The first stop in Wyoming was to have lunch in Casper with Al Kalbfleisch. We needed to catch up on his music adventures and get news of his wife Mary who lives in a care home. We had a good visit. He and Dave posed for a picture.
Our next stay was near Frannie,Wyoming at the country home of good friend and fiddler, Kelly Wells. She had reserved a wonderful grassy area in her yard with valley and mountain views. It was a pleasant and peaceful spot with an irrigation canal gurgling in the background and lots of birds for me to watch. Kelly and Dave got out their fiddles for lots of tunes, alternating on fiddle and guitar, sharing licks and stories. The second day, friends came over in the afternoon to play fiddle and visit. I listened with one ear, read my book and watched for birds. I saw robin, magpie, yellow warbler, kingbird, goldfinch, pheasant, western wood pewee, meadowlark, starling and bullocks oriole.
The next day, after a few tunes on a perfect sunny morning, we were on the road to Big Timber, Montana. Diane and Arn Berg welcomed us with big hugs and a “sweet grass” (county name for Big Timber and environs) spot for Luci on their acreage on Meadowlark Circle. Diane and Arn winter in Arizona. We met them while we were boondocking in the desert with other musicians and snowbirds. Arn took us for a drive around the town, pointing out local landmarks. Diane invited me to do laundry which I was glad to do. Hanging the linen on the clothesline was a treat. Winston, their granddog, accompanied my outdoor efforts and guarded the clothes as they flapped in the Montana wind. We visited the Pioneer meat shop of Brian Engle, the son of good friend and Surprise neighbor Susie Pangle. If you are ever in Big Timber, go there and get some of his wonderful hand made sausages, bratwurst and other tasty meat. Susie is a sister to Diane.
Good pickers and singers, Steve and Cheryl joined us on our last afternoon. Many new and old tunes were shared on the Berg’s deck and in the living room after dinner.
Diane and Arn have a beautiful yard with trees and shrubs, flowers and gardens and a flowing waterfall that the birds enjoyed as much as we did. In their yard and nearby ponds, I spotted chickadee, blue heron, killdeer,western and eastern kingbird, robin, meadowlark, yellow warbler and kingfisher.
North and west from Big Timber we turned onto the grounds of the Montana Fiddle Camp beside the swift flowing Belt River in the Little Belt Mountains near Monarch. People were arriving from near and far. Cars and trucks pulling big and little trailers. Dorms and houses filled with people and instruments.
Tents and hammocks were strung among the pines. Men, women, young and old were gathering to learn or to teach fiddle, banjo, mandolin and guitar. The atmosphere is electric with anticipation of the good time we would have. Summer camp! This is a beautiful, verdant place of pine-covered mountains rising above the camp with the river singing a constant accompaniment to the instruments and voices. The Buckley and Flikkema families welcomed us on Sunday and introduced all the others who will make the camp run and be fun. There was an impressive line up of musician instructors to teach the Sunday to Friday camp. An equally impressive squad kept us fed and entertained. What’s not to like? Three meals and snacks and all the music you can imagine. In my case, birds to watch, two books to read, a blog to write and no meals to cook! Each day was filled with group lessons, workshops, informal sharing of tunes, evening concerts and dancing. All instructors and students gathered in the lodge on the first day. The instructors said a few words about their teaching style and aims for the week and played their instrument. The students choose which class seemed to fit them best with the understanding that they could switch groups if needed. Each group would perform in concert at the end of the week. Wednesday evening after the evening concert, a raucous live auction was held. The proceeds defray costs and keep tuition as low as is possible. A silent auction was also underway. Donated items were artfully displayed around the lodge with bid sheets alongside. Bidders watched their special items to see if their bid was still good and settled up as the auction was completed the final night of camp.
Dave taught 16 students of all ages in Level Two fiddle. They met twice a day for an hour and worked on four tunes. The class performed Dave’s original tunes; Bluegrass Bounce, January Waltz and Going to Montana. He also taught them the Animus Valley Waltz.
Everyone agreed that the weather had been as excellent as any in recent memory. Everything turned out well. Teaching, learning, picking, grinning, eating, sleeping, basking in the sun, carefully wading in the river, hiking, visiting, making friends and making plans for next year.
My special treat was a pencil drawing for my birthday present commissioned by Dave. Katelyn Buckley Swanson was the artist. She was extremely busy planning and executing the meals at camp but found time to frame and wrap my present. Thank you Katelyn, for the Great Blue Heron drawing.