Friday, October 19, 2011 somewhere on Highway 24 on the plains east of the city of Colorado Springs.
It is a warm fall evening. My grandson, 13, is riding beside me as I drive along the highway. The year is 2011. My wife of 43 years died earlier in the year. My life is about to change. Here is the story of that night, written years ago after my first visit to a Buffalo Grass Acoustic Society concert.
It was at sunset as we traveled away from the city. My neighbor in the city has urged me to travel to a cowboy church 'out in the county where his friend will be singing cowboy songs.
The dark of night was descending as we traveled northward along a low ridge overlooking the valley and city. We were favored with a huge panoramic view of the front range mountains of the Rockies silhouetted against a blazing backdrop of an orange and azure blue sky. Pikes Peak, dark and foreboding stood watch over the landscape.
The lights of the city fell off in the distance as we traveled further out on the plains and soon it was completely dark except for stars. We turned off the highway at the tiny town of Peyton, Colorado.
The road now is a country lane and it is dark in every direction. "Where is this church?" we wondered as we travel some distance in the open country.
In the dark we approach a stop sign at a lonely country crossroad. We continue on wondering if it is the right decision. Finally we reached a high point in the rolling hills and ahead in the distance, a glow reflecting off a small building. Could this be the church? We drove on until we arrived at the building.
There is no activity... no cars, no movement. We pull into the drive and it leads us around the building to the back. We discover several cars parked in the darkness. Moving shadows in the light of the open doorway betray human activity inside.
In the night air, the crunch of gravel beneath our feet dominates our senses as we make our way to the door with the light. There are people here... and music drifting from inside. Country music.
Inside now, we work our way toward the chapel area passing a little side room from which we hear lively country music. A guitar wielding singer and an accordionist are seated there rehearsing a cowboy song. Music from another group down the hall within the chapel is mixing in our ears. Sound checks it seems.
A small table partly blocks the hallway. A lady in a plain country dress is collecting admission: $5 for adults, kids 16 and under free. Brad is 13 and 6 foot two and looks older. I'm sure she won't believe he is under 16. No need to quibble, the price is good. We will pay for Brad's ticket. With pride in my tall and handsome grandson, I tell her we'll gladly pay, because "you won't believe he is only thirteen". "Oh yes, I do" she replied, "my daughter too is tall." The money for Brad's admission is handed back. "Right is right" she says to us. With thanks, we enter the little chapel.
This is a cowboy church. A saddle sits on a wooden horse beside the alter. I envision young cowpokes playing on the wooden horse. Wagon wheels and wooden fencing adorn the alter which will serve as stage for this night.
A small crowd of maybe twenty souls are visiting about. Ranchers mostly, with cowboy hats and western attire. Older folks whose down to earth lifestyle so evident. Younger married couples too, with young'uns' in tow. These are people from the ranches and cowtowns nearby. It feels like home. Nice people, smiling, happy, greeting each other with a pat on the back expressing brotherly love. Yes, this is going to be a special night.
Two men are standing near the stage. "It's seven", one says to the other as they survey the small crowd. " More may come" says the other. "We'll go by cowboy time."
Out of the dark night more people arrive. Soon the the crowd grows to perhaps thirty, tho the chapel is far from full. A man dressed in a dark western jacket and black cowboy hat steps forward to address the crowd. Like a circus ringmaster, he paces before the front pew and barks in a loud voice: "LaaaaDeees and gentlemen....welcome to the Buffalo Grass Acoustic Society...." He is distracted by activity at the back of the room. Interrupted, he peers to see whats wrong. Two young lads, perhaps ten or so years of age, are waving. They are in charge of video cameras set up to record tonights event. Technical troubles it seems. "Please wait, we want to get the start."
The Master of Ceremonies obliges. The audience chuckles. Let the boys do their work. A few more awkward pauses and the show begins. The room becomes energized with music, traditional music of old. The group called "Crystal Hill Billys" fill the room with a set of bluegrass music. It's good. Very good. My heart is jumping, my foot a thumping. Brad is singing to the tune. Tonight is a good night.
After twenty minutes two gentlemen take to the stage and perform traditional cowboy songs. Wayne Humphrey and friend Allen Kirkham. Wayne entertained at the Flying W ranch until the Waldo Canyon fire reduced it to ashes. Allen and Wayne hope to start a chuck wagon venue of their own out here on the plains. Their rendition of "Cool Water" brings long and loud applause from ranchers and others who understand the hardships and dry prairie thirst portrayed within the song. They sing cowboy and western songs for anothef twenty minutes.
Time now for the feature of the night: Jim Young, a long time singer-song writer from here in southern Colorado. Jim performs a generous selection of his songs and dry humor.
Jim is a prolific songwriter who paints pictures in the mind with his songs. Many of his songs are written with a backdrop of the southwest. The cowtown folks are entralled and enjoy his corny jokes about his seventy acres, Airstream trailer and Tuff Shed. A place where the prairie winds blow almost constantly, so much so that when the wind lets up, the chickens fall over.
Finally, Jim looks out across the room for someone in charge, "How much more time do I have?" "Til midnight!" I yell back, usurping those in charge. A few chuckles and the performance continues for another tune or two. The night is coming to an end.
Brad is excited. Jim's CD he must get. Only $10. I get one too. We will share the music in coming days I'm sure. Brad wore his cowboy hat this evening. Jim Young's autograph now adorns that hat.
Tonight was a very good night... with my grandson at my side.
Its now ten years since that night. Brad and I returned many times to enjoy the monthly concerts featuring cowboy, bluegrass, folk and traditional country music. I got involved as a volunteer and became fast friends with more people in those years than I have called "friend" in my entire 80 years.
The price of admission has gone up, but kids still get in free. Wayne and Allen never started a chuckwagon dinner and entertainment center. Their music careers have progressed on separate paths. Each have developed a strong fan base. Allen and wife Jill perform as Allen and Jill around the country, have gathered up a number of awards and ranking and currently have an online radio show.
The Crystal Hillbillies have gone thru a transformation with new players and different musical style. And Jim Young is a prolific song writer cranking out wonderful songs every year.
A widower, I eventually moved to live in the prairie town of Falcon, not far from Peyton and the society.
The accordion player in that side room became my best friend. His name is Lee Patterson. We traveled around the region to various shows. He sometimes accompanied other performers on stage. At other times we just came to enjoy the show. We both became involved in booking entertainers and the general operations of the society's concerts and jams. I handled the website and membership records.
The Buffalo Grass is not only a source of entertainment for me, but a source of good friends, and my volunteer work has been so much fun and satisfying.
During those ten years I took on various volunteer tasks. For several years I handled booking many truly fine country, bluegrass, and folk music artists. Most of them became my fast friends.
I spent time as a radio engineer to help a struggling traditional country radio station stay on the air and in return was able to produce and air commercials promoting BGAS concerts.
I listened to people talking before concerts and as I passed some people milling in a hallway I heard the perfect voice for our radio spots. Sergio Schaeffer was approached and he accepted the task. Sergio became our voice on the radio. His radio spots brought in lots of new fans and our audiences swelled until we filled the church several times. The arrangement with the radio station was a good one. I enjoyed the work I did for the station, and enjoyed producing the radio spots with Sergio.
In 2019 after a series of health setbacks I was forced to step down from my volunteer activities. I turned the reins over to my friend Lee Patterson. Lee was already heavily involved as head of promotions when he took over my tasks as well. I would not return to BGAS except to say good-bye a year later.
As I could no longer drive, it was difficult for me to get around. My friend Lee took over chauffering me to doctor appointments. It didn't matter what day or time, or whether the appointment was in Colorado Springs or Denver, Lee would take me there. We often talked BGAS "business" during those trips. Over the years we would meet at the Village Inn every Wednesday evening for supper and our conversations always became brain storming sessions on how to make the Buffalo Grass society concerts better for our guests.
My involvement with BGAS has brought me in contact with many fine people. The volunteers are a joy to work with. They reflect the traditional morals and friendliness of country folk.. people you are comfortable with. Some call it 'down to earth'. The performers are geniunely nice people and our audiences always have an opportunity to visit with them. Buffalo Grass Acoustic Society is a real treasure sustaining traditional forms of American bred music. Some call it roots music, others may call in traditional country... what ever you call it, it is pure Americana!