Author: Cornish, Rick

Hi, this is the California Bluegrass Association. How may I help you?

Good morning from Whiskey Creek, where in just the few short days I spent in the splendid little ghost of a town called Parkfield, spring was hit over the head by summer’s lead pipe, checked into Sonora Regional with its annual concussion and will no doubt languish in a coma through the searing months of June, July and August. Such is the lot of Jamestownians and I ain’t complaining.

This morning before starting in on the various tasks required in the daily refresh, I checked my email to find a note from a man named John M. Harper. It read:

“Hi Rick, I tried to put a regular occurring jam on the calendar but I apparently didn’t do it right. How do I edit it. The jam is in Ukiah at the River Oaks Charter School at 555 Leslie Street from 6:30 to 9 pm on the 2nd and 4th Wednesdays. Tommie Thompson is the contact person.”

Nothing the least bit out of the ordinary in the email, but I did a double-take at the guy’s auto-generated footer…

John M Harper
UCCE Livestock & Natural Resources Advisor - Mendocino & Lake Counties
Certified Rangeland Manager License #23
Certified Professional in Rangeland Management #CPO-495
890 N. Bush Street
Ukiah, CA 95482
Phone: (707) 463-4495
Fax: (707) 463-4477
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“Know Thyself” – Socrates
University of California
Agricultural and Natural Resources

Now here, I thought after running down the list a couple times, is a man who loves the bajeebers out of his life…a man I would some day like to meet. Here’s my reply to John:

“Hi John. We'll take care of the posting. Candy, when you have a moment, please, dear woman, handle John's Ukiah jam posting.

Man of man oh man what a knock out your California-Pacific Section of the
Society for Range Management web site is, John. Just very, very nice. The kind of web site you DO NOT want to accidentally bump into when you've been away at a bluegrass festival for four days and have a mountain range of backed-up work looking not so grand and majestic out your office window. But the images are just spectacular and I enjoyed reading about the organization until guilt overcame me and I dragged myself back to work. The fest I went to was Parkfield, which, I'm guessing, you're aware of...down off 41 between 5 and 101. Some of the most beautiful range land, to this native CA boy at least, out here in the west. In the little, mostly ghost town there sits the thriving Parkfield Cafe where, despite the seventeen mile drive down broken asphalt, gravel and at times dirt road required to get there, you can always find folks enjoying the local beef.

Anyways, enough waxing eloquent...we'll fix your jam dates. And thanks for posting. Rick”

(Candy is, of course, Candy Sponhaltz, the tireless manager of our online calendar, a volunteer at the center of everything happening bluegrass down in the Clovis area, and there’s a lot, and the sister of fiddle-mandolin playing John Cooper of Morgan Hill.)

There are so many things about my various CBA jobs that I like, but I’d have to say that way up at the top of the list is receiving emails and calls asking for help and/or information. For starters it’s just damned satisfying to be able to help solve someone’s problem, even if it just means passing it along to the appropriate person. Ninety-nine point nine per cent of the requests I get I can meet satisfactorily, and in a world where it seems so very little is simple anymore, the sense of accomplishment is palpable. Second, I absolutely love bluegrass music…adore it, relish it, would do anything for it, want it for EVERYONE ON THE PLANET…and since the calls and emails I receive are almost exclusively opportunities for me to assist folks in digging a little deeper into Bill’s music, well, you get the picture. This time of year is far and away the most rewarding because during the months leading up to the Fathers Day Festival it’s my cell phone number, as the CBA’s default Director of Operations, that people dial with their questions, concerns, ideas, grand offers…but mainly problems. (By now, with right around thirty days to go, I’m getting six to eight calls and emails per day.) I’m always struck when, before asking their question or describing their problem, they instinctively apologize for having to “bother me.” Hah, if only they knew.

But far and away the best part of my quasi ombudsman function for the Association is simply meeting and talking with new people. Friends and family who know me well are very much aware that I am, at heart, a shy person who doesn’t make new friends easily. Bluegrass and the small role I play in helping to promote and preserve it through the work of the California Bluegrass Association has helped me to overcome some of the shyness by providing me with a cause…a mission…that’s ample justification for putting myself out there. Yesterday I got a call from a woman in Orland who began the conversation by warning that she had seven questions about Fathers Day and our two music camps. The Orlander, who plays old-time banjo, is married to a flat-picking guitarist and is mother to two pre-teens whose musical aspirations are just now beginning to form, got all seven of her questions answered and, in the process, commiserated on child-rearing, received a quick but colorful overview of the Parkfield Festival, shared and in return received a gluten-free oat bran muffin recipe and offered up her solution for turning around the train wreck that is the U.S. House of Representatives. Oh, and we agreed with jam a little at Grass Valley.

Posted:  5/14/2013

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