Saturday, February 15, 2003
Dear Friends Halden,
In my adventures at Collum Creek, I started telling you about our school's music program and in particular the role of the harmonica, French harp or mouth organ in our program.
Music has always been an important part of my life, and I had never been without a piano at hand. My father, Will Bowie, an accomplished performer on the cornet and violin, had before I was born purchased a good used Steinway piano. And before I was married, Fred had as a surprise for me purchased from the factory a Hamilton. Fred says he has always preferred Hamiltons to other makes, as that is the make used by all the U.S. military bands and he had always been thrilled by their music.
Well, upon our arrival at the Collum Creek School, it suddenly occurred to me that here I would have no piano! And I had promised Lulu that I would teach music to her pupils here at Collum Creek.
I had taught lots of music, but I had always had a piano as an aid to my instruction. I proceeded by having the pupils, all six of them and sometimes one or two more, sing as a group a few songs we all knew -- Jingle Bells, The Old Gray Mare, Old Mac Donald had a Farm, Over the River and through the Woods, Froggie Went a Courting, Yankee Doodle, etc.
The pupils loved singing rounds -- Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Three Blind Mice, Sweetly Sings the Donkey at the Break of Day, and finally some of the Stephen Foster classics and some cowboy songs. When we sang cowboy songs, Johnny Bivens often accompanied us on his harmonica, or French harp as he called it. And, an old range rider, who made his winters at the Bivens ranch, had given Johnny his old French harp when he bought himself a new one. The old cowpuncher taught Johnny a number of cowboy songs and told him many exciting tales about his adventures on the Goodnight Trail. And he told Johnny that the French harp was the most popular music instrument among the cowboys, as it was the only one a cowboy could carry in his pocket.
Johnny told of how the old rider could in the middle of playing a song all of sudden turn the harp around and continue playing without a note, though he would close one eye.
He said this reversed the gears in his brain.
Will tell more, later.
Until then, sincerely,