This portrait of Wild Goose Bill was published in the Spokane Chronicle in 1934 and was based on an image discovered in the offices of Wilbur’s local paper.
On the 25th of January, 1895, two men rode a freight wagon along a frozen road leading out of the town of Wilbur. The heavy wheels smashed through frozen puddles and left deep ruts in three feet of snow. Clouds of steam ghosted behind the men and the horse, suspended in the still air. A ceiling of oyster-colored cloud sealed the sky, stained by the weak glow of a sun powerless to penetrate. Few words were uttered, and the men’s faces were set in anger or determination.
It was age pursuing youth that led to this moment, a timeless theme played out this time in the fading days of the American west. One man was realizing that the days ahead featured nothing but old age, that the world no longer saw him as strong and powerful. His dreams of a young wife had been shattered. His days of legend were behind him. On this day the final act of his legendary life was to be played out.
Samuel Wilbur Condit was born in New Jersey, but followed the lure of gold to California. Even as a teenager he was smart enough to recognize that the real money in a gold rush would be found in supplying miners with the goods they needed. Continue reading
Posted in Atrocities, Columbia Basin, Columbia River, Conflicts, Crab Creek, Death, Ferries, History, Native Americans, Railroads, Trails, Washington, Wilbur
Tagged Central Washington, Columbia River, Crab Creek, Eastern Washington, Gunplay, History, Murder, Native Americans, Railroads, Spokane, Washington, Wllbur
I created this hoax to defend myself from potential bodily harm on a tour of Sweden, playing concertina.
In the early 1990s I fell into a certain “company” of Scandinavian musicians in Seattle. Bleak as that may sound, it was an enjoyable few years in which I learned many things about the requirements of playing a hambo or polska. Most of the musicians were fiddlers, and they were taught by my girlfriend of the time, who was an expert in her field. As I wanted to play along, I brought out my wooden flute, made by my old friend Casey Burns, and I found that I was able to keep up with many of the melodies. But eventually I braved bringing out my English concertina, my main instrument at the time. Learning the tunes on the concertina was no problem for me. I just had to learn how to blend in to the ensemble sound.
Eventually, Skandia Folkdance Society was invited to tour a number of folk festivals in Sweden. Consensus in the group was that whoever wanted to go on the trip should be taken along, even if they couldn’t afford the trip. I couldn’t. Working as a beginning teacher in those days I routinely finished the month with less than thirty dollars in my bank accounts. I am eternally grateful that the society helped me buy my ticket so I could go along that summer. But I worried a little about bringing a concertina to those places of rigid tradition in Scandinavian dance.
It didn’t help when a Swedish concertina enthusiast I met in Stockholm marveled at my boldness. “They’ll kill you,” he quietly predicted.
Luckily I had done my research. Or, rather, I had done some artificing. If ever I were challenged about the authenticity of playing a squeezebox for Swedish traditional dancing, I would flash the button shown above. You can plainly see that this Viking era dragon is playing a squeezebox, perhaps even a concertina! I worked for hours to perfect the drawing that I later made into the button.
I need not have worried. Not only did I survive unscathed, but the Swedish concertina enthusiasts had me over for spaghetti (or some other traditional Swedish meal) and we had a good time. One big fellow tore the sweatshirt off his back and gave it to me. It had a rendering of a tattered horse’s head (of the English Morris Dance variety) and the words Eken Morris Dancers. Eken was apparently an old name for Stockholm. I still wear that shirt on cool evenings and I still smile about that evening when a bunch of unrooted folk enthusiasts shared some time and tales together.
Later during the trip I happened to find a poster of a painting of a May Day celebration. The painting, by a famous Swedish artist, dated from around 1880. The procession was packed with dancers in their traditional drakt, hauling a huge May Day tree to the site of their dance. At the head of the procession was a young dancer providing the music. He was playing a concertina.
Posted in Art, Celebration, Concertina or Squeezebox, Fiddle, Illustration, Seattle, Sweden, Travel
Tagged Concertina, Dragon, Folk Dance, Folk Music, May Day, Morris Dance, Seattle, Squeezebox, Stockholm, Sweden, Viking
The remains of Oscar Danielson’s irrigation pipes lead to his fields and ditches from the site of the Danielson dam.
In a previous post I published a photograph of swimmers perched on the top rail of the irrigation dam Oscar Danielson built to draw water out of the community canal. This canal redirected some of the flow from Crab Creek towards a number of farms or orchards west of the watercourse. Around 1920 Oscar purchased surplus wire-wrapped wooden water pipes from the city of Seattle to tap into the canal, pumping water from the reservoir behind his wooden dam. His single-stroke gas engine is still hidden in the weeds near the ranch he later occupied on the banks of Lower Crab Creek.
Oscar Danielson mows hay in a field watered by the pipes leading from the Danielson dam. The photograph is probably from the latter half of the 1920s.
The swimmers were part of a larger crowd gathered at the dam for a Fourth of July celebration. It was a custom amongst the farmers and ranchers Continue reading
Posted in Anthropology, Celebration, Columbia Basin, Crab Creek, Disaster, Family History, Farming, Fourth of July, Genealogy and Family History, Geology, Grant County, History, Irrigation, Native Americans, Natural Disaster, Washington
Tagged A. J. Splawn, Celebrations, Central Washington, Chief Moses, Crab Creek, Culture, Eastern Washington, Education, Family History, Farming, Highway 26, History, Irrigation, Kamiakin, Low Gap, Moses Lake, Native Americans, Nature, Oscar Danielson, Photography, Saddle Mountain, Scablands, Seattle, Washington State
The view of Mount Saint Helens from the summit of Mount Adams on July 4, 1976.
On the 200th anniversary of our country’s birth my cousin Dale and I joined one of the last mass climbs of Mount Adams in south-central Washington. I left from work on the Friday afternoon, drove to Yakima to pick him up, and we went to a campground outside Trout Lake to spend the night. Of course the excitement and the noise of all the other campers kept us awake all night. I don’t remember getting any sleep at all.
We were rousted out for the climb around 3:00 in the morning. We received some orientation and instructions and lined up to begin the climb. One of the instructions was to stay in line and not to pass those ahead of us. We were young and strong. Many of those ahead of us were neither, so the temptation to violate that rule was strong.
We reached tree-line just before dawn, and that morning provided one of the most spectacular views I will ever see. We watched the ghostly pale peak of Mount Saint Helens emerge from the night, turning raspberry pink, then dazzling white. Before it erupted, Saint Helens was nearly perfectly symmetrical. As we strapped on our crampons and struggled to keep our places in line, we watched Mount Saint Helens in the distance, a graceful and beautiful mountain that later proved to be powerful and dangerous. Continue reading
Posted in Cars, Columbia Basin, Concertina or Squeezebox, Disaster, Family History, Geology, History, Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, Mountaineering, Natural Disaster, Othello, Railroads, Volcano, Washington
Tagged Bicentennial, Concertina Blowout, Eastern Washington, Everett, Family History, Geology, Graphic Artist, History, Ice Axe, Milwaukee Road, Mount Adams, Mount Saint Helens, Nature, Othello, Seattle, Spokane, State Patrol, Stevens Pass, Taunton, Washington, Wheatstone English Concertina, Whitworth College, Yakima
The tail of an unexploded Japanese balloon bomb protrudes above the mossy forest floor near Lumby, British Columbia. This photograph is courtesy of Infonews.ca, which published a story about the bomb on October 10, 2014.
On November 3, 1944, the Imperial Japanese Army attacked North America, and they did it from three Honshu beachheads. It was on that date that the first of some 9,000 balloons, fitted with incendiary and high explosive bombs on a three-day timer, were lofted into the recently-discovered jet stream. The innovative form of aggression spread dangerous explosives across a huge swath of North American territory, from Alaska to Mexico, from the Pacific Coast to Detroit, Michigan. Fewer than 250 of these balloons have been accounted for, although an estimated 1,ooo balloons may have made it across the Pacific. While most of the 9,000 probably failed to reach American shores, those that made the crossing and went undiscovered might still pose risks to the unsuspecting.
Foresters working near Lumby, British Columbia, made the most recent discovery of unexploded Japanese bombs in October of last year. Hikers and people who work in wild places should be wary of undiscovered explosives from these balloons.
When Japanese balloon bombs, known as Fu-Go to their makers, first began to arrive in America, authorities mistakenly thought that the devices were being launched from submarines surfacing near our coasts or that they had been built in Prisoner-of-War camps along the coast. Continue reading
Posted in Balloons, Conflicts, Education, Geology, Hanford, Hanford Atomic Energy Reservation, History, Japan, Washington, World War II
Tagged Alaska, Archie Mitchell, Asotin, Atom Bomb, Ballast, Balloon envelopes, Balloons, Biological Warfare, Bly, Bombs, Bonneville Dam, British Columbia, California, Canada, Central Washington, Cold Creek, Debris, Detroit, Diatoms, Eastern Washington, Education, Elsie Mitchell, Ephrata, Forams, Foresters, Fossils, Fu-Go, Geologists, Geology, Hanford Reservation, Hawaii, Hiking, Hill Williams, History, Honshu, Hydrogen, Imperial Japanese Army, Infonews.ca, Intelligence, Jet Stream, Lt. Col. Franklin Matthias, Lumby, Manhattan Project, Mexico, Michigan, Montana, Moxee, Mulberry, North America, Northwest Territories, Oregon, Pacific, Pacific Coast, Planes, Plutonium, Port Angeles, Prisoner-of-War, Prosser, Reactor, San Pedro, Sand, Satus Pass, Scientists, Second World War, Silk, Spokane, Submarines, Sunday School, Tokyo, Toppenish, Walla Walla, Washington, World War II, Wyoming, Yukon
The late, beloved Goku, inspiration for my tune, Spotted Cat.
I’ve spent the past few days reworking some of the music I’ve written over the past thirty years as a concertina and whistle player. Some tunes were also composed on the fiddle. The way the folk process works, some of these contain hints of melodies from other tunes. While I’ve copyrighted all of them, I’m putting the tunes out here for anyone to use, especially as they were written to be danced to.
To hear these tunes, you should download Easy ABC, a free music composition program available online. Copy my music, including the header, and paste it into the window labeled ABC Code. Then click on the play arrow to hear the tune. Print the music, play the music, mess with it. It’s for having fun with.
The first tune is one of the oldest, a jig written on the concertina in the early 1980s. Because it’s a concertina tune, it presents a certain challenge on the fiddle. Continue reading
Posted in Cats, Concertina or Squeezebox, Dogs, Education, Family History, Fiddle, Folk, Luthier, Music, Pets, Sauk River, Tin Whistle
Tagged Band, Cabin, Casey Burns, Concertina, Contra Dance, Culture, Education, Family History, Fiddle, Flute, Harmony, Ireland, Irish, Jig, Montana, Music, Reel, Sauk River, Spokane, Waltz, Whistle
Weeping Willow and Loansome Hart left photographs of themselves inside a banjo ukulele, as a gentle “Remember Us.”
My family has long had a close relationship to the making of music. If you go back far enough in my mother’s family, we were probably connected to the German composer of operas and organ music, Johann Georg Kühnhausen, whose Matthäus-Passion (Saint Matthew’s Passion) is still occasionally performed. But for the most part, we played much more informally.
My father and several of his buddies toured around Eastern Washington in the 1930s and 1940s, playing dances in little towns like Othello and White Bluffs as the Five Jives. Two of his brothers were members of a long-lasting semi-professional band that formed under Steve Laughery in Moses Lake and which continued to tour the west after Laughery died in a landslide. The memory of these bands survive in some of the artifacts we still possess, some sheet music inscribed with “Five Jives” and a couple of vinyl albums from the Many Sounds of Nine, my uncles’ band. I have written before about the old violin my father used to play, passed on to him from one of my mother’s uncles. I use it to play dance music in a couple of contra-dance bands in Northwestern Washington now.
There are no markings on the instrument to indicate how old it it. The name “Elton” is stamped on the metal resonator ring.
Last month I found a very interesting instrument, seemingly meant for me. It had a peculiar back story and it fit a special niche in a musician’s repertoire. For there will always be a time when you want to create the most annoying sound you can musically make. In this case, with a banjo ukulele. Continue reading
Posted in Art, Bellingham, Cats, Columbia Basin, Concertina or Squeezebox, Dogs, Education, Family History, Fiddle, Folk, Genealogy and Family History, Germany, Guitar, History, Horses, Illustration, Luthier, Music, Othello, Pets, Ukulele, Violin, Washington, White Bluffs
Tagged Art, Banjo, Banjo Ukulele, Bellingham, Bodhran, Central Washington, Concertina, Contra Dance, David Nerad, Eastern Washington, Education, Elton, Family History, Fiddle, Five Jives, Guitar, History, Johann Georg Kühnhausen, Loansome Hart, Many Sounds of Nine, Margie Katz, Mike Schway, Montgomery Ward, Moses Lake, Othello, Paramount, Photography, Piano, Randy Mohr, Rolling Stones, Steve Laughery, Van Halen, Violin, Ward Beebe, Washington, Weeping Willow, Weimaraner, White Bluffs