Wednesday, October 09, 2019


As one of the 61,000+ readers of Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True website, I decided to accept his invitation to participate in his Photos of Readers series.  Here is the post, and original found here:
Do send in a photo or two of yourself doing something interesting or characteristic of your life. We have, after all, more than 61,000 readers!

Today’s Featured Reader is Douglas Swartzendruber (on the left in the picture), who sent a food-related photo and the caption below:

When thinking about favorite activities, many things came to mind from trail running [Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods] to basketball playing [still get in two nights a week] to acoustic jams with friends [a plug here for Colorado Roots Music Camp] to traveling, but the picture shows an activity that our family has enjoyed for over 70 years – barbecuing chicken.

On our northern Indiana farm, we raised corn, wheat and chicken – a lot of Leghorns, tens of thousands per year. The early bbqs were made out of oil drums cut in half, but the square-bottom ones shown are much more efficient with an even charcoal fire. The grills are stainless steel and make for easy turning of 20-25 halves per grill. For big events we would have up to 10 grills going. The sauce is a fairly simple mix of water, vinegar, butter, Worcestershire and seasonings, with the bbq technique being turning every minute or two with ample application of sauce after each turn. Another technique that is important – note that Slugger and I have our arms crossed in such a manner that we are turning the chicken in the same direction!

Saturday, October 05, 2019


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My earliest memory of participating in music is New Paris grade school percussion, using many of the "instruments" shown above.  Obviously our first "music" was all about percussion and keeping time.  In the second or third grade, we added song flute.  I must have shown some abilities because soon I was placed with the cornets in grade school band.  Our band teacher throughout grade school and high school was Mr. Alan Harness, and he must have impressed upon my mother that I had some skills because the next thing I knew, I was off to Elkhart for private lessons! 

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The Conn Constellation Cornet [not trumpet]

As eighth graders in our Class of 1964, Steve Eldridge, Dennis Caprarotta and I were in the High School Band.  Mr. Harness moved Dennis to French Horn, and Steve and I became first and second chair cornet in our junior and senior years.  Of course my mother thought that I was number one, and Steve's mother thought that he was number one - and Mr. Harness decided that I was number one.  I was also selected first chair in the All-Elkhart County band for two years and got to play a brief solo in one of the numbers.  I and my band partners won a fair amount of first and second place medals, and one of my favorites was Bugler's Holiday, with me, Steve and third chair Dick Kerlin.  As I mentioned in one of my basketball posts, I also played in the pep band while I was on the JV team, and would run up into the stands at half time to play, mainly because our school song, Frat, had a nice cornet solo.  Thankfully I did not have to do that once I was on the varsity team!  Another interesting tidbit is that New Paris had a marching band - usually played in the summer time in full-dress uniform including white buck shoes.  Mr. Harness finally agreed to Bermuda shorts after a few band members fainted in the heat.  A distinct memory is marching in the New Paris Memorial Day Parade that always ended up in the town cemetery.  I played Taps there several times, which was a bit ironic - a fellow from the Mennonite peace church tradition playing to honor the locals who had died in WW1, WW2 and Korea.  Also growing up in the Mennonite Church, I became very familiar with a capella four-part harmony singing.  I do not consider myself much of a singer, but I can do bass harmonies quite well.  My parents and sister have all of the family's singing talent - Ed sang with the original Menno Singers, Mary with the Middie Singers and Saint John's Singers, and Kay is a professional vocalist [and an amazing piano player].  Our high school choir was never quite as good as the band when it came to state competitions, but in our senior year, the choir got a first place.  Here's one of the songs we sang, although we probably did not sound quite this good! Our long-time choir director was Mrs. Helen Hollar, and of course the standing joke for decades was "If you want to learn how to sing, go to Helen Hollar."

My cornet playing days came to an abrupt end during my junior year at Goshen College.  I was driving my old Chevy south on Fifth Street in Goshen, heading back to college.  There was a large tree branch mostly obscuring the stop sign, and I cruised right through it, hitting the back end of a car going east on US 33.  My friend saw it coming out of the corner of his eye, and braced for the crash - his knees left dent marks in the dash board.  Since this was pre-seat belt days, I bit the steering wheel, leaving some lip flesh and pieces of seven teeth in the steering wheel.  So, there went the embouchure.  I had scar tissue nodules in my lips for years and could not play cornet.  I also spent many hours at the dentist for root canals and caps, which solidified my despising visits to the dentist.

It was the 1960's, and since the cornet was out, guitar was the obvious choice - a lot of fellows were taking it up, but more as a babe-magnet than a musical ambition.  My good friend, and future brother-in-law, Ken Willems was playing guitar, so I started as well.  One of our classmates was a fellow named Henry Gleason who's father worked for the Kaman Corporation.  The company did a lot of things, but one specialty was helicopter design and construction using fine woods and composite materials.  Founder Charles Kaman was an amateur guitarist, and he designed and built guitars that became the Ovation Guitar Company.  So Henry brought his guitar to Goshen and convinced me to buy one - I got the 449th Balladeer ever made.  Folk tunes, protest songs and roots music were the focus at the time, and Ken got me started with finger picking in the style of Elizabeth Cotton, i.e. Cotton Picking, and a similar style that is taught as Travis picking.  Although the Balladeer was an acoustic guitar, one could use a pick-up to electrify it.  I only did this a few times during college as the rhythm guitar player for the Backdoor Men.  Ken decided to drop out of the band, so I filled in for a few gigs. 

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For decades after college, my guitar playing consisted mainly of strumming and picking by myself, with occasional get-togethers with Ken to play old tunes and some of the songs that Ken has written.  My mother bought a guitar so that I could play whenever we visited Indiana.  Also, my 104-year-old uncle, John Aschliman, has some nice guitars courtesy of his son Donn, and I sometimes borrow one of John's guitars.  Amazingly although John is very hard of hearing, he still plays and sings, and is a hit with the Greencroft crowd!

Since Rocky Mountain Mennonite Camp began hosting the Colorado Roots Music Camp, I have become more committed to learning new styles and songs.  I have been a volunteer at the camp for several years working in the kitchen, but in my free time I have been welcomed by both campers and instructors to join in the daily jam sessions.  I have learned to know some of the campers who live in the Denver area, and have joined in for a jam now and then.  Music Camp friend Glenn has even helped me to get a bevy of songs on my iPad.  Probably the most amazing jam that I sat in on at Roots Camp was with instructor Doug Smith and a local fellow named Phil Volan.  I knew that Doug was a Grammy winner and champion of the Winfield International Fingerstyle guitar competition, but I did not know that Phil was a second place winner!  They both were very gracious in allowing a few of us rank amateurs to play along, but they also played a few tunes together that were amazing, as you might imagine.  Phil's voice sounds a lot like James Taylor's, and he plays guitar just as well, so it was a real treat just to listen to Phil and Doug play and sing. Be sure to check out their links to get a bit of an appreciation for their talent.

The final tunes at Ed and Mary's place.


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Page views at this humble blog have passed 200,000, so thanks to all who have visited and special thanks to those who have commented.  A recent visitor stated that I "must be a musician" and since I have dabbled for decades, My Musical Journey will be the subject of my next post.  Muchas gracias, amigos.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


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Here is an oldie-but-goodie from The Traveling Wilburys 
Note the Songwriters Credit 
Note the Empty Rocking Chair at about 1:40 of Video

Well it's all right, riding around in the breeze
Well it's all right, if you live the life you please
Well it's all right, doing the best you can
Well it's all right, as long as you lend a hand
You can sit around and wait for the phone to ring (end of the line)
Waiting for someone to tell you everything (end of the line)
Sit around and wonder what tomorrow will bring (end of the line)
Maybe a diamond ring
Well it's all right, even if they say you're wrong
Well it's all right, sometimes you gotta be strong
Well it's all right, as long as you got somewhere to lay
Well it's all right, everyday is judgment day
Maybe somewhere down the road aways (end of the line)
You'll think of me, wonder where I am these days (end of the line)
Maybe somewhere down the road when somebody plays (end of the line)
Purple haze
Well it's all right, even when push comes to shove
Well it's all right, if you got someone to love
Well it's all right, everything'll work out fine
Well it's all right, we're going to the end of the line
Don't have to be ashamed of the car I drive (end of the line)
I'm just glad to be here, happy to be alive (end of the line)
It don't matter if you're by my side (end of the line)
I'm satisfied
Well it's all right, even if you're old and grey
Well it's all right, you still got something to say
Well it's all right, remember to live and let live
Well it's all right, the best you can do is forgive
Well it's all right, riding around in the breeze
Well it's all right, if you live the life you please
Well it's all right, even if the sun don't shine
Well it's all right, we're going to the end of the line
Songwriters: Robert Dylan / George Harrison / Jeffrey Lynne / Roy Kelton Orbison / Thomas Earl Petty

H/T Ken Kukec

Friday, August 23, 2019


There is a lovely small grass pasture adjacent to the Peak to Peak Highway between Nederland and Ward, Colorado.  Each summer I have noted multiple rings in the pasture, with the ring being a much darker, more robust-looking green.

I did a bit of research and found quite a bit of information about "Fairy Rings"of which there are three general types - green ones as shown above, brown rings and ones consisting of rings of mushrooms.  Each are basically an every-expanding ring of fungi that expand from a few inches to several feet per year.  The elevation of the pasture is around 9000 feet [2745 meters]. A detailed description of fairy rings can be found here and a research article can be found here.  Fairy rings seem to be a turf problem, especially for golf courses.  Below are a couple of pictures of the mushroom type of fairy rings.

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Not related to the rings, but along the Peak to Peak I have seen a variety of wildlife, including an especially beautiful black fox, coyotes, deer, bears, and moose. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


A few years back, I was invited to join a regular Saturday morning breakfast gathering in Nederland.  We met regularly at the Sundance Cafe just south of Ned until it shut down.  We moved to Neds in town.  The 8:00 am group regulars were Charlie, Terry Bergin and Herm Weaver.  Other folks would join in now and then including Herm's brothers, Terry's sons, Charlie's son, and other locals. As one might expect, there never was a shortage of conversation admixed with many laughs.  Things took a somber turn when Charlie was diagnosed with cancer, and amazingly he proceeded fairly normally through all of his treatments and during the final weeks of his life.  He always looked like he had just stepped off of the pages of GQ.  His memorial service was filled with loving tributes to a man of many talents, not the least of which was his ability to listen to others. Vaya con dios, amigo.

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"Charlie Dillon, December 26, 1949 to July 16, 2019. Charlie Dillon, of Pinecliffe, was a sharp and well-respected businessman. His ability to relate to people made him a great salesman.

Charlie was born in Denver to Mother, Susan Jane Dillon, and Father, Charles Morton Dillon, now deceased. Charlie died on in Longmont, after a battle with cancer. He graduated from East High School in 1967, and while in high school, he was part of a band.

He graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in 1971 with a degree in anthropology.

Charlie and his wife, Deborah Dillon, were married for 28 years. Charlie and Deb lived in South Denver for 22 years and owned a home in Pinecliffe for 20 years. They have lived in Pinecliffe full-time for the last six years.

Charlie spent many years working with his father as a manufacturer’s representative, at the Dillon Company in Denver, and then followed an entrepreneurial path, opening his surf and tackle shop, Charlie’s Sinker Swim, on the central coast of California, at Avila Beach. Charlie then served as upper level management for Turf Irrigation Supply, in Denver.

Charlie was involved in several executive mentoring programs and always enjoyed coaching young entrepreneurs and setting people up for success. He was on the Board of Directors of an organization called Young Audiences, which provides art education and integration programs to youth. He was passionate about making the arts available to children and young adults.

For 14 years, Charlie was on the board of the Pinecliffe Association. Charlie then became the president of the Board of the Association for eight years, which included an ongoing Forest Stewardship program, in collaboration with Boulder County.

Charlie was passionate about preserving nature and always influenced others to “make a light footprint.” For the last part of his life, Charlie volunteered his time at the Nederland Community Center, taking a real interest in community development in the town of Nederland.

Every Saturday, Charlie would meet his friends, Terry Bergin, Herm Weaver and Doug Swartzendruber, and sometimes others, for their breakfast club at a Nederland restaurant. When the group met this past Saturday without Charlie, lots of tears were shed. Terry and Charlie also did lots of fishing together.

Regarding his religious beliefs, Charlie said: “I have deep beliefs, yet I don’t want to try and tell others what to think.” He grew up in the Presbyterian Church.

Charlie loved music, especially the Beatles, and his favorite song was “Fool on the Hill.”

He is survived by his wife, Deborah; children, Anna Dillon Wall, Todd Dillon, Brian Dillon and Laura McCalley; two sisters, Thama Judy and Leslie Dillon; five grandchildren, Adelyn Wall, 13; Willow Wall, 11; Pax Wall, 8: Ava Dillon, 11, and Hazel McCalley, 2."