A couple of years have past since we have written anything about two of our local favorite music artists. Abby Gershuney has stayed with us several time over the past years and has truly become family. Abby ha worked her magic at the Jackson Hole Playhouse many time over the years and is currently performing in St. George Utah at Tuacahn Center for the Arts for the 2018 summer shows.. Abby can sing, dance, act… she can do it all but when she sings she makes people like me smile.
Many of you who know us know our son Brock Jennings. Brock is another amazingly talented singer song writer and he has an amazing voice. Abby was staying with over the Christmas Holiday while she worked for the playhouse a couple of winters ago. Not sure why they do but they waited until the last day to actually lay down some tracks. Abby had to return to New York City for while.
One of the tracks they laid down was not one of their own but a cover from Nickel Creek titled “When You Come Back Down”. Although this is a rough, uncut, unfinished track I wanted to share this with all of you again. I hope you like it. If you do please let us know we would love to see these two play this summer here in Jackson Hole and maybe some other areas too.
Click on Player below to listen to “When You Come Back Down”
“When You Come Back Down” Recorded by Abby Gurshuney and Brock Jennings, Produced by Brock Jennings, Written by Nickel Creek
A couple of years ago I was commissioned to build a very special flute. I have made a post about this before but I wanted to update this article as there has been some very nice things take place this past summer directly related to this post. I completed the construction of a very nice flute for one of my favorite customers, Mary Blakeley, who lives in Idaho. This is one of the first flutes where I crafted the entire flute and fetish but did not put a finish on the flute prior to shipping.
Mary wanted to complete this process for her flute on her own and I was excited to see what she has in mind. This flute was crafted from a very interesting piece of Sassafras. Sassafras is very nice wood to work with and I like the tonal qualities of this wood. Generally Sassafras is kind of non descriptive wood and it does not have the flash that other domestic species can have.
This board was unusual because the grain patterns were very nice. The problem was – the board was twisted and bent and wow – I was not sure I would be able to make it work. After consulting with Mary she made the decision that this piece was the one for her so I agreed to go ahead and see what I could do.
Because I liked the grain patterns so well I cut the best sections out of the board and spent two weeks trying various tricks to help straighten the blanks out. After a couple of weeks and several different methods I realized that I was going to have to simply do my best during the glue up phase and make sure I had enough clamps on the blanks and a good solid coat of glue to boot.
Prior to glue up there were two things I needed to do. First Mary requested I write into the inside of the flute the name “GOD” in Paleo Hebrew which I did. I then sealed the name into the flute body and it is now part of this flute forever. Second, I scored the entire gluing surfaces by hand with a sharp blade to give us some extra bite for the glue. Prior to the glue up I inlaid a small piece of ironwood into the top of the flute. This inlay became the cutting edge on this flute and the contrast came out perfect. Then I clamped it up and as you can see we made sure we had enough on the blanks. We left the blanks in the clamps overnight to make sure we gave it ample drying time and later the next day we removed the clamps and the results could not have been better.
“Amazing but that is what God does with music. Most believers want to have their emotions manipulated with music but they don’t realize that to God, music is communication. He communicates to us through the music of creation, twinkling stars, rushing water, winds that whisper and winds that roars through the trees, crashing waves and babies cries. The native flute is so special because when we give it our breath, it give us it’s song and each one has a song all its own. Through it we can release the deep sounds of our being.”
We wanted to shoot for a lower C# which made this a very long flute, almost 30 inches in length. We used the four winds tuning holes and spent hours tuning the flute the best I could. A C# is just about at the outside abilities for a 1 inch bored flute. I was able to achieve the fundamental note and like all of our flutes I voiced it for the first time right here in Jackson Hole Wyoming, home of the Teton Mountain range.
The fetish was one of my custom made whimsical feather designs that was crafted from a single piece old growth walnut with a band of sapwood in it. The base of the fetish is the sapwood and the feather is the black walnut color. A chimney was created to help with prevention of the #6 hole from jumping to easily and the results were pleasing.
After many hours of frustration and several challenges that we were faced with this flute ended up being one my favorites that I have worked on in quite some time. Nothing came easy on this flute and there were several times where I thought it was going to end up in my fireplace. But with Mary’s constant coaxing and support this flute came out just beautiful. We shipped this flute to her some time ago and I awaited pictures from her once she had completed her finishing project. All in all a very nice project.
After Mary had received her flute she finished it herself with her favorite wood oil and beeswax The picture to the left is the finished flute at her home in Idaho. Mary did a real nice job on completing the project and now she is busy bringing the life of this flute to others where she if helping people heal from problems they face. Recently Mary sent an email to me about one of her first experiences playing the flute she now calls “Eternal Comfort”. In her message to me she was sharing an experience where she was playing this flute over a sick woman trying to bring comfort to her. Within minutes this lady had fallen to sleep. Above is a block quote from her email to me that is one of the best descriptions of how sound and music communicates to us. This is a project where I have received more from Mary then Mary has from me. This is a very special woman with a desire to only help others – we need more like her…
UPDATE: Recently I received a package in the mail from Mary. It was long like a flute but I thought how could this be. I had recently crafted a new flute for her at her request out of a piece of Black Willow I had been saving. Mary had a vision that her next flute was to be an eagle flute and so this is what we came up with. Again this new flute was to be shipped with no finish on the wood as she would take care of this herself. Could this package I just received be this flute I had shipped to her earlier in the year? So I eagerly opened the package and to my surprise it was a flute but to my great relief it was not the flute below. After looking at it carefully I suddenly realized that is was the very flute this article was written about. Mary was returning it to me as a gift – one that I had never received before in all the flutes I have made for people. Mary wanted me to have this flute and to do something new and exciting with it. To be truthful I am not sure what exactly that is but I have this flute in front of me and I see it every day. I think of Mary most days and I think of all the flutes we have shared over the past few years. Mary has a gift, a gift of love and sharing the word of God. A very spiritual women she is and I thank God everyday for our chance meeting many years ago.
A couple of years ago I came across some old American Cherry that came from an old hand hewn beam. The best we could tell this beam was more than 200 years old when the timber was cut. Because of its size this Native American Style flute would make a very nice back packer flute. This five hole flute was eventually tuned to the Key of A and both the flute body and the fetish were handcrafted from this reclaimed Cherry wood stock. This flute ended up right at 21 1/2 inches in length and features a 3/4″ flute bore. Please note that this flute was crafted entirely by hand including the flute bore which was cut with a gouge. The cutting edge was built into the body of the flute not an inlay. The fetish was from my otter series and was tied on using our hand cut black Deer Leather.
This flute like all of my flutes was hand planed to achieve its signature shape. We added a hand braided deerskin leather lace accent at the foot of the flute and there were 8 multicolored Crow Beads attached. The inside of the flute bore and slow air chamber were sealed with many coats of finish to help prevent moisture absorption. The outside was finished with more than 20+ light coats of high gloss lacquer. The tonal quality of this flute was in the upper range and it is very easy to play and very forgiving. This flute felt really nice in your hands and the color of the reclaimed Cherry gave it a very nice look. This was a very simple yet great sounding flute that actually found a home with a buyer that takes it backpacking on a regular basis.
Cherry makes for a great sounding flute but as you can see from these pictures it also produces a simple elegance. Although this flute has been sold it is available for commission. All flutes ship with a hand crafted flute bag to protect the during shipping and storage at home. Shipping is in addition to the price of the flute. Call us at (307) 690-0427 or email me at email@example.com.
Winter has finally passed here in the Yellowstone Basin. I can’t tell you how nice it is to see the ground again… and the sun! I spent a good part of this winter studying some of the latest Nikon Cameras and it was time to step up to something new. I definitely wanted something with a fast frames rate and a camera that operates in lower light as well.
Although I was hoping for the release of the new 800 series camera I decided to pull the trigger and purchase the new D500 as I shoot so many moving things up here. This new Nikon camera is just as advertised and once I was able to get it to my front door I could not wait to get out and take some new pictures. The weather however did not cooperate until this past week when I finally got a window of clear weather. Although I was not able to get out as early as I wanted I did make it to one of my favorite spots to look for interesting things to share.
This morning I decided to go to the gym first and then head north with my favorite LARGE cup of morning coffee in my hand. I must say – I need to order two cups from now on or take a thermos… One is just never enough.
This time of the year the mountains are just starting to come alive. This morning I headed to Antelope Flats just north of Kelly Wyoming. The light was not what I wanted and there was very few animals to be found. One of my favorite animals to photograph is the Pronghorn Antelope. They are hard to get close enough to and they are FAST.
This big boy was checking me out and just as I was getting into a position where I would be on the right side of the light some tourists decided to speed down the road I was next to at an unacceptable speed thus forcing me to take these shots while I could. Even though these are not what I wanted I do get excited for this summer as I am sure to encounter my friends again on favorable lighting terms.
If you are ever to visit Jackson Hole this is a wonderful part of the valley to check out as you never know what you will find. Be sure to bring your camera and enjoy Jackson Hole through the lens of your camera. You just may run into some of the locals like the Antelope, Bison, Moose, Deer, Elk, and for sure the beautiful mountain vistas that abound in every direction. A great way to share a cup of Morning Coffee…
One of the most enjoyable things I am able to do where I live is to walk out my front door and I can find so many wonderful things to take pictures of. The Yellowstone Basin is truly one of the most beautiful parts of the United States and photographic opportunities are simply everywhere.
As I have achieved a higher level of skill for this craft so too has my desire to keep up with the latest camera technology. Today’s DSLRs are simply amazing. The quality of the image taken is almost as real life as viewing it through your own eyes. I have been waiting for some new camera introductions later this year but my older Nikon was crying for help. So I decided to pull the trigger and new camera now and then watch for future releases.
I settled on the new D500 which if you look into it is simply amazing at the depth of capabilities built into this new body. With a burst rate of up to 10 FPS (Frames Per Second), 151 focal points, 4000K video and more I can’t wait to try it out in the wild. I am sure I will be sharing some new stuff real soon. I am currently awaiting an order of new Gallery Quality Acrylic Mounts that are being added to this website for sale as I write this. Acrylic Mounting is nothing short of amazing!
For several years I wrote a blog post almost daily and I called it “Morning Coffee”. I had so many people tell me how much they enjoyed these post many of which can still be found on this website by clicking on the MENU LINK “BLOG” and then in the search field search “MORNING COFFEE” and a list will render for your reading pleasure.
This new camera is inspiring me to bring this back to all of you and I hope… no I am sure I can find some really cool things to share with all of you. If you have not already subscribed to my blog you can easily do so in the EMAIL SUBSCRIPTION area found in the upper left column of every page. Each time I post something new you will receive it in your Inbox. Please consider subscribing…
Who has not heard about the great adventure story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition? Early from 1804 – 1806, Sacajawea was an integral part of this expedition that led Meriwether Lewis and William Clark on their exploration of the American West looking for a path to the Pacific Ocean. Sacajawea and her husband Toussaint Charbonneau played an important role in the success of this expedition – an expedition that led them right through this part of the country – the great Yellowstone basin. But this post is not about their story. It is the story of the resting place of Sacajawea – a once young Shoshone Indian girl who helped change history forever. A place that can be found just a few miles Southeast from Jackson Hole.
Although Sacajawea was reported to have died in 1812 she actually lived to be a very old women as told by Shoshone oral traditions. Long after the end of the Lewis and Clark Expedition Sacajawea eventually made her way west back to the Shoshone tribes and lived out her life in the area that is now Fort Washakie, Wyoming. Anyone who has traveled to or from Lander, Wyoming has gone right through Fort Washakie which is one of two main cities on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Fort Washakie was originally a U.S Army fort in what is now the state of Wyoming. The fort was established in 1869 and was originally named Camp Augur after General Christopher C. Augur, commander of the Department of Platte. In 1870 the camp was renamed Camp Brown in honor of Captain Frederick H. Brown who was killed in the Fetterman Massacre in 1866. 81 men under his command were killed by Lakota Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne warriors during what was known as Red Cloud’s War on the white man. It was renamed again in 1878 after Chief Washakie of the Shoshone tribe making the fort the only U.S military outpost named after a Native American. The fort remained a military outpost until 1909 when it was decommissioned and turned over to the Shoshone Indian Agency.
The graves of Chief Washakie and the Lewis and Clark Expedition guide Sacajawea are located on the grounds of the fort. This burial site lies within the present-day Wind River Indian Reservation. Our family has become very familiar with Fort Washakie as we travel through there several times a year to visit our daughter in Boulder Colorado. As you pass through the main intersection of Fort Washakie there is a small road sign that says “Sacajawea’s Grave Site”. We had passed this sign many times over many years but had never taken the time to stop and visit this very special place. This last trip it was different – we made the time to visit the resting place of this very important person in American History.
Fort Washakie is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Jackson Hole. A beautiful drive that takes you over Togwotee Pass, through the town of Dubois and across the Wind River Reservation. Just short of Lander Wyoming is Fort Washakie. I need to tell you that please do not expect something on the grandeur of the National Park Monuments we are all used to. Fort Washakie is a humble place that belongs now to the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes. The poverty you will experience on this majestic reservation is shocking and to be truthful something for all to be ashamed about.
Peyton, Brock, Brynn and I have visited several Powwows on this reservation and I can truthfully say these were some of the best days we have had in Wyoming. The Shoshone people are very inviting and I suggest that anyone who is in the area think about visiting one of their Powwows if you can. On this day though we stopped and made our way west of the main intersection, past the Powwow Grounds and along the west side of the Wind River (actual river) for several miles until we came to a very small, unassuming sign that simply says “Sacajawea Cemetery”. As you enter this very humble place two things stand out. No trees or shrubs landscape this place and the close proximity of each grave. Some graves date back to the mid 1800’s and all the way to the present.
I have to tell you that if you are a lover of history you need to visit this place. To stand at the foot of Sacajawea’s gravesite, her son Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau and her sisters son Bazil is quite an experience. This place, this humble grave site, this troubled reservation of the Shoshone people gives one a reason to pause and think… think about those who help lay the path before us, a path that had led to this day that my family stood at the foot of what was once a young Shoshone Indian woman who made an everlasting contribution to our American History.
We woke up again this morning to another beautiful fall day here in the Yellowstone basin! But this morning unlike many of the ones over the past few weeks was really cold. As we pulled from our driveway this morning on our way to drop Brynn off at school the temp gauge was reading 28 degrees. By the time we got across the Snake River it was 25 degrees and even colder north of town.
The Snake River looked pretty cool as there was steam coming off of the water and for that to happen the air temp must be colder than the water. Trust me, the Snake River is not something to wade in this time of year as the water temperatures have dropped quite a bit. Anyway we dropped Brynn off and headed to the coffee shop and then north of town again.
Now forgive us as our camera was acting up this morning but I think you will enjoy our little adventure. We were alone this morning and the animals were right next to our truck at every turn. We took our time and sat and watched the three moose in the pics for quite some time. They were eating the sage next to the road and for the most part ignored us. Been then they decided to check us out and we rolled away as they headed to us. Very cool!
All in all we saw antelope, buffalo, moose, geese and most certainly some spectacular views of the valley. On this morning we passed through Kelly, Wyoming, past the entrance to the Gros Ventre canyon, over to Antelope flats and Mormon Row and then home again. Another great way to share a cup of java!
A few years back my son Brock and I took a day trip to Bozeman Montana to meet some very dear friends from the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation located in Montana. Donovan Sr, is an Assiniboine Elder who trained me how to make traditional Native American Pipes, (but that is for another blog post) and Uncle Loren. The short version is we met Donovan Sr. and Uncle Loren (we call him “Uncs”) to pick up some sacred pipe stone and a couple of new pipes, just completed by Donovan Sr., to take back to Jackson Hole to be photographed. We also picked up some pipe stone for ourselves as well as exchange some pipe stems, ideas, and friendship! The day in Bozeman ended in what we call a “Good Trade” day.
Our trip started early on a Saturday morning, leaving Jackson Hole at around 8:00am. After getting our coffee and a couple of bagels we hit the road. When traveling through this part of the country, which is sooo amazing and in a single round trip of about 450 miles one can experience everything the Rockies has to throw at you. The weather this Fall day was awesome, skies were clear blue and the sun was shining bright, and the temperature was perfect when we left town. There are a couple of ways you can make your way to Bozeman from Jackson, one through Yellowstone Park’s south entrance or head through Idaho, back into Montana, north through the very northwest corner of the park and finally past Big Sky Montana as you make your way down the Gallatin River into Bozeman.
From Jackson to Bozeman is about 214 miles (one way) over some of the most beautiful roads you can travel. We chose to head west over Teton Pass and into Idaho, then north along the west side of the Teton Range. You first travel through beautiful rolling hills where much of the russet potatoes are grown in Idaho, not to mention double row barley (which Anheuser Bush buys for their beer) and after you make a turn east in Ashton Idaho you eventually end up in West Yellowstone.
For those who are not familiar with Yellowstone Park, there are 4 entrances to the park. Jackson Hole to the south, Gardiner at the north, the east entrance which leads to Cody, Wyoming and the west entrance which is West Yellowstone (it’s a town). Some of you may be familiar with West Yellowstone as some of the premier fly fishing rivers in the world are in the area. The Madison river, the Firehole, Henry’s Fork, the Buffalo, the Gallatin and many more. This is truly Lewis and Clark country.
From West Yellowstone you head north toward Bozeman and you travel though the very northwest part of Yellowstone Park and you quickly pass over the Madison River eventually picking up and following the Gallatin river all the way into Bozemen. One important note here is that you pass right through a part of the park that suffered from the big fire in 1988. It is awesome to see how nature has recovered. You pass Big Sky Montana Ski Resort and other beautiful scenery. This is one of the most beautiful stretches of road to drive at any time of the year.
Once in Bozemen we had our little pow wow with friends, stopped at a few stores and headed home. When we left Bozeman the clouds had started to gather. The weather from Jackson to Bozeman had been perfect! Clear skies, very dry roads, an easy drive. But things were about to change. We headed back up the Gallatin to West Yellowstone. This part of the trip is about 90 miles. As we pulled into West Yellowstone, Brock said “Dad why don’t we go home through the park”. I said sure let’s do it. It is important to note that this is about 4:45pm MST and it is getting darker. It is important because this is animal hour in the park.
We entered the park and headed towards the Old Faithful Geyser basin. This part of the trip from West Yellowstone to home in Jackson is about 130 miles. This is when things started to change. We first ran head on into a male buffalo that decided my truck was bigger than he was. So he mosied off the road and into the pasture that sat along the Madison river. He was the first of hundreds we were to run into this day of travels through the park. And on top of it, it was starting to rain. I quickly looked at my temperature gauge and saw that the temp has dropped drastically to 38 degrees. This was important because at 38 degrees and below it will start to snow if the conditions are right.
As we got closer to Old Faithful we saw elk, and big herds of buffalo and we drove along the banks of the Madison River, simply awesome. By the time we got to Old Faithful Geyser Basin the temperature was down to 36 and still raining. And it was now getting pretty dark. Clouded skis and looking even darker towards Jackson. Along this stretch of the road you travel along the banks of the Firehole river for part of the way and it gets it name from all the thermal activity that it passes through. An amazing sight to see in its own right.
This is an beautiful part of the park and we tried to take some pictures before the light got too low. Almost everywhere you look you see geysers, fumaroles, steam, hot pools, bubbling mud, trees, animals, – awesome! We decided to pull over to take a short break and just take in this beautiful valley. But we did not stay long as the temperature continued to drop and I said to Brock we are about to get snowed on. But the ferocity of the change was not expected.
We headed south towards home and as we got down the road about 5 miles the temp dropped to around 32 and I said to Brock here it comes. And come it did! It did not flurry a bit or start real light – it just started snowing. Now in this part of the country you will cross the Continental Divide many times. And we were heading for one of those crossings at an elevation of 8391 feet above sea level. One other thing to note here – the park was void of people as it was close to closing so we were basically on our own.
The snowflakes started to increase in size and the volume at which they fell was speeding up. The road quickly disappeared and became totally white. The snow was accumulating at a rate that I estimated at over an 1-2 inches per hour maybe even more at times. We put the truck into four-wheel drive as we were not going anywhere without it. Our speed dropped to about 25 miles per hour and we are crawling our way through Yellowstone park in the middle of a snow storm all alone. When we left Jackson it was sunny and clear. In Bozeman it was starting to cloud up but still relatively warm. West Yellowstone it started to rain and now we were surrounded in white.
Our final stop before it got real dark and we made the final trek home was the pass where we cross over the Continental Divide. We stopped and took this last picture here. We got out of our truck and it was completely quite. Snow was falling straight down and you could hear it hit the trees, your clothing, the truck. It was coming down so thick that it would fall right into your mouth. If you have never experienced the complete quite of the forest and to see snow falling straight down and building up in front of your eyes you have missed one of heaven’s real treats!!
The light faded fast and Brock and I decided that if we did not get moving we may be spending the night here as the snow was already over a foot deep on the road. We slowly made our way to the south entrance of the park and as the roads started to clear we made our way home to Jackson. You actually leave Yellowstone Park and then make your way through parts of Teton National Park before you get into the Jackson area.
This was an amazing day for Brock and I – we spent it together as father and son, we shared lunch with friends and they we got to see God’s hand on our Mother Earth. We were kissed by her this day and left with a memory I shall never forget! WE WERE TRULY BLESSED THIS DAY!
We just added a new sound clip to this recently completed Alaskan Yellow Cedar Raven Themed flute. This flute was completed for a customer recently and we wanted you to be able to hear how beautiful of a voice Alaskan Yellow Cedar can deliver.
This flute is now available for a new home… Click Here to visit this flute on our website. Also available for Commission – I can build one similar on a Commission Basis. I really like this flute but we can make it your own by adding your vision to the project. Let me hear from you if you like how it sounds … or not…
Listen to Sound Sample from this flute
This flute design is available for Commission so if you have interest please reach out to me at “firstname.lastname@example.org” or call (307) 690-0427.
It is clear that the weather is starting to change here in the Yellowstone Basin. Grizzly Bears are being sighted scrounging for food and the area is clearly starting to move from Winter into Spring mode. Days are longer and nights are getting shorter and warmer to boot.
People will start to plan their summer trips and for many Jackson Hole, Yellowstone and Cody Wyoming will be on the itinerary. If any of you travel through this area this coming Spring, Summer or Fall please reach out to me and come see some of my flutes , Native Pipe designs and jewelry here in my little shop.
I am located on the banks of the Snake River in the South Hoback Junction area in one of the most beautiful setting. Come see me at the end of the road and while you are here take a beautiful walk along the banks of the Snake River. And while you are here visit our Rodeo and see some spectacular cowboys ride into the night.
If you have interest please reach out to me via email or phone and set a time to stop by. I would love to meet with you and show you some of my art. I am working on a large number of flutes and pipes so don’t be surprised if you find something you like. Please contact me at “email@example.com” or by phone “(307) 690-0427” let’s get together – I would love to meet you.