Recently I was contacted by a woman who lives in Anaconda Montana about a flute she and her husband found while hiking on a Spring outing. As the story goes it was a dewy spring afternoon when Julie and her husband went on a day hike in the John Long Mountains in Western Montana.
Another beautiful Montana day led them along the Butte Cabin trail head where Mother Earth was delivering some of her pure mountain snow-melt down stream to a thirsty world. They came to a crossing point that consisted of an old log with a rope that had been positioned to help in crossing the stream before them. The water was moving too fast for their canine companion so Julie traveled upstream to look for a more suitable place to cross.
When she found a place her dog could safely cross it was then she looked down at her feet and saw what she thought was a beaver chew in some leaf litter. She picked it up and realized it was actually some kind of instrument with holes evenly drilled into the body. So she grabbed her newly found treasure and rushed back to the log crossing her husband was still at. Not knowing what it was they tried to make some sounds with it but to no avail.
What she actually found was the body of a Native American Style flute that was visibly worn and blotchy (as she described it). Clearly someone had lost this flute some time before, maybe making a similar hike as she and her husband were enjoying. She pondered what journeys this flute had made long before she came across this little treasure this beautiful Spring day.
Upon returning home she did some research on Native American flutes and discovered it was missing a very important part of the flute which was the Fetish or Totem as some call it. She learned that with this specific flute the fetish that was missing also required the Focusing Channel to be cut into the bottom of the fetish in order to make it play. Who made this flute she wondered and what happened to the fetish? The only identifying mark was the letter “A” that was cut into the foot of the flute. This identifying mark was actually the key of this flute.
As she searched the Internet for a possible fetish replacement she came across our website here at Jacksoholetim.com. Julie reached out to me to see if I could help her with fitting a new fetish that would work for her new found treasure. I was humbled and excited that she reached out for help and shortly thereafter she sent the flute body to me to see if I could bring new life to it. I am always humbled by those who trust me with their wind instruments not really knowing who I am. But she did and soon after I received it in the mail.
After looking at this flute closer I was pretty sure the original flute maker was High Spirits Flutes out of Patagonia Arizona. There style of flute is unique and most all of their flutes I have seen are made where the focusing channel is cut into the bottom of the bird rather than the body of flute as I do it. This was once a nice little flute that was voiced in the Key of A.
So in short I created a new Otter fetish, cut the focusing channel into the bird and finished it so I could mate it to her flute. My Otters are a bit larger than the original fetish that probably was made for this flute but I like a bit larger bird so I went with it. Mother Nature had done a job on the previous finish and left some battle scars and water stains that needed to be addressed. I am sure this flute spent a winter or two in these mountains before she was found.
It was clear that the fetish I made which was out of a piece of Black Walnut required some work in matching the color of the fetish to the flute. I sanded the flute body down to it’s natural state, added a little stain for color adjustment and finished it with many hand applied coats of Semi Gloss Lacquer. I used some of our hand cut Warriors Blood Bison lace to attach the bird and in the end a nice little flute.
All in all this was a great little project for me. Even thought I did not make this flute I hope my part in restoring to playing condition brings many hours of joyful playing for it’s new owner.