919 the Valley & Siletz Railroad was established for the transportation of lumber. It meandered its way from the town of Independence to Valsetz.

The town of Valsetz was a ‘company town’ owned by the local sawmill and named from the combination of the words: ‘Valley’ and ‘Siletz’. It was a thriving community for a number of years with a population reaching 1200 or so, at one point.

The V&S railroad was the most economic way to transport lumber (and passengers in the very early days) because Valsetz was located deep in the coastal range of Oregon.

The railroad company would fire up the engine around 4:00 AM in Independence (in the Willamette Valley) and then travel the 40, or so, miles to Valsetz. They would pass by Pedee first, then Kings Valley, then Hoskins (where the railroad shops were located), and switch out the boxcars at Valsetz. On the way back they would switch out cars at the Moser mill in Kings Valley and the mill in Pedee and then end the day back in Independence, connecting with the Southern Pacific Line.

One time, my friend Alan and I contacted the Superintendent of the V&S railroad to get permission to ride the caboose for the day. It was granted and we set out early one morning for our adventure. As a teenager it was easier to stay up until 3:00 AM then it was to get up at that time. We showed up at the railroad station (very tired) and boarded the caboose.

The interior of the caboose was rustic. It had a wood-planked floor with dingy wood-paneled walls and ceiling. There was wood a stove near the middle of the port side of the car and a neatly-stacked rick of firewood to the right of it. On top of the stove there was an antique wide-bottom coffee pot. At the leading end of the caboose sat a solid old wood table and two chairs where the brakemen’s old fashioned metal lunch boxes were placed. The door at the rear of the car led to a small porch where the brake wheel was. There were ladders in the middle of both sides of the caboose that led up to the observation turret where the brakemen would watch for wheel problems with the cars and other such problems. I don't remember a time when, at a crossing, the brakemen wouldn't be at their posts, watching diligently, and waving a 'neighborly wave' as the train passed by.

There were two seats on each side of the turret facing both directions, forward and aft. (The caboose would be set off on a side track and go back in the same orientation it went up in). There was a warm and welcoming feeling about the caboose and the men that worked for the railroad.

We helped get the woodstove fired up and settled in for our ride. Once the empty boxcars were hooked up, then the caboose, we were on our way to Valsetz.

The train chugged its way up the coast range toward the Siletz valley basin in the dark hours of the morning. If I remember right, this was when I fell in love with the sunrise.

As the darkness slowly turned to daylight, one of the brakemen snoozed in the seat of his side of the turret. I brought him a hot cup of coffee and he let me take the brakeman's post for a time. From the seat of the turret, I watched the cars twist and wind their way up Luckiamute River valley. I was a railroad brakeman for a day. I even waved at the folks stopped at the crossings.

I would hear the engineer sound the horns at the crossings, hear the clickety-clack clickety-clack sound of the steel wheels rolling over the rails, and feel the sway of the train as it made its way to our destination. Just as the brakeman, It all made my eyelids heavy, as well.

The train eventually slowed to a stop at the mill in Valsetz. Alan and I hopped off of the caboose and headed for the general store/post office on Main Street.

There, I bought a bottle of ‘Nesbitz Orange Soda’ for 10 cents (3 cent deposit) and a nickel candy bar. Alan got a candy bar and a bottle of Cream Soda (I could never figure out why anyone would ever drink that stuff). We sat on the old wood porch of the store, enjoying our treats, giggling like teenaged idiots, and waiting for the train crew to make their return trip.

After the railcars were switched, the crew set off on their way back to the valley. The engineer slowed the train so we could board the caboose and we were on our way back home.

As we neared Hoskins, all I could think of was jumping off the moving train and walking home. I was very bored by this time, but this was our day trip and I stuck to it all the way back to Independence. It was a long 12 and a half hour day.

There are many stories I could share about this railroad and the times I remember about it.

In the 1980’s, Boise Cascade (the owner of the Valsetz mill and town at the time) decided to close down.

Internet research will tell you that the mill was shut down due to the depletion of old-growth timber. Bull$h!t!!!....The mill in Valsetz was a veneer mill (the plywood walls in you home could have came from Valsetz). You could turn any straight log from whatever size down to a 4” peeler core without retooling (when pressure treated, they make great fence posts). I don’t know the particulars but, it’s my opinion that the very secluded nature of Valsetz and the cost of operating and maintaining the railroad was the main reason. The company couldn’t turn the profit they needed and that had to have been the basis for their decision.

Anyway, between the early to late eighties the mill, town, and railroad became all but just a memory. The mill was burned to the ground, the town razed, the railroad was pulled up, sold for scrap, and the railroad’s right-of-way property sold off.

Even the log pond where huge German Brown Trout were caught by local anglers was drained and now there is almost nothing left.

My friend Ted and I were in a conversation the other day about the old days, then got together and took a drive up the old railroad grade to what used to be the town of Valsetz. I had to print out maps and satellite images from Google Maps to get our bearings right. We found the foundation of an old storage building, asphalt chunks from the sawmill lot, and remnants of the old dam. That was about it! The trees growing up where Main Street used to be would be peeled at the mill today, if it was still there.

If you didn’t know where you were going or what you were looking for, you’d never know there was ever a town there at all.

Other than the Holy Spirit, a ghost to me today, is but a memory of a lost loved one and the dreams of an era past.

click on image to enlarge
V&S Railroad Caboose (painted with Boise Cascade green & white)