Sunday, May 30, 2010

Photo of the Week 5/30/10

Tricycle with window & milk cans, Council Floral Outdoor Market,
Saturay morning, May 28th

Please check out today's post at The Days of Wine & Roses; it's the next poem in the A Few More Fold-Out Postcard Sonnets series - oddly enough, it's dated 5/30, so it was written 14 years ago to the day.

There won't be any post Monday on Robert Frost's Banjo, so I'll see you folks on June 1st with a new L.E. Leone "Dating Poem" on Tuesday morning.

Happy Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sepia Saturday 5/29/10

Happy Sepia Saturday, & happy holiday weekend both to blog comrades in the States & those in the UK. I’ve finally gotten to scanning some photos from the long-promised photo album of my mother’s, & by way of introducing these photos, I’d like to introduce you all to my Aunt Vera, my mother’s sister, tho considerably older, as is clear in the lead-off pic. My mother was born in February 1916, so that picture most obviously date from the ‘teens. The woman to the right, Inez, is my grandmother. There’s no information on who the two standing woman might be, but I’d hazard a guess that the one to the right might be myGreat-Aunt Arlene, of whom I wrote last week.

Vera is a legend—in my mind, at least, if in no one else’s. As is the case with the almost equally legendary Great-Au
nt Arlene, I had very little personal contact with Vera—I recall her visiting us when I was young, & I most certainly recall the many postcards she sent to my sister & me, many of which I still have—there’s no doubt that my love of post cards came from my Aunt Vera’s correspondence.

My love of the westernn US may have come from her in a roundabout way, too—because those
postcards came from the west—from Oregon, where she lived & from other places in the west (& Mexico) where she traveled. But as I understand it, Vera was an inveterate traveler—a restless spirit. She also sailed the Atlantic on a ship to Africa—the only woman on the crew (she served as a cook). Although I’ve never heard it said in so many words, I do believe she flounted convention, & I strongly suspect that her move to the west was an escape from the more constrained (topographically & otherwise) New England landscape. I’ve often wondered since I first experienced the west & felt its draw over 20 years ago, how Vera felt when she first encountered those large spaces.

Which brings me to another way that my Aunt Vera plays a large role in my psych
ic life. When she was entering her declining years in the early 1970s, she asked my mother to move west to Florence, Oregon where Vera lived to take care of her. While the move would have been in Vera’s interest, it also would have had some advantages, I think, for our family; but it wasn’t to be, & Vera passed away in 1977. It’s interesting—sometimes the things that don’t happen have as much impact as the things that do. That’s been the case several times throughout my life.

I really like the photo entitled “Vera-‘me’” & dated April 5, 1921. As a young woman, there’s an adventurous & assured air about Vera, just as I would have imagined; the winter photo of her with her mother Inez & my mom, Elizabeth, as an infant also speaks to that, I think, with the jaunty feather in her cap.

Hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know my Aunt Vera—& please check out other Sepia Saturday participants here.

Friday, May 28, 2010

"Ghost" - the Music of Matt Stevens

Think back to the days of rock instrumentals: the late 50s to the mid 60s—the sounds of Link Wray, Dick Dale, the Ventures, Booker T & the MGs, the Surfaris. Now imagine that music brought forward some 50 years thru the filter of metal & punk & electronica (not to mention bebop & baroque). If a sound begins in your ear, you may begin to have an inkling of the music of Matt Stevens.

A music of sonic landscapes—like landscapes, comprised of layers & textures—like landscapes, a place where you can lose yourself or a place where you can discover the unexpected—landscapes that seem both unique & strangely familiar—like the music you hear in a dream, & wake trying to recall— music as the soundtrack for a movie that hasn’t been filmed, & yet you know the story.

The story of how I’ve come to write about Matt Stevens’ music is in itself unexpected; Mr Stevens, who lives in the UK, contacted me not so very long ago with a link to the music on his soon-to-be-released cd Ghost (release date is June 1st) & asked if I’d consider reviewing it here on Robert Frost’s Banjo. After giving the music a listen, I was delighted to oblige.

The music itself—beyond my somewhat lyrical descriptions in the first couple of paragraphs—is genre defying: one h
ears rock (in several of its incarnations) & jazz & funk & classical & Latin. Yet Stevens, whose guitar artistry is matched by his compositional skills, welds these disparate elements into a coherent whole. He lists diverse influences: John McLaughlin of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Robert Fripp (one commentator described his music as sounding like a jam session involving Fripp & Tom Verlaine—a very apt characterization!), & in Stevens’ own words “"Loads of stuff from metal to soundtracks to jazz and 60's pysche stuff. Carcass to Todd Rundgren to John Coltrane.”

How does Stevens make this music? He plays mostly acoustic guitar, but makes liberal (&
astute) use of looping technology & effects. In this way, he creates what has been called a “wall of sound”—& in the typical musical use of that term it’s appropriate. However, a “wall” is a flat surface that defines space in squares & rectangles; to my ear, Stevens’ music opens out, & thus I’d find “layered” a more apt description. Using this technology & his acoustic guitar, Stevens is credited with being able to reproduce the multi-layered sound of his studio work onstage. You can check out his website for future gigs here. According to the site, he’s scheduled to play at the Strongroom in London at 8:00 p.m. on July 14th 2010.

Ghost will be released on cd in an edition of 100; you can pre-order the cd here on Stevens site.
The tracks are also available as electronic downloads on a “pay what you want” basis. Mr Stevens has a formidable web presence: in addition to his website, he has a YouTube channel, blog & Facebook page; you may also purchase his music at the latter site.

To give you some idea of Stevens’ music, I’ve embedded his video for his song “Big Sky” from Ghost. I would note, however, that while the album is most certainly “of a piece,” no one track is going to tell the whole story—there’s also the Latin jazz of “Into the Sea,” the “deformed” classical riffs of “Glide,” & the very soundtrack-like “Lake Man” & “Ghost.” This is an album that rewards listening to as a whole.

If you’re interested in an original, intriguing album of guitar work by a musician whose playing & composition (which he figures to be 50% arranged & 50% improvisation) display a high degree of musicality, then Ghost will be for you. Please check it out!

Promo photos by
K Feazey

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"On Third Avenue"

This month’s featured poet is Mina Loy—a poet of incandescent talent whose works are not as well known as they should be. Ms Loy’s poetic star was in ascendency in the ‘teens & 1920s, but declined precipitously thereafter. Her works were out of print for many years.

Fortunately, that is no longer true. An excellent volume of her poems is available: The Lost Lunar Baedecker, edited by Roger L. Conover, & I’d give it the very highest recommendation. To my mind, Loy is the one “Modernist” who speaks most urgently to us, however many years removed from that movement's heyday.

“On Third Avenue” dates from 1942, & may have been intended as part of a book-length poetic sequence called “The Compensations of Poverty”—this is Conover’s conjecture. Such a book was never finally assembled, however. At the time, Loy was living in the Bowery in New York, & was an isolated figure whose life was intertwined with the down-&-out street people of that district. Her glamorous life among the literati was a memory, & she kept in contact with only a few of the artistic figures from her earlier life; Marcel Duchamp & Djuna Barnes were two artists with whom Loy maintained contact.

This is a harrowing & beautiful poem—hope you, too, find it moving.

On Third Avenue


“You should have disappeared years ago”—

so disappear
on Third Avenue
to share the heedless incognito

of shuffling shadow-bodies
animate with frustration

whose silence’ only potence is
preceding the eroded bronze contours
of their other aromas

through the monstrous air
of this red-lit thoroughfare.

Here and there
set afire
a feature
on their hueless overcast
of down-cast countenances.

For their ornateness
Time, the contortive tailor,
on and off,
clowned with sweat-sculptured cloth
to press
upon those irreparable dummies
an eerie undress
of mummies
half unwound.


Such are the compensations of poverty
to see—

Like an electric fungus
sprung from its own effulgence
of intercircled jewellery
reflected on the pavement

like a reliquary sedan-chair,
out of a legend, dumped there,

before a ten-cent Cinema,

a sugar-coated box-office
enjail a Goddess
aglitter, in her runt of a tower,
with ritual claustrophobia.

Such are the compensations of poverty
to see—

Transient in the dust,
the brilliancy
of a trolley
loaded with luminous busts;

lovely in anonymity
they vanish
with the mirage
of their passage.

Mina Loy

portrait of Loy is by Man Ray

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Union Pacific #1 (revised) & Union Pacific #2

OK, now there are two of them....

Union Pacific #1

landscape at 8,000 feet the rocks’ iron bones the
cranial frigid mesas the wind turbines off
kilter quixotic swoosh a
freight train skating across the tableland west of
Cheyenne be-
tween the sagebrush & the fog & cell towers a
tourist log cabin advertising wi fi espresso Native American
a yellow locomotive skating a
line of rust orange hoppers hauling coal &
graffiti west the
pump jacks’ atavistic nods grazing for natural gas
I will always be lonesome & the radio only broadcasts static
at this elevation
                                    Laramie in a blue fog light has dis-
appeared from the rearview how many miles back a copper
bust of Lincoln hulking over the highway I will always be
lonesome at this elevation
                                                        a freight train skating across the
great divide the cold grinding of couplers this morning at
19 degrees at the Rawlins’ siding I will always be
traveling thru time between the blue blue fog & the
sagebrush & a series of semi-trucks clattering &
whooshing over the great divide
                                                                    which is lone-
someness made stone & wind & a longing for a
home amongst the fog & freight trains

Union Pacific #2

shattered glass sunrise across the Snake River
scarlet broken an osprey’s nest on a phone pole an
aluminum boat a bridge on concrete piers an
                    the sky yellow the clouds gray the
birds black against the horizon in unison
telepathic      purposeful      rippling
shattered glass sunrise
onion skins scattered along the road south of
Annex, Oregon
                                  the Snake River’s
scarlet facets & heartbreak ripples
yellow sky underlined with birds
                                  a phone pole
an aluminum boat I am traveling in various
& contradictory directions west & east a-
cross a shattered river under
                    this shattered sky

Jack Hayes
© 2010

Adams County Makes the News - Council Leader #11

The Council Leader
Published Every Thursday by the Council Publishing Company
Fred Mullin, Editor

August 22, 1912

Frank Richardson returned yesterday from a wagon trip to Long Valley and says the road on the Mail Cabin hill in the Weiser canyon is almost impassable. We understand there is a contract overseer in that district. Why doesn’t he fix the road so a man can get over it with an ordinary load? We are informed that the bad road is caused by water which might easily be diverted into some other channel.

January 2, 1914

If you want to know if good roads are a good thing, ask a horse.

Good roads promote prosperity; bad roads provoke profanity.

If the roads around a town are bad, it might as well be on an island.

In considering roads, remember that there are few towns that look so good to the farmer
that he will kill a horse to get there.

Ill fares the town, to hastening ills a prey, when teams turn out to go some better way.

Was it in your district that the ignoramus pulled the sod into the middle of the road and
then quit?

Good roads will increase health, happiness, education, religion and morality.

Good roads will decrease profanity, discouragement, back taxes, sheriff sales, sour grapes
and grouches.

Good roads invoke a blessing upon any people who build them.

Good roads will keep people in the country, and will bring the city folks out for fresh air.

Good roads do not build themselves, they must have help. If all pull together, good roads
are easily attained.

April 25, 1912

A representative of the Leader had the pleasure of riding over some of Council valley’s fine (?) roads last Saturday and Sunday. Now is the time to work on the roads. Supposing some of you farmers hold a conference some day or evening and decide on some certain day for everybody to turn out with horses, mules, plows, scrapers, shovels, picks and your wives, too, if you can make them shovel gravel. If not, let them stay at home and make a cream cake for supper. They will do it, too, as a buggy ride over a good road will be worth a cream cake.

Laying all jokes aside, now, would you regret spending one day with a team on the road with your neighborhood? A dozen teams can put a very poor road in fine shape any day. Just try it and see if we are not right.

April 17, 1914

How does it sound to say that we have a platted town site within ten miles of the county seat of Adams county, where three other ranchers are shut off from the outside world for eight months of the year just for the want of about two paltry miles of wagon road? The town referred to is Starkey Hot Springs, the only resort in this county, and yet the county commissioners refuse to build this short piece of road. Is it any wonder the state is adopting and encouraging a system for building good roads? When a board of county commissioners holds people to the primitive mode of traveling, by pack mule, we deem it time the state was taking a hand to further the adoption of progressive road building systems.

Yours for progress,
Ivan M. Durrell [ed. note: Durrell was the previous Leader editor]

March 12, 1915

Attorney L.L. Burtenshaw and Forest Ranger Thos. Evans have started a movement to improve parts and build other parts of what is known as the Mill Creek road or Long Valley cut-off or East Fork Road. This is the only public road in this part of the country that leads directly to the heart of the government timber on the east mountains, and would give a short outlet for our fruit into Long Valley. These two items are of inestimable value to both ranchers and town people. The town people can get all the dead stuff they want for firewood and the ranchers can get the same, in addition to a certain amount of green timber.

The road will be a little expensive building, but the promoters are assured that the government will lend a liberal hand in the project and they feel sure that when the county commissioners are shown the advantages and necessity of this road, that body will make a reasonable appropriation. Then, besides these aids, private subscriptions will be necessary, either in cash or labor.

compiled by Eberle Umbach

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"News of Your Death Comes Like Rain"

[Hope you enjoy this very powerful poem by B.N.]

News of Your Death Comes Like Rain

Iris 1960-1989

I don't know why it is a rainy day and we are just eight years old
At Catskill game farm, we clutching our lunches in wet brown
Paper bags-- the odor of disappointment and damp hay.
The reluctant animals peered out from the drizzle except
For a mangy North American wolf too sick to move away
From his big red plastic water bowl and the whole class
Trying to cram in under one awing and two picnic tables.
And if the rain could have washed us clean it would have that day.

That was the year Mrs. Leoni, the special Ed teacher died
Of a stroke on the floor of her classroom, and all those
Children drifted out of the room and down the halls they were found
Wandering, clutching red trucks, dolls and dustpans—
Emissaries of misfortune. And everyone horrified as they realized
The children had to step over the body to get out the door.
Before that we used to walk Howie with his
"Lost In Space" lunch box passed his own house as a joke

But Howie too stepped over the dead, and that spring his
Mother also died after the Bar Mitzvah nobody went to
He was sent away to an institution named for the trees,
Or some other bit of nature that carries an inkling toward
I heard that after a few years powders, liquids and needles blossomed
In our blood stream. One by one we have each been greeted and
Bid farewell, red paper Chinese lanterns set for a celebration
Extravagant hearts strung up in a criminal dark.

In the prison hospital grace is small and metal gated.
They allow you to drink from a straw. But you are
Handcuffed and strapped down and every time they change
The I.V. they call for extra guards. One drop of your
Blood could infect one hundred hearts.
On the phone your sister told me that you died
Tuesday morning on a cot welded to a chain link cage
Unaware of forgotten animals and morning rain.

© to the author 1989-2010

Monday, May 24, 2010

Stay Tuned for Homegrown Radio

Homegrown radio - real music by real musicians - a new series on Robert Frost's Banjo starting weekly on Friday, June 4th, & continuing until....

Interested? I sure am. Here's the deal: each Friday from June on, there will be a post showcasing a home recorded song from one of our many musician friends. I want to feature one musician per month, & in June that musician will be none other than Earl Butter of the Buckets. If you've been a long-time reader, you may recall Mr Butter's interview during the Musical Questions series. If not, you can get acquainted with Earl right here.

I also want to thank Scott Houston of the Mighty Lynch Pins, who will be featured himself within the next few months, since his blog Overjoyous gave me the idea. Scott's in the midst of posting a song a day throughout the month of May on this blog, & they're all home recordings. I really recommend taking some time to check out Overjoyous. You also can check out Scott's own Musical Questions interview on Robert Frost's Banjo right here.

Finally, there are no rules for the Homegrown Radio series except that the music mustn't have been recorded in a professional studio. It may have been recorded on a cassette tape in a boombox or on a sophisticated home computer system, or anything in between, & it can be solo or ensemble work.

I know there are a few blog friends who make music & this series won't be limited simply to "3-D" friends (as the blog term goes); if anyone is interested, please just drop me a line. I should say that the slots are currently filled thru September!

Stay tuned for Homegrown Radio with Earl Butter, Friday June 4th.

“Green River Blues”

Hi everybody—time for another installment of Monday Morning Blues, & today’s song is a favorite of mine, “Green River Blues” by the great Charlie Patton. As per usual, my version differs somewhat from the original—I try to keep the spirit of the original, but otherwise, I do stray a bit afield.

Patton was one of the first generation of recorded Delta blues players; he was born somewhere between 1889 & 1894, & spent much of his youth around the Dockery Plantation in Sunflower County, Mississippi. A number of other well-known blues players were associated with the Dockery Plantation, among them Son House, Willie Brown, Robert Johnson & Howling Wolf. In fact, there were close connections between these musicians—Patton performed & recorded with Son House & Willie Brown, & Robert Johnson is known to have performed with the latter two musicians as well. In addition, Howling Wolf looked up to both Patton & Son House as mentors.

Patton was a popular musician & recorded over 50 sides at four different recording sessions. Tho he is not as well-known to the general public as Robert Johnson, his songs are standards of the Delta blues. “Green River Blues” is probably quite an old song—most of its lyrics follow the older pattern of repeating the same line with no variation, as opposed to the later pattern in which a line is repeated & then answered.

& of course, as a guy who always likes a good train reference in a song, “Green River Blues” is noteworthy for mentioning the intersection of the Southern & Yazoo railroads in Moorhead, Mississippi, a location that has its own historical plaque. The photo leading off the the post shows the intersection.

Hope you enjoy the song!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Union Pacific #1

Sometimes, friends, poetry happens. I've been thinking about the name Union Pacific in poetic terms ever since my March road trip. Somehow, in a way I can't articulate, I have blog comrades Reya & Dave King & Delwyn to thank for this poem happening when it did, as I found something clicking after reading their posts today at According to the Cosmology of Reya, Pics & Poems & a hazy moon. Odd, since none of these posts really had to do with the poem's theme(s) - or did they?

If this is #1, will there be more? That remains to be seen - I never make poetic predictions. But I hope you enjoy this one.

Union Pacific #1

landscape at 8,000 feet the rocks’ iron bones the
cranial frigid mesas the wind turbines off kilter swoosh
a freight train skating over the tableland west of Cheyenne be-
tween the sagebrush & the fog & cell towers a
tourist log cabin advertising wi fi espresso Native American
gifts a toy train skating across the styrofoam table a yellow
locomotive a line of rust orange hoppers hauling coal &
graffiti west the pump jacks’ nodding grazing for natural gas
I will always be lonesome & the radio only speaks static
at this elevation
                                   Laramie in a blue fog light has dis-
appeared from the rearview how many miles back a copper
bust of Lincoln hulking over the highway I will always be
lonesome at this elevation a freight train skating across the
great divide the cold grinding of couplers this morning at
19 degrees at the Rawlins’ siding I will always be
traveling thru time between the blue blue fog & the
sagebrush & a series of semi-trucks clattering &
whooshing over the great divide
                                                              which is lone-
someness made stone & wind & a longing for a
home amongst the fog & freight trains

Jack Hayes
© 2010

Photo of the Week 5/23/10

Evening Grosbeak (foreground), two Blackheaded Grosbeaks (background) &
a Pine Siskin (to the left)

Friday afternoon, May 21st

Please check out today's post at The Days of Wine & Roses; it's the next poem in the A Few More Fold-Out Postcard Sonnets series.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sepia Saturday 5/22/10

It’s Sepia Saturday again here at Robert Frost’s Banjo after a two week layoff necessitated by whirlwind trips out to the Portland, Oregon area. & indeed, I should probably make it clear that this is a Sepia Saturday post, since the image you’re seeing isn’t sepia & isn’t even a photograph. But as I’m gearing up to start posting photos from my mother’s old family album, I thought it would be interesting to look at this watercolor painted by my great-aunt Arlene Paul—the painting shows my grandmother, Inez Atkinson & Arlene’s husband, Merle.

My grandmother used to go to visit Arlene & Merle at their home on Cape Cod in the summer, & some of my earliest memories are of their house & the nearby dunes. Arlene was a gifted musician—she played flute, violin & a number of other instruments, which she collected. Merle was a doctor—he told about the first baby he delivered on an island off the Cape; he was paid with a chicken!

Merle & Arlene both were kindly souls in my memory. Their home was the first place I encountered real butter (I grew up in a margerine household) & steamed clams. As a very young child, I didn’t have a taste for either—something that has changed with the years! I also remember Aunt Arlene playing her flute, & I recall seeing the instruments hanging on the walls.

My grandmother, Inez, seemed to love her trips down there. This painting was made in August 1966. My grandmother had less than a year to live at that point. It’s odd—the impressionistic figures are really appropriate, as both my grandmother & great-uncle Merle are vague in my own memory, tho I know both of them, as well as the artist Arlene, made deep impressions upon me.

Hope you enjoy the image, & be sure to check out other Sepia Saturday participants!

Friday, May 21, 2010


Happy Friday! I thought I’d spin a little tune for you by a band I really like—Oranj Symphonette. The core of Oranj Symphonette was Matt Brubeck (cello-bass—yes, that Brubeck family), Joe Gore (guitar), Ralph Carney (lots of horns & winds) & Scott Amendola (drums); the band formed when Brubeck, Gore & Carney met to work on Tom Waits’ soundtrack for Night on Earth, & they recorded two excellent albums: The Oranj Album & The Oranj Symphonette Plays Mancini. Both are still available, tho out of regular distribution. My recommendation: get them while you can! The Oranj Symphonette created some amazing takes on Mancini & other 60s tunes.

& for now, enjoy this gorgeous take on Mancini’s tune “Lujon.” “Lujon” was composed for the 1950s TV series Mr Lucky, tho it later appeared in Hatari! &, more recently, in The Big Lebowski. Have a great Friday, all!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Open Range!

It’s been a long time—last August, actually—since I last recounted some tales of country life here in the Idaho hinterlands; I was aimlessly looking thru old scans & saw the pic used in this post & I said to myself, “Self, it’s time you wrote about your open range experiences.”

These days, "free range" is a term in common parlance. Many folks are buying free range meats—& a good thing, I say. But “open range” has a somewhat different, tho related meaning. When I first started visiting Idaho back in 1997, I was struck by all the signs saying “Watch for Stock”—what was this “stock” we were supposed to be watching for? Eberle informed me that “stock” equals “livestock,” & that many parts of Idaho are legally “open range areas.” Wikipedia offers a pithy quote about this:
In open range, it becomes the responsibility of the land owner to keep unwanted livestock off their land and the livestock owner is not liable for any damage caused by the livestock.

That in a nutshell is the Idaho law, tho questions of liability aren’t as clearcut as this might suggest. For instance, if you plow into an angus “beef” (in local parlance) on U.S. Highway 95, you likely won’t be found liable for the cost of the animal—or more accurately, your heirs wouldn’t be liable for the beef, because odds are both you & the beef will have gone where the good folks & good beeves go. To quote poet John Berryman, “this did actual happen” (almost) to Eberle & me; we came around a curve on Highway 95 to see two angus beef cattle standing placidly in the midst of our lane. Obviously, I wasn’t going too fast, or I wouldn’t be here to tell you about it. We swerved & the cattle stood by unfazed. But my favorite free range story goes as follows.

Eberle & I have never finished fencing the entire perimeter of our property—there are a couple of lawns on the dirt road next to our house that are wide open, & as such, they would constitute “open range” both legally & literally (when the cattle drives wend past our place). It was a few years back now, when we had four llamas & an alpaca. It was the fall of the year &, under a very large silver tarp that neither of us could ever quite master, we had our winter’s supply of grass hay stashed away for our Andean beasties.

Someone—probably Eberle—noticed that the tarp was winding up more askew than usual in the mornings & it quickly became clear that there was some form of persuasion involved. In fact, some beef cattle from down the road had found a bad spot in their pasture fence & had sauntered down Indian Valley Road in the middle of the autumn night to have a midnight snack at our place. The next night Eberle & I decided we would do something about this—not sure what, but something!

I don’t recall who woke up at 3:00 in the morning in our old bedroom convinced that our bovine friends had again come calling for a late night snack—or very early breakfast—but I sprang into action. I became the Subaru cowboy.

Yes, I pulled our Legacy down the driveway & somehow managed to use it to “drive” the cattle home—not that they were sitting in the backseat, mind you, but that the took off at a nice bovine lope down the paved road when they saw the infernal machine & its headlights creeping down the driveway. Once they were back in their pasture (admittedly, with a total dysfunctional fence) I turned to the other great cowboy occupation: fence-building. Now, you might ask—how would I build a fence at 3:00 a.m. on a chilly October night. I had my plan!

At the time we had two pick-up trucks—a 1990s Dodge Ram & a 1980s Chevy. I parked the Subaru in its usual spot & back the Dodge Ram down onto the lawn to the east of the hay; then I backed the Chevy down to the west, & finally “parallel parked” the Subaru in the gap—et voilà—I had erected a massive metal fence that probably was of only limited utility, but made me feel a whole sight better about the situation.

The upshot? The rancher fixed his fence & I disassembled mine the next day. More joys of country living (on the open range).

Pic shows cattle grazing on a range allotment in the Payette National Forest, summer 1997

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Adams County Makes the News - Council Leader #10

The Council Leader
Published Every Thursday by the Council Publishing Company
Fred Mullin, Editor

March 7, 1912
To Our Patrons and Others:

The Leader has secured the services of Fred Mullin, formerly of the Long Valley Advocate, and expects with the added assistance to make a strong effort toward giving our readers more news and getting the paper out on time. We do not expect to revolutionize the country in the first week, but will ever be found working for the up-building of Council, Council Valley and the whole of Adams County. In doing this, we must have the moral and financial support of the people. Mr. Mullin will do considerable of the outside work and will deem it a favor if you will give him any news items you may have. It does not matter whether you are actually acquainted with him or not, he is easily approached and will be glad to make your acquaintance. Mr. Mullin is authorized to solicit subscriptions and advertising, and accept and receipt for money in the name of the office. You’ll find him pulling for what’s best.

March 14, 1912

Nothing is so inspiring to the public in general as the music of a good band. We are informed that Council has had a good band and we see no reason why it cannot do so again. The principal reason for disbanding, so far as we can learn, was lack of finances. That is the usual cause of failure. We believe, however, that with the liberal support of the business men, and by the band boys giving entertainment of various kinds, by having free stand concessions on big days and by playing for political and other meetings, the band could be maintained very nicely.

March 28, 1912

The Council Leader
Council Gents: Please credit enclosed $1.50 to my subscription account. I note with pleasure the push and energy which seem to prevail in Council Valley, also the improvement in your paper. You will see by this letterhead that we are “boosting” Council, if it is at long range. I visited Council last August and was very much impressed with the natural advantages of your beautiful valley, especially apple culture. I hope to be able to visit you again in the near future, as I now have a financial interest there.

Very truly yours,
H. U. Meyers, Treasurer, Council Valley Orchards Association of DeKalb, Illinois

October 23, 1912

Simultaneously last week, the New Meadows Tribune and the Cambridge News put forth arguments to the effect that this county should be larger so as to place New Meadows in the center of the county. In planning to make it larger, they have nicely figured on taking a slice of Long Valley in Boise county and adding it to this county. That sounds all right, but it won’t work.
In the first place, the tendency nowadays is not to make counties larger, but on the other hand to chop them up smaller.

In the second place, it would be hard to combine a dry county with a wet county. We are positive that the upper end of Long Valley would fight to the death against going dry and we feel reasonably sure that this county would strenuously object to going wet.

Thirdly, the whole of Long Valley would bitterly fight the annexation of any part of their domain. New Meadows is over a thousand feet lower than Long Valley. Why should the people be forever cumbered with this mountain drive to the county seat when they will have a railroad of their own next summer?

Furthermore, the plans are all cut and dried and laid away (and there is ample backing behind them) to make a new county of Long Valley this coming winter.

In the Cambridge News, we find this: “Remembering that Indian Valley and Mesa precincts in Adams County, and Hog Creek, Mickey gulch, Highland and upper Salubria in Washington County will support twenty times the present population, we think that every man and woman should do all in their power to further the building of the proposed railway. And the next thing that you may do in this regard, if you live in Adams County, is to vote for New Meadows for the county seat, and thus show our New Meadows friends that we are willing to meet them halfway in the development of Adams County. If anyone feels that he is selling his vote for the promise of a railway, we will say that he is taking a wrong stand.”

No, that wouldn’t be bribery, but what would you call it?

October 23, 1912

Last week, R.S. Wilkie in his frenzy grasped at the last straw in his waning boost of Fruitvale for the county seat and tried to get the court to give his town an advantage over the other candidates by having the names of Council, New Meadows, and Meadows stricken from the ballot, leaving only the name of Fruitvale thereon. The case came up for hearing in the courtroom here Monday night before Judge Bryan. The plaintiff was represented by Frank Harris of Weiser, while L.L. Burtenshaw ably represented the defense.

Now what do you think of this emblem of purity and fairness, this guardian against trickery, humiliating his honor in attempting to gain a mean advantage over his competitors by what he thought a technical loop-hole to draw another breath through. The courtroom was filled to hear the argument, a large number coming down from Meadows and New Meadows on a special train.

October 23, 1912
Editor of the Leader:

Instead of running the P. & I. N. railroad into the town of Meadows (which was the logical thing to do), its builders purchased a tract of land about two miles away and ran the road into it, presumably for the purpose of getting wealth through the sale of lots. Now they insist that the county seat must be taken from the center of the county, the center of the wealth of the county, and from the northern edge of the most rapidly developing part of the county, and moved thirty miles farther north, into that part which contains less than one-fifth of the population of the county, for the simple purpose of booming the New Meadows town site. Mr. Editor, I do not live in any of the towns, but I am a taxpayer and one who believes in justice, economy, and equal rights to all in the management of the state.

There are those who fought against the creation of Adams County, and being poor losers they have been damning Council ever since and have sworn to down Council just to get even with the few who were responsible for their defeat.

The writer had nothing to do with the creation of the county, and was opposed to it, but he tries to be a good loser. Well he knows that an act of spite is the source only of evil.

A Quiet Observer.

compiled by Eberle Umbach

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"Dating Poems" (installment #3)

[L.E. Leone's Dating Poems sequence continues!]


Something tells me you
are full of yourself, something
else: now who the hell else
would he be full of?

Planetarium eyes, I want you, want
to watch, gaze, listen, I’m afraid
They say that, musically, you sink
every ship you step into
I say, hey, let’s build one
out of banjos and milk cartons!

You say you don’t dream

No problem! I dream
for both of us, jangle plink
plink toc toc


I could take it as a compliment I
suppose that men would have heart
attacks and car accidents on their way
to see me. Or:

I could date younger men.
Without drinking problems.

No, I don’t need a note
from your cardiologist, I believe
you. Belief, big man, is not
the problem.

L.E. Leone
© 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

“Plum Blossom Serenade”

It’s a Musical Monday again here on Robert Frost’s Banjo, so get yourself a nice hot morning beverage & kick back! Today’s tune dates back a few years, & to a much different musical incarnation for Eberle & myself—this was recorded when we were performing as Five & Dime Jazz—a loosely conceived duet that could go from playing “Stars Fell on Alabama” on melodica & tenor guitar to a middle eastern hoedown on bowed psaltery & 6-string bouzouki. It should be added that we didn’t make such transitions within any given show—maybe we should have!

“Plum Blossom Serenade” is a song we wrote in 2006, & I’m pretty sure it was about this time of year. I came up with the chord progression & the guitar part, & Eberle came up with her melodica part to go on top—it may be an unusual way to write songs, but it’s the way we always did when we collaborated. This particular recording of the song—made back in our minidisk days—was used in the soundtrack for a play called Rootabaga Country, based on Carl Sandburg’s excellent books, Rootabaga Stories. If you’ve never read them, I recommend them very highly!

Hope you enjoy the music.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Photo of the Week 5/16/10

Ducks on the Snake River along State Route 201, Malheur County, Oregon,
Saturday evening, May 15th

Please check out today's post at The Days of Wine & Roses; it's the second poem in the A Few More Fold-Out Postcard Sonnets series.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

If it's Saturday....

Happy Saturday, everyone. I’ve had to pass on Sepia Saturday again this week, as I’ll be spending the day on the road between Idaho & western Oregon! Next week should see a return to normalcy on Robert Frost’s Banjo—or whatever passes for it around here. In the meantime—enjoy your weekend!

There may be a photo of the week here tomorrow; there will definitely be a post on The Days & Wine & Roses blog on Sunday.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Leave Your Sleep"

One of the best parts of being a teacher is what you yourself learn—a truism, perhaps, but valid in my experience. Because without what I’ve learned from one of my students, this post would not have been written.

My student’s name is Heather, & she’s a Natalie Merchant fan. I was a young fellow in the 1980s, so I knew of Merchant, but had at most a passing acquaintance with her music. Then, as part of Heather’s lessons, I began arranging songs like “Motherland,” “Life is Sweet,” “San Andreas Fault,” “When They Ring the Golden Bells”—& I was hooked. For my money, Natalie Merchant is an extraordinarily talented songwriter, & a performer & singer who also should be discussed in the most superlative terms. Her voice is not only superb in terms of range & timbre, but in her ability to express emotion, which she has to a rare degree. Her songwriting displays depth & a complex musicality that doesn’t stand in the way of immediacy.

So, when Ms Merchant released her first cd after a 7-year hiatus—time off to raise her daughter, which all in all seems a pretty sane act for someone in the entertainment biz—I was curious to hear what she might be doing. When I learned from Heather & from co-RFBanjo-conspirator Audrey Bilger that the 2-cd set would be 19th & 20th century poems Merchant had set to music, I decided I’d not only buy the cd but would review it in this space. After all, I’d had a running joke with myself for the first several months of blogging here that I’d write about the connection between music & poetry, & so, I thought, here’s my chance.

Leave Your Sleep (Nonesuch) has the appearance of a labor of love, & in fact the project began as Merchant introduced her daughter to poetry. Merchant writes in the liner notes, “I tried to show her that speech could be the most delightful toy in her possession & that her mother tongue is rich with musical rhythms & rhymes.” Describing speech as the “most delightful toy” is a wonderful starting point for defining poetry, because even in the most serious poems, there must be some sense of play for the words to rise above the everyday.

Because the project had its genesis as a way of Merchant bringing poetry to her daughter, & by extension, to other children, it relies heavily on children’s poems. This is far from a drawback. For one thing, the best children’s poems are simply very good poems; an adult reader can certainly appreciate Edward Lear & Ogden Nash & Mother Goose, or should be able to, as the skilled poets they were. For another, Merchant’s settings & arrangements are transformative—why, for instance, does it make so much sense to hear Edward Lear’s “Calico Pie” sung as a hoedown? Believe me, once you’ve heard it, it’s hard to imagine a different setting.

However, as Merchant explains in a PBS interview (which you can watch here on YouTube], the project grew beyond its original scope—she says, that “to really convey childhood thru these poems, & all aspects of childhood, we had to address the loss of innocence.”

This theme raises what would have been a worthwhile & enjoyable project in any event to another level. To my mind, the album really peaks with the art song settings of “Nursery Rhyme of Innocence & Experience” by British poet Charles Causley, Hopkins’ “Spring & Fall: to a Young Child” & amazingly enough, a heartbreakingly beautiful setting of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Land of Nod.” The Causley poem, which leads off cd 1 with a timeless ballad about a child’s encounter with war, sets the tone—while we can be amused by a number of catchy tunes, these songs & others like them give the project a real depth. By the way, please stop by Just a Song for my review of “Nursery Rhyme of Innocence & Experience” posted on Friday morning!

Leave Your Sleep is a smorgasbord, both musically & thematically. In musical terms, we can go from the art song orchestration of “Spring & Fall”to the hook-filled reggae of “Topsyturvy World”; from the old-time country of “The Adventures of Isabel” to the almost Beatlesque pop of “It Makes a Change”—I think the latter is one of the album’s great successes in terms of the pop songs, as the arrangement dovetails so nicely with the surreal nonsense of Mervyn Peake’s poem.

Of course, as a smorgasbord, the listener isn’t likely to appreciate all dishes equally. Despite some interesting authentic Chinese instrumentation, I don’t get much from “The King of China’s Daughter,” & I can’t see myself listening repeatedly to the baroque novelty, “The Sleeping Giant” (tho again, the instrumentation is cool—viola da gamba!) But the album would be diminished considerably if it erred on the side of too much seriousness—after all, Merchant points out in the PBS interview that her own perception of poetry’s sententiousness had kept her away from it until she was in middle age—in many ways, this album seems about Ms Merchant discovering poetry itself thru her daughter.

Merchant composed all the music & did much of the arranging, but she also enlisted the help of Wynton Marsalis, Lúnasa, the Klezmatics (love “The Dancing Bear” which they appear on!), Hazmat Modine, The Fairfield Four, Medeski Martin & Wood & the Ditty Bops, as well as arrangers Michael Leonhart & Sean O’Loughlin.

There are a fair number of cuts from this album on YouTube—I’d thought about including a video for “Spring & Fall: to a young child,” but there were problems with those videos—so I’m sticking with Merchant’s great setting of the Mother Goose Rhyme, "The Man in the Wilderness." If I had to pick another? Perhaps her setting of e.e. cummings “maggie and milly and molly and may,” which interested parties can listen to here.

I’m winding up the post & I still really haven’t written about the connection between poetry & music, have I? My suggestion—get yourself a copy of Leave Your Sleep & learn the connection firsthand!

“Hang On Little Tomato”

Happy Thursday, all!—& here's hoping it is a happy Thursday in your world. If not, perhaps this quick post may help—because we all sometimes need someone to tell us to “hold on, hold on thru the night.”

& thanks to the folks who do indeed let us know that when it's what we need to know.

& thanks to the wildly eclectic Pink Martini for the tune.

But be sure to check back tomorrow for my review of Natalie Merchant’s new 2-cd poetry & music release, Leave Your Sleep.

Until, then—“hang on, little tomato!”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Adams County Makes the News - Council Leader #9

The Council Leader
Published every Thursday by the Council Publishing Company

James A. Stinson, Editor, Ivan M. Durrell, Business Manager


J.A. Carr reports that his new bungalow, which is being built on his ranch east of town, is nearly completed.

W. E. Freehafer stepped on a rusty nail the other day and is confined to the house with the injured foot.

For pasture on Haines place at Vista, see Sam Ashley.

Hot drinks served at Billie Brown’s.

Remember that Mrs. Bert Kilkeny makes the finest bread, cakes, pies, etc. you ever ate. Also sells fresh candies and cigars.

Cranberries and blizzard lanterns at Rainwater’s Grocery.

I am prepared to serve you with all kinds of tonsorial work. Frank Weaver.

Don’t waste your feed; get it chopped at Cool’s. Chopping only $2 per ton and you save one fourth of your feed.

B.F. Shannon, the shoemaker, is still here.

January 3, 1912

The people of Long Valley want a new county created out of the northern portion of Boise County. They elected a senator and representative on a county division platform last fall. The Long Valley people pay about 55 per cent of the taxes of the county, have to go through four county seats, the state capital, the state of Oregon and take a stage ride at each end of the line to get to their county seat as it stands today. They will have a railroad the entire length of the valley this year, and this will add great taxable wealth to that section. The people who want division have pioneered and made that country into a prosperous and independent one and they should have what they ask.

January 3, 1912

There is no question but that our town needs an electric lighting system, one that is reliable and reasonable and one that will not demand too long a contract, for with the vast amounts of undeveloped water power in Idaho, it will not be many years until electricity will be furnished more cheaply than it is at present.

February 8,1912

To whom it may concern:

We are sure having the time of our lives and seeing things.

Yesterday we left Los Angeles at 7 a.m. on a Pacific electric loaded with round trip tickets for San Pedro, the port of Los Angeles. This harbor is owned and controlled by the city and in time will be a fine harbor. Next we embarked on a large launch of a nephew of ours for an ocean spin. Other nephews and nieces arrived with baskets loaded with good things to eat. When all were loaded, we made a bee-line out of the harbor and were soon riding the wonderful swells of the old Pacific.

I can’t find words to describe that trip. Wife just went wild with delight and I, well, I shall never forget that ten mile run down the coast toward Frisco, surrounded by all kinds of craft, sail boats, motor boats, fish boats, and ocean steamers. On this trip we saw two genuine Simon whales. They were monsters and not over 200 yards from our boat.

We returned to the harbor about 4 p.m. and took the car for the aviation field and witnessed two flights, it was wonderful. We returned to Los Angeles about 7 p.m. fully satisfied that we had seen more in one day than any other pair of “hay seeds” that ever cut loose from Idaho.

As far as climate is concerned, they have the goods here, but it is a rich man’s country, and when it comes to viewing it from a poor man’s standpoint, I would have to take a little time to consider several things. Land along the coast of southern California sells from $600 to $1000 an acre. Such land in Idaho would be worth about $50. I figure it this way: climate $550 and land $50. But they have no trouble selling it, and in a very short while it will be scarce at $600 on account of the canal boom.

Respectfully submitted,
H. E. Warner

compiled by Eberle Umbach

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


[This poem begins the third section of B.N.'s Journey Music manuscript]


They may be kinder at a distance, yet
The elements of solemn imagery.
They rise precise, a cast out net.
Here in the instant all the trees agree
To shed at once their pale and thinning leaves.
In winter potted lilies simulate
The summer, now to us they're turning wild
A metaphysics of imagined fate.
If in the middle, the loud ca caw, ca caw
A mild remnant, attendant angels bloom,
Take flight above our heads. Could we say we saw
The whole thing just watching from our room?
We paste stars to the walls in America
As replicas of summer nights we saw.

© to the author 1983-2010

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rainy Day Blues

Happy Monday, everybody, & time for the Monday Morning Blues here on Robert Frost’s Banjo. As you can see, yours truly has sprung for a new guitar, a Gold Tone Paul Beard resophonic guitar—basically, a roundneck Dobro, tho strictly speaking these days only Gibson & its Epiphone subsidiary have legal rights to use the "Dobro" name.

As regular readers probably assume, I got this instrument for the blues & specifically for slide playing. For people who are interested in such things, it’s tuned to open D, which fits better with my voice (such as it is) than open G (the latter was a bit more popular overall with the old blues folks)—in other words, the 6 unfretted strings sound a D major chord. I’m using a Dunlop brass slide—I prefer brass over glass slides, but had to use glass when I recorded with the cigar box resonator guitar as a metal slide on that instrument caused the webcam mic to distort. This didn’t seem to be a problem with the Gold Tone.

“Rainy Day Blues” is by Sam “Lightnin’” Hopkins, a long-time personal favorite. Tho Lightnin’ Hopkins didn’t play slide himself—he perfected a very recognizable boogie guitar style that he played both on acoustics & electrics—I felt this song would adapt readily for slide style playing.

It actually was a beautiful sunny day yesterday when I recorded this—hope your Monday also is nice & that you enjoy the song. I am recovered from all the driving late last week, & I will be around visiting blogs today—honest!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Photo of the Week 5/9/10

A view of Mount Hood from Dufur, Oregon, right outside the historic Balch Hotel, Friday morning, May 7th

Please check out today's post at The Days of Wine & Roses; it's the first poem in the A Few More Fold-Out Postcard Sonnets series.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Change in Our Programming....

Happy Saturday, folks - just a quick post to say I won't be participating in Sepia Saturday today. I got back late last night from a whirlwind trip out past Portland, Oregon, & within the half hour I'll be back on the road again! As a result, I haven't had the time to put together a "real" post.

I will try to pay visits to my Sepia Saturday comrades & other blog pals over the weekend, once this driving frenzy stops!

Pic: Yours truly at a stop on Interstate 84, about an hour east of Portland, with the Columbia River in the background - taken yesterday!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

“Mexican Desert”

Happy Thursday! This month’s featured poet will be one of my personal favorites, & a writer who deserves to be more widely read, Mina Loy. Ms Loy was British by birth (1882), but later lived on the continent, both in France, where she was a regular at Gertrude Stein’s salon, & a good friend of both Stein & Djuna Barnes, & later in Italy, where she was connected with the “Futurist” movement thru her lover, Filippo Marinetti. She moved to New York in 1916, & was connected with Others magazine. Loy’s poetic star shone quite brightly for some time—she was both praised & notorious—her great poem, Love Song to Johannes was attacked as pornographic, tho to my mind it’s one of the great 20th century poetic works. Around the time today’s poem was published in The Dial, Ezra Pound (in one of his patented literary “remarks”) asked Marianne Moore, “is there anyone in America except you, Bill [William Carlos Williams] and Mina Loy who can write anything of interest in verse?”

But Loy’s reputation was eclipsed, much to the puzzlement of some writers. In 1957, Henry Miller described her as “an interplanetary voice whose subtle vibrations only faintly pierce our smug-laden atmosphere”; in 1982, critic Hugh Kenner noted, “her utter absence from all canonical lists is one of modern literary history’s most perplexing data.” Her exclusion from the “who’s who” of modernists was also lamented by writers like William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Rexroth & Louis Zukofsky. Fortunately, Loy’s work has been revived over the past 20 years, & now it’s possible to purchase her poems without much ado.

Hope you enjoy today’s poem—it captures the condensed language that—in my opinion—Loy had perfected in Love Songs to Johannes. That long poem was published in 1917; “Mexican Desert was published in 1921, & probably written some time between 1919 & 1921.

Mexican Desert

The belching ghost-wail of the locomotive
trailing her rattling wooden tail
into the jazz band sunset

The mountains in a row
set pinnacles of ferocious isolation
under the alien hot heaven

Vegetable cripples of drought
thrust up with parching appeal
cracking open the earth
stump-fingered cacti
amid hunch-back palm trees
belabour the cinders of twilight

Mina Loy

In other news: There won't be any post tomorrow, but I should be back for Sepia Saturday. I also may not have access to respond to comments until later in the day on Friday!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Adams County Makes the News - Council Leader #8

The Council Leader Published every Thursday by the Council Publishing Company
James A. Stinson, Editor, Ivan M. Durrell, Business Manager

November 30, 1911

The following is a statement as it appeared in our issue of the ninth of this month:
“We admit that we committed one great error when we took up editorship of the Leader without first submitting the matter as to qualification to the editor of the New Meadows Tribune.”

The following is the comment thereon as it appeared in the New Meadows Tribune of the twenty-third:

“We admit that we committed one great error when we took up the editorship of the Leader,” says the young-man-not-afraid-of-his-talk of the Council Leader, in last week’s issue. Guess that’s so; or at least it is intimated by quite a number of Council’s leading men. And as it is an old and trite saying that “honest confession is good for the soul,” we hope our young brother is enjoying the blessing that this confession brings.”

It was kind of the Tribune to tell us of that which is intimated. We take it that the editor of the Tribune will have enough to do if he cares for the matters affect his own sheet. However, we are grateful for all favors. We shall attempt to make some arrangement, whereby we will be able to submit all things contemplated to the editor of the Tribune for approval before we put them into execution.

December 7, 1911

We are pleased to acknowledge receipt of a letter from Roy Pickler of Cuprum. He states that Cuprum is progressing as usual and that it is anticipated there will be great activity in the mining interests there during the coming year. Mr. Pickler is enjoying an especially happy turn of mind these days, due to the rapid growth of his boy, who is now five months old and tips the balance at twenty-six pounds and is a genuine democrat. Mr. Pickler states that if the youngster continues to grow at the present rate, Cuprum will have a winning candidate for sheriff next fall. It goes without saying that we support the young man in his political aspirations.

November 9, 1911

If some people on Bear Creek would confine themselves closer to the truth, there would be less trouble among the neighbors.
Wm. T. Robertson.

December 7, 1911

The matter of dealing with rabbits and field mice, and the protection of young trees from the same through the winter is a difficult problem which confronts every fruit man. Mr. Kautz has a preparation which he makes himself, with which he paints the trees, and which he says is very successful as well as inexpensive. It is as follows:

One half bushel of unslacked lime, slacked in ten gallons of water. To this is added ten bars of common laundry soap, shaved in small chips, four pounds of sulphur diluted with water to make a paste, and boiled until all the soap is dissolved. Finally, one half pint of crude carbolic acid is added. If the mixture is then too thick, water is added until the mixture has the consistency of paint. Mr. Kautz says that this amount should cover forty acres of trees, applied with a paint brush.

November 30, 1911

We do not take exception to President Taft because he is a republican president or because he is a republican, but because he has shown by his conduct that he has no sympathy with the masses of the people; that he does not know of the life lived by the bulk of the people; that he has fed at the public crib for so long a time that he is out of harmony with those who toil and labor.

November 30, 1911

A few days ago a number of the pupils of the upper grades played truant and as a result were suspended for a period. We are informed that the most of those who were properly called on to present an apology for the rash act have done so and are now in school again. Some, however, supported by parents and others who apparently fail to appreciate the fact that children must comply with the requirements of those in authority, have failed to gain re-entrance to the school.

The school board has done its utmost to give Council a good school, and has offered ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade work in order that the children of the valley may go on with their schooling. The board members have gone to no little expense in the matter and are to be commended upon the stand they have taken in regard to truancy in the present instance. We regret that there is such a spirit of unappreciation, upon the part of some, of the advantages offered in the schools here.

December 7,1911

Of Course You Have.
Papers you don’t want to lose.
Papers you don’t care to have others see.

Our Safety Deposit Vault will protect them from fire, from burglars, and from prying eyes. Once placed safe in our vault, they will be “off your mind.”

First Bank of Council

compiled by Eberle Umbach

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Dating Poems" (installment #2)

[L.E. Leone's intrepid Dating Poems series continues!]


The night
I almost broke
your arm coming
and you said after
catching our breath I
was so sexy? . . .

Did you mean it?

you know yours
wouldn’t have been
the first
arm that I broke


So, OK, so you couldn’t make it
to my reading because you had a date
with your other lover, but your heart
will be with me? [look up from podium &
around the room for a while]
I don’t see it, I’m happy
to say. Dismemberment
unnerves me.

L.E. Leone
© 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

One Potato Shuffle

Happy Monday! Our musical Monday takes us back to September 2003 & an Alice in Wonder Band show at the Alpine Playhouse in McCall, Idaho. The song—our Alice in Wonder Band song of the month—is “One Potato Shuffle,” a tune Eberle came up with that’s very loosely based on the old song “Shortnin’ Bread.” We thought “Shortnin’ Bread” would be a great song to jam to, but both Eberle & I found the lyrics too insensitive, especially after hearing Charles Mingus do a riff on the song in the documentary Charles Mingus: Triumph of the Underdog. The gist of Mingus’ piece was that “Mammy’s little babies” actually wanted a whole lot of things, but that “shortnin’ bread” isn’t one of them; as Mingus declares: “Mama’s little babies don’t like no shortnin’ bread—that’s some lie an American white man said.” You can hear a section of this here on YouTube (f-bomb warning.)

Hailing as we do from the state of Idaho—“famous potatoes,” as the license plate proclaims—Eberle decided we’d do a song about that noble tuber. By the way, I should point out that commercial potato production is centered in the southeastern part of the state—on the western side around where we live, the soil is much too heavy & filled with clay for large-scale potato growing (tho onions flourish). Eberle then composed the basic melody & the initial set of lyrics, & let the band have at it. In the process of this, our singer Deadre Chase added another verse to the song, & everyone loved that.

It’s a shame we never got a better recording of “One Potato Shuffle.” This is the best one we have, & there are problems. I did the initial fade-in in a moderatly successful attempt to muffle an audience member’s coughing fit. Also, our recording set-up was pretty primitive in those days—we used a Sony mini-disk, which in this case was duct taped to one of the theater seats. At a certain point you can hear an audience member rustling thru a program or other papers. Also, Art Troutner’s nice mandolin work is completely lost in the mix. At least we get to hear his great slide whistle at the bginning of the song! Finally, there’s something that sounds almost like a skip on an lp about 50 seconds in—that’s an error in the actual recording (complicated electronic explanation that would no doubt bore 99% of folks!)

A local access TV outfit from Boise actually taped this song at one of our rehearsals for TVTV (Treasure Valley TV), & I know it was aired at one point—possibly more—but neither Eberle nor I never saw it. Perhaps I should find out if the videotape is still available.

Hope you enjoy the song!

All potato images in the film are public domain except the image of omlette & potatoes (third from the end), which was taken by Wiki Commons user J Lian; the photo is published under a Creative Commons 2.0 attribution license. Band photos were taken by Earl Brockman (band photos 1-3, 5-7, 10-12, 15), Tim Hohs (band photos 4, 13), Michael Richardson (band photo 8, cropped from a larger image), LE Leone (band photo 9) & Wayne Brandon (band photo 14).

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Photo of the Week 5/2/10

Tulips in Eberle's Garden, Saturday afternoon, May 1st

Please check out today's post at The Days of Wine & Roses; it's a the next poem in the "Heaven" series, "Heaven #4."

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sepia Saturday 5/1/10

Good day, all, & a happy Sepia Saturday & May Day to you! I’m a bit late this morning, as life has been hectic over the past few days—which has also meant that I’ve fallen behind on blog visits. I’ll endeavor to rectify this over the weekend.

Up to now, both as a Sepia Saturday participant & as part of my own series prior to that, I’ve concentrated on my father’s old photos. He was an avid amateur photographer & I have quite a few of his photographs. However, on my recent trip to the east, my mother gave me one of her old photo albums—in fact, the photos in that album date from the late teens & early 20s. I’ll start with the photos from that book next week, but by way of introduction today, I’m posting a photograph of my maternal grandfather, Joseph Atkinson.

Joseph Atkinson was Canadian by birth—he was born in New Brunswick in 1868; his wife, my grandmother, née Inez Putnam, was considerably younger than him, as she was born in Taunton, Massachusetts in 1881. Joseph Atkinson didn’t play a role in either my life or my sister’s life, as he died of a stroke in 1946, two years before my sister was born & 10 years before my birth.

My mother has always spoken of her father in quite glowing terms, tho her stories about him do—in my opinion—portray him as stern to a fault. Joseph Atkinson was Scottish in heritage, tho I don’t know when his family emigrated to Canada. Joseph became a ship’s captain, & as a young man moved to the Washington, D.C. area. He would have been 48 years old when my mother was born in 1916.

I do know that Joseph liked to fish—as one would assume from this photo!—in that, interestingly enough, he was very much like my father; he also, as we can see, smoked a pipe—another habit he shared with my dad. Joseph also played the banjo! Sadly, the only story I know about his banjo playing is that my uncle, Joe Jr. broke the head on the banjo while playing as a small child. For some reason, Joseph never had the banjo head replaced—an odd fact, since that’s usually a relatively minor procedure.

Hope you enjoy the photo & the introduction to Joseph Atkinson, & be sure to check out other Sepia Saturday participants at this link.