Humidity and Humanities

Elk City State Park KansasOh good grief, August sure was hot! Three years on the road and no A/C has been tolling but we just keep trucking, finding relief where we can. Kansas proved to be one of our hottest stops in 2014 but Elk City State Park offered the respite we needed from the heat.

We went down to Coffeyville, KS to share an Australian Bush Song Workshop through Coffeyville Community College’s Humanities program. We performed our workshop over 16 times, in the local high school, community college and nursing homes over the course of our five days.

This is our third time in six years, participating in this lecture series and every time our program gets more and more refined. This time around our program began by paying respects to the original people group (Aboriginals) of Australia and the telling of a dream time story. Then we touched on the origins of Australia as a penal colony and stories of seafaring and songs that came with that time. Then went into the politics of the early settlement and the divide between the Aristocrats, Squatters and Drifters, finally sharing songs and stories of Australia’s Bush Rangers (outlaws). It was fitting to share the stories of the Wild Colonial Boy, Waltzing Matilda and Ned Kelly as Kansas is one of the states that many of the US outlaws roamed. We were able to make well rounded comparisons with Billy the Kid, Jesse James and the Dalton Gang.

Coffeyville Humanities programCraig was the main speaker in our series. He guided us through the stories, fun little antidotes about growing up in Australia, and he even shared about his experience in the shearing shed as a youth. He followed up by singing a hardy rendition of the classic, “Click Go The Shears.”

The rest of us each played our parts, including our son on¬†rythmn, Graciana on vocals and I joined on vocals and the Mandolin. Having the extra support of our fellow bus riders on board was a nice welcome as well. Sylvia added charisma and fantastic harmonies and Rhys joined in on the bass, vocals and even shared the story of his hometown, Glenrowan and Australia’s most famous Bush Ranger, Ned Kelly.

Elk City State Park KansasWe camped all week at Elk City State Park. Our site included water and 50 amp service. We paid $25 a night for a spot directly across from the lake. At 102 degrees all week-long, we were so thankful to come back to Elk City Lake and jump into the bath water every single night. Our little haven in the middle of the plains was the perfect backdrop to share some of our local camping traditions with Rhys. Being from Australia he was unfamiliar with our version of smores and carmellos. We also made brats, boiled in beer, my grandmothers famous potato salad and watermelon. To top it all off, we went into town for a few meals and found the Chicken fried Steak a hit.

I wouldn’t say that Kansas is at the top of our list for places to stay for a week, however Elk City State Park proved to be a nice change of pace and offered us just what we needed to get through the week. If we make it back for another humanities series, we’ll know exactly where to stay!

 

Hospital-ity

We made our way across the great state of Kansas with a stop in Hays, Kansas. Home of the Fort Hays State University Tigers and Buffalo Bill Cody. Our purpose was to perform a concert at the downtown Hays Public Library. As we were working out logistics for where we were going to park for the night we found that there were no local campgrounds or RV parks in Hays. So, we called the Hays Visitors Center to see if they could direct us anywhere. The kind lady on the other line suggested the hospital had two spots for guests of the cancer ward. We didn’t really fit that criteria but thought we would risk rejection and give it a try.

Hays Medical CenterThe first fellow I spoke with was tentative at first but the more I explained our situation the more he softened and referred me on to his boss. I left a message and an hour later his boss called and to our delight, welcomed us with open arms. He explained the directions and let us know if we needed anything to give him a call.

The hospitality we experienced at the Hays Medical Center was more than generous. We were able to fill up our water tank, enjoy an inexpensive meal in the air conditioned cafeteria and have a safe, good nights sleep before heading on to Colorado.

Our time at the library was just as welcoming with staff meeting us at the door to lend a helping hand, a laid back spirit and a house full of kinfolk to enjoy the show.

Thank you Hays, Kansas for taking care of us. We look forward to seeing you again down the line!

 

Photos taken by Colleen Davick at our Hays Library performance. Colleen rode with us from Aug 14-29. She is a mother, wife, gifted photographer and joined us on flute/harmonies for our performances across Il, KS, and CO. We are grateful for her support and for capturing moments during these two weeks.

 

Revival

revival¬†|riňąvńęv…ôl| noun, an improvement in the condition or strength of something:¬†a revival in the fortunes of the party¬†|¬†an economic revival.‚Äʬ†an instance of something becoming¬†popular, active, or important again ‚Äʬ†a new production of an old play or similar work.‚Äʬ†a reawakening of religious fervor, esp. by means of a series of evangelistic meetings:¬†the revivals of the nineteenth century¬†|¬†a wave of religious revival.‚Äʬ†a restoration to bodily or mental vigor, to¬†life¬†or consciousness, or to sporting success.

The ecumenical community in Sedan, Kansas, a town of about 1500, called and asked us to come and offer “revival” to their community. Both raised as “PK’s” (Pastors kids), insecurities and unknown expectations of what a revival even meant ran through our minds.¬†All sorts of preconceived notions and past experiences flashed before us and our first reaction was to say no thanks. The challenge; to give it a go or try to control our situation, keeping ourselves in a box, safe and pride in tact.

When we launched on this journey one of our major ideals was and is to be open and available. Obviously, being mobile, we’re much more available and so that doesn’t tend to be a hinderance but openness, that’s more of a daily surrender. It’s easy to just do what we do best and stick to the straight and narrow but we long for more, we long to experience living and breathing life. We long to be stretched beyond our limits, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We have breathed in the fresh and pure air out here on the open road, we have and continue to experience deep reconciliation in our most intimate relationships, we have and continue to see our children flourish and conquer things that we and they never imagined they could, we’ve participated in helps, serving and life with a multitude of communities and have tasted the fruit of those connections. When it comes down to it, we have and continue to experience revival! And so after further conversation, we said yes!

Father Marcus Cunningham of Epiphany Episcopal Church was our host, referred by friends, Bill and Teresa Sergott in Wisconsin (we love referrals!). Marcus, his wife Anne-Marie and his family welcomed us with open arms and show tunes. Yes, we settled in and found a kitchen full of youth dancing and singing show tunes while making dinner. Our children were immediately taken into the fold and they were at home. The Cunningham’s welcome set a great tone and we felt as if we were visiting family or old friends. We shared a similar sense of humer and stories of our history, all of which brought us to the moment we were experiencing with one another.

There was much work to be done, however. And so we hunkered down in our bus and took a crash course in theology 101.

We began to orchestrate three nights of what we hoped would be a breath of fresh air for these kind folks, focusing on faithfulness, community, reconciliation and ultimately on the “Tie that binds” us all together. We wove together songs of old, like How Great Thou Art and Amazing Grace and introduced Hollands songs, as well as, The Exchange and No Other, songs by friends, Glenn Kaiser and Mike Troxel. We testified through our personal journey and shared insights from the living word. We offered opportunities for folks to get creative and explore through practical exercises that emphasised community and trust. The photo above was taken during an exercise where each person was given a block of fabric and each row a needle and thread. Participants were asked to sew their swatch to the next persons and so on. The end result was a tapestry of all the participants pieces. The idea was to show how important the “thread” was and how our role as the piece is to be willing to be connected. Finally, we listened. We learned about the town’s history and the different journey’s of local kinfolk, we heard their pain and their joy. We soaked in the stories and offered prayer and counsel.

Every evening before our session we would dine with a different pastoral leader from the town. We meet with the leaders of the First Christian Church, the Assemblies of God, the Baptist and the Episcopal churches. We broke bread and we found common ground with them all. It was encouraging to witness their commitment to one another and willingness to lay down their personal agenda’s and position for the greater communities sake. Really, it is something to make note their willingness to come together and trust us, just a family of folkies making our way, best we can.

Later that week we performed our Australian Folklore workshop at the local elementary school to K-6 graders. We shared in meals with the Cunningham family, helped with a gardening project, went to a high school football game and enjoyed the 25th Anniversary production of Les Miserables.

We are thankful for this opportunity to study, to share and to be an encouragement. We are thankful for a community that was willing to use us to the fullest. In the end, whether it’s an organized or individual effort to offer revival, we have concluded that it is a good thing. We are excited to have found this new muscle and will continue to offer that breath of fresh air where ever the need might be. Open and available.

 

Little Sheep Farm

Craig and I, find ourselves half-joking and half dreaming about the idea of someday owning a little plot of land, overlooking the ocean, with gardens and sheep. ¬†We have even woven the idea into one of our songs, “Tears in my heart,” where we mention a little sheep farm.

This week we were invited to speak at the Epiphany Episcopal Church in Sedan, KS and meet a couple who are living the little sheep farm dream. They are Lynn and Rita, both widowed and now married about 5 years. They live on the Stagecoach Ranch in a rural part of Kansas on the edge of the Flint Hills. It’s a beautiful part of the state with rolling hills, trees, creek beds, and tall grasses. They are self-proclaimed hobby farmers. They own a handful of the most beautiful Arabian horses you’ve ever seen. They also own a flock of the cutest little Shetland sheep, a wool-producing breed of sheep originating in the Shetland Isles. Rita, introduced us to a ram The leader of the flock is a funny ol’ Lama, who is their protector from the outlining wolves and coyotes. Lynn and Rita also collect old stage coaches, buggies and other antique miscellaneous¬†articles¬†from early settlement to cowboy days. Lynn was proud of his collection and gave us the grand tour.

I had a blast photographing our day. Enjoy the photos below and dream along.

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Coffeyville and Australian Folklore

Over the past week we have lectured on Australian Folklore about 16 times, in a variety of settings including nursing homes, a mental health facility, Alzheimer unit, retirement communities, a high school and a community college. The range of settings offered some challenges but with a back ground in music therapy we were able to shift into more song than story when needed.

The humanities course is grant funded program, through the Coffeyville Community College in Coffeyville, Kansas. They have weekly lectures on history, folklore, story and song in all facets of life, depending on the lecturer. In a rural, southeast corner of Kansas, Caney High school and the surrounding nursing facilities all benefit from this program.

Craig was the primary teacher for our program on Australian Folklore. It was a joy to be able to watch him research and prepare a lesson that emphasized so much of his history. Starting with Aboriginal “Dream time” stories and an a-cappella song we learned from an Aboriginal/Australian group called ‘Tiddas” to the first convict ships from England and then finally stories of the bush life as documented by Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson. We sang Bound for Botany Bay, My Bonnie, Waltzing Matilda, our own Immigrant song and Old Man’s Town.

The kids joined us for the Community college and High School sessions, which totaled seven sessions in all. They were a great accompaniment, adding wonderful harmonies and a steady beat on the cajon’. Our son even read a few of the poems for the high school classes.

At one of the nursing home facilities I had an intense and profound moment as I ¬†listened to a woman in her forties share her story of regret. She was a jolly woman and was singing along with gusto, so impressed with us she asked for our autograph. I said sure, if we could have her’s in return. She was excited and said she’d be happy to give her autograph to us but she was legally blind. However, she wasn’t always legally blind, only for the past 12 years. I responded with an “I’m sorry” and an affirmation of hope and planned to continue on in song. She interjected with a mumbling of a woman who beat her nearly to death and tried to gouged her eyes out. She said the woman only got 12-15, should have gotten life, but only 12-15 and then she got out after 6 on good behavior. I was shocked and caught off guard. I touched her arm and then she began to crying, “I made a big mistake misses, a big mistake. Have you ever made a big mistake, only to regret it the rest of your life?” I had made plenty of big mistakes but none that left me with blindness, mental delay and a huge scar on my chest.¬†¬†I answered, “yes” and stuttered another “I’m so sorry.” She continued, “I had an affair misses, it was the worst mistake I ever made. I miss my husband, and my kids. I want my old life back. I want to see my kids. I want my old life back.” I really don’t remember how I responded but it was something in reference to having her old life back, something along the lines however painful, trying to embrace her new life, trusting there was a purpose for her pain and to begin to look for joy in it. I don’t know, everything coming out of my mouth all sounded so ridiculous, so inadequate. But she was gracious with me and after we spoke she smiled really big and said she felt inspired and encouraged. She was thankful for my listening ear. I thanked her for sharing and we continued in song, with “In the garden” followed by a string of old timey songs about “flying away.” Later, we exchanged autographs. Her’s said her name and “Blessing to you.”

Whew!

On friday we explored a little bit of Coffeyville’s folklore and visited the Dalton Museum. We learned about the history of this area and the resilience of the towns people in bringing down the notorious Dalton gang. It was fascinating to learn about the Dalton brothers pre-out law jobs in legislation and as a sheriff, the shift in their thinking and the final plunge into criminal life. It was their last hit before they were going to head to Mexico and retire. How ironic. They went in to the town of Coffeyville with an air of superiority and found out the hard way that “Pride comes before the fall.” All were gunned down except the youngest Dalton, who was imprisoned for 18 or so years and went on to ¬†later wrote a book about the out-law days.

All in all, the week was pretty quiet, peaceful and we were able to catch up on some much-needed rest with early nights in the RV park. It was a balmy 68-80 degrees all week and for our past time we went pecan hunting and foraged a nice little stash that will hopefully turn into pecan pie.