Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Winds of Home

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith For the Years of Winter…

I saw Carolyn Waller’s obit in the Princeton, IN paper on line.

Carolyn and I were the bassoonists in the Oakland City HS concert band and orchestra. I think Carolyn played bassoon just because she was good at it. I became a bassoonist because I was too poor to buy an instrument. The bassoons were so expensive that the school owned them. Because I was the poorest kid, I got to play the most expensive instrument.

Carolyn was first chair, because she was three years ahead of me in school, and several eons ahead in ability to control a double reed. She was pretty and kind and tried to teach me how to play. I loved every moment I sat beside her. But she graduated and left me, as the older women we adore are wont to do. I became not just first chair but “only” chair. It was a lonely position.

I was never a confident musician. In the “Dixie Five”, I played saxophone, since bassoons are not a revered part of a Dixieland band. There I practiced “safe sax,” just skipping a note if I wasn’t sure of it. I knew that Bill Burns’ cornet and Bob Keaton’s trombone would cover me. It’s hard to practice safe bassoon when you play “only” chair and there is a three measure solo in a symphony.

I recall my first attempt to play one of those little solos. I demonstrated well why the bassoon is called “an ill wind that nobody plays good.” Everybody in the orchestra laughed. I turned red. Mr. Jack Adams, our director, came to my defense. “He has a dry reed,” he said. “What? He has diarrhea?” yelled John Kennedy from the baritone section. Even I had to laugh at that, since I really did make the bassoon sound flatulent.

I got through three years of playing “only” chair bassoon, and there wasn’t a day of it that I didn’t long for Carolyn.

She and her husband, Kenny Barnard, have lived in Sacramento almost all the 53 years of their marriage, but she will be buried back home, in Oakland City, in Montgomery Cemetery. Come Saturday at 2 p.m., I’ll put on a CD of the great bassoonist, Kim Walker, and listen for that good wind that wills us home.


{I also write the fictional “Periwinkle Chronicles” blog. One needs a rather strange sense of humor to enjoy it, but occasionally it is slightly funny. It is at}

(If you would prefer to receive either “Christ In Winter” or “Periwinkle Chronicles” via email, just let me know at, and I’ll put you on the email list.)

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