Monday, March 27, 2023

Bob Kuban and the In-men, Our Local Band


The St. Louis area spawned many famous musicians, most notably Chuck Berry, Ike and Tina Turner and more recently Michael McDonald, who graduated from McClure High School, in Florissant, Mo. I had already graduated from McClure before he entered high school, so I'm sorry to say, I didn't know him. In North St. Louis in the mid '60s the local band that made the big-time was Bob Kuban and the In-Men. If you've heard of them, you are either familiar with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's one hit wonder list or you’re from the St. Louis area or you have an incredible amount of rock and roll trivia rambling around in your brain. I'm guilty of all three.

Bob Kuban was the drummer and band leader of the In-Men. On Friday nights during the summer, his band would play at Jackson Park, a relatively small park in Berkeley, a north St. Louis suburb. Jackson Park hosted a variety of local bands during the hot St. Louis summer nights. In the summers of 1964 and 1965, my friends and I would go back and forth between Jackson Park and the local YMCA where there was usually a band playing as well. But when Bob Kuban and the In-Men were playing at Jackson Park, we tried not to miss it. It was a first-rate band.

The Beatles and the British bands were taking over America at that time and they were the major influence on popular music. Bob Kuban's band was not your typical band of the era. It had more in common with the earlier rhythm and blues bands of Ike Turner, Wilson Picket and James Brown. In an interview, Kuban states that Ike Turner was a big influence on him and his formation of the band. As a footnote, in 1951 before Tina joined him, Ike Turner's band was called The Kings of Rhythm. They recorded a song called Rocket 88 which some believe was the very first rock and roll song.

Bob Kuban had an eight-piece band with horns, drums and keyboard, which was played by Greg Hoeltzel, who lived in my neighborhood. The lead singer was Walter Scott, who had a great voice for that style of music. During those two summers we listened to our local band, knowing they were a cut above the other local groups, playing in their unique St. Louis style. This was several years before Chicago, originally called (Chicago Transit Authority) and Blood Sweat and Tears would bring the big band sound back to popular music. In 1966 Bob Kuban and the In-Men hit it big with The Cheater. The song was all over the radio for months. That year we watched our local guys on national TV, but their run was short lived. They had only a few other songs that got national play, Teaser, and a cover of a Beatles song Drive My Car. I also remember hearing a song called Jerkin' Time and the Bat Man Theme on the radio as well, but they may have just been popular locally.

Walter Scott left the band shortly after The Cheater's popularity to pursue a solo career. He never had another hit song, but in his repertoire, he sang (Look out for The Cheater) over and over again in a variety of performance venues. In 1983, when Bob Kuban was trying to get the original band back together for a reunion concert, he discovered that Walter Scott was missing. Scott was found 4 years later floating face down in a cistern with his ankles, knees and wrists bound. He had been shot through the heart from the back. In one of life's ironic turns, it was discovered that his murderers were his “cheater” wife and her "cheater" boyfriend. There was a Forensic Files TV show about it, as well as a book written titled The Cheaters: The Walter Scott Murder by Scottie Piesmeyer.

I don’t know if Bob Kuban still has his band. He would be in his 80s today. I read that not too long ago, the Bob Kuban Brass played a summer evening gig at Jackson Park and invited all the fans to come out for old time's sake. I would have liked to have been there. I live out west and haven't been back to St. Louis since 2002. But I still have memories of those hot summer evenings in the '60s at Jackson Park, listening to our local band that made the big-time.

Here's a link to The Cheater

(131) The Cheater (Remastered) - YouTube


The Birth of Motown

In 1957 Barry Gordy went to an audition with Jackie Wilson’s manager to hear a local group called the Matadors. Their lead singer was a 17-year-old Smokey Robinson. At the time, Gordy was writing and producing songs in Detroit for artists on a variety of record labels, most famously Wilson’s hit song Lonely Teardrops. Wilson’s manager declined to sign the Matadors, but Gordy saw potential in the young singer and his group. Gordy discovered that Smokey already had hundreds of songs written in a notebook and Gordy helped him craft the best ones. 

Gordy wanted to start his own independent music label and Smokey had the passion and creative talent to help make it happen. So, Gordy made Smokey his vice president and together they formed Motown records. They bought a photographic studio in Detroit and converted the downstairs into a recording studio and business office. Gordy lived upstairs. He called the house, Hitsville USA and that’s exactly what came out of it, hit after hit. 

In 1960 they had their first million selling record, Shop Around written by Smokey and performed by “Smokey (Bill) Robinson and the Miracles”(changed from Matadors). Between 1961 and 1971, Motown had 110 top ten hits from their all-black artists, which included: the Miracles, the Marvelettes(who had Motown’s first #1 hit on the pop charts with Please Mr. Postman), the Supremes, the Four Tops, the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, and Martha and the Vandellas.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Elders of Green Valley, The Silent Generation


View from our patio

Katie and I moved back to Arizona, but this time as snowbirds, splitting our time between Washington and Green Valley. We were in our sixties when we lived here before and the folks of the WWII Generation were the elders in this community of people 55 years and up. The youngest of that generation would now be 97 years old, so there are not many left, and those who are, don’t get out a lot. The Silent Generation, those people born between 1928 and 1945, was the dominant group, while Baby Boomers, born from 1946 to 1964, were the youngsters.

Now Boomers are the dominant group, the youngest is 59 and the oldest 77. The evidence of this Boomer take-over is everywhere. Walking the desert trails, I’m occasionally flashed the two-finger peace sign by another walker. It always takes me by surprise and I usually just give a normal wave. Many men still display their “freak flags”, with tiny thin pony tails or facial hair. The other day, I was standing in line at the grocery store and the elderly woman in front of me had long straight white hair and was wearing a colorful skirt down to her ankles. She reeked of patchouli oil, which transported me mentally back to the Oregon Country Fair in the 70s, where the dominant smells were patchouli and cannabis. We’ve attended three different music venues since we’ve been here and all the music was 50s and early 60s rock & roll.

The youngest Boomers have more in common with Gen-Xers. They were too young to remember Watergate and when the boys came of military age, the draft had already ended, so, unless they lost a loved one, the Vietnam War had little impact on their lives. The oldest Gen-Xer would be 58 and they are beginning to show up here as well. I see them holding hands, walking with a spring in their step, newly retired, hopeful, bright-eyed and bushytailed.  

The Silent Generation(SG), also referred to as Traditionalists, are the elders now. They were children during the Great Depression and the end of WWII. Couples during this time were not having a lot of babies, so they are a comparatively small generation.  As children they were strictly managed by their parents (seen but not heard) as opposed to the later more promiscuous Boomers and Gen-X children. Radio was their dominant form of entertainment. Women entered the workforce in record numbers and unions became strong and dominant in the work place. SGs inherited the values of their parents-- conformity, hard work, religiosity and early marriage. But times were changing and for the first time in American history, divorce became legal and more culturally accepted, so this generation has the highest divorce rate in US history. Communism was on the rise in the world and Joseph McCarthy attempted to root out communist leaning individuals in all walks of life. SGs made up the majority of soldiers in the Korean War. Because of these national events, this generation is described as being conservative and cautious.

And yet, this cautious and conservative generation had a rebellious undercurrent that erupted in the 1950s.  In the 1953 movie “The Wild One”, Marlon Brando’s character, the biker gang leader, was asked by another character, “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?”, and he replied “What have you got?”. The 1955 movie “Rebel Without a Cause”, starring James Dean, captured the alienation, angst and confusion felt by teenage SGs. From this generation sprung the civil rights movement, which later morphed into the 60s peace movement and protests against the Vietnam War. Martin Luther King and John Lewis were SGs. The Beatniks were a 50s phenomenon, a counter-culture movement whose expression was seen in literature, art and music. They laid the foundation for the Hippies of the 60s.  

The “Beat Generation” or “Beatniks” were anti-establishment and anti-materialism. Their music was jazz by musicians like Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis and their writers were Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Gary Snyder among others. They embraced eastern philosophy and adopted the lifestyle of the “Lost Generation” writers and French existentialists of the 20s. Some dressed in black tight outfits, horned rimmed glasses and berets and they gathered in coffee houses and listened to poetry readings or acoustic music with accompanying bongos.  My introduction to Beatniks as a child was the Maynard G. Krebs character on the TV show “The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis”, played by Bob Denver. Later I read Kerouac’s book “On the Road”. In Greenwich Village, the coffee house scene transformed in the early 60s into the folk revival movement of Silent Generation musicians like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Eric Andersen, Tom Rush, Tim Harden, and Leonard Cohen as well as John Sebastian(The Lovin Spoonful), Roger Mcguinn(The Byrds) and Cass Elliot(Mamas and the Papas).

Ken Kesey, an SG, was a direct bridge between the Beatniks and the Hippies. In 1964, he and the Merry Pranksters drove a psychedelically painted 1939 International Harvester school bus they named “Further”, across the country, smoking marijuana and dropping LSD. They stopped in small towns and visited with (or more like intimidated) the locals along the way. Neal Cassady, who Kerouac’s side kick character was based on in “On the Road”, was one of the Merry Pranksters. The “trip” was immortalized in Tom Wolf’s book “The Electric Cool-aid Acid Test”.

All the early rock & rollers were from the Silent Generation, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Carl Perkins, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley, Ricky Nelson. All are dead now. Don Everly just died in 2021.

I was surprised to learn that even the second wave of rock & roll in the 60s was launched by a bunch of Silent Generation artists--the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Jerry Garcia, Surf Music inventor Dick Dale, as well as the Beach Boys(except the youngest of the Wilson brothers Carl was a Boomer) and Jan and Dean.   

Even though rock & roll was invented and carried on by individuals of the Silent Generation, it was the Boomers who made up the majority of the audience and claimed the music as their own. By the time of the British invasion in 1964, most of the SGs were married and working at their jobs, too busy to pay much attention to the music. But the hordes of Boomers just coming of age, latched on to the music and it became the sound track of our lives.   






Saturday, November 12, 2022

John Sebastian and the Lovin' Spoonful


This drawing was inspired by the album art of Chrystal Russell

In the mid-1960s, I bought records by a few musicians as soon as their latest albums were released-The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, and The Lovin’ Spoonful. Unlike the other groups, The Lovin’ Spoonful’s popularity only lasted about two years, from 1965-67. They were a New York city folk/rock band, a musical genre that dominated the music scene in the late 60s and early 70s. The Byrds are widely credited with the invention of folk/rock, but one could argue that the Lovin’ Spoonful were equally instrumental in launching this new genre. The Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man” (a Bob Dylan song that he gave them the OK to record) is thought to be the first folk/rock hit. It came out in April 1965. The Lovin’ Spoonful’s first hit song was “Do You believe in Magic” which was released in July. Even though the Byrds were from LA and the Lovin’ Spoonful from New York, both bands sprung from the early 60’s folk scene.

 John Sebastian grew up in Greenwich Village. His father was a professional concert harmonica player and his mother, a radio script writer. His godmother was Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz on I Love Lucy), a close friend of John’s mother. His family hosted many musicians at their home, Burl Ives, Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, Sonny Terry, and Lightening Hopkins. John got to know them and their music intimately. I attended a John Sebastian concert in Tucson in the early 2000s. John said Mississippi John Hurt stayed with his family when he was in New York and John learned Mississippi’s finger picking style. He confessed and demonstrated how the Lovin’ Spoonful song “Loving You” was a direct rip off of Hurt’s musical style.

As part of the folk revival, John was in a group called the Mugwumps along with Zal Yanovsky, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty. In 1964, they put out one album and two singles. When the group broke up, Cass and Denny joined with John and Michelle Phillips to form the Mammas and Pappas and John and Zal recruited bass player Steve Boone and drummer Joe Butler to form the Loving Spoonful. The Mammas and Pappas 1967 hit song, “Creeque Alley”, tells the story of the formation of the two bands.

After their first hit song, “Do You Believe in Magic”, the Lovin’ Spoonful had a string of hits with “You Didn’t Have to be So Nice”, “Day Dream”, “Did You Ever Have to Make Up Your Mind”, “Summer in The City”, Rain on the Roof”, “Younger Girl” and “Nashville Cats”. They had seven consecutive top ten hits. John Sebastian was the main song writer and lead singer. He often played the auto harp on their recordings and was/is an excellent guitar and harmonica player. Even though the other members of the group were good musicians, John was the dominant force behind the group.

The band was flying high throughout 1966. Joe Butler was in the Broadway production of “Hair”. The group composed and performed the music for Woody Allen’s film “What’s Up Tiger Lily?”. Sebastian composed the music for Francis Ford Coppola’s second film, “You’re a Big Boy Now” with the band performing all the instrumental background. And they scored another hit song from the film, “Darling be Home Soon.” The producers that created the TV show “The Monkeys” built the show around the Lovin’ Spoonful, but "dropped the band from the project due to conflicts over song publishing rights". 

In May of 1967, Zal left the group after getting busted for marijuana possession. He was a Canadian citizen and the police pressured him to either give up the name of his drug supplier or be deported. Zal was afraid he wouldn’t be allowed back into the U.S. so he complied. After this incident, there was a counter-culture movement to boycott all of the Lovin’ Spoonful’s records and performances. In an interview Zal said he left the band because he didn’t like the direction John’s song writing was taking it. Zal was replaced by Jerry Yester from the Modern Folk Quartet, but the band was hurt by the drug controversy and only had a few minor hits after that. In 1968 Sebastian left the group to pursue a solo career. I love his first solo album titled “John B. Sebastian”.

I attended a benefit concert for fire fighters at the Tacoma Dome in the 90’s. The bands included America and the Lovin’ Spoonful. America sounded great, with the two remaining members. The Lovin’ Spoonful consisted of Boone, Butler, Jerry Yester and his brother Jim. Joe Butler sang all of John’s leads. The music sounded the same, but Butler was no substitute for Sebastian on the lead vocals. In 2000, the original band got back together for their induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

In the summer of 1969, Sebastian performed at Woodstock and some of it is captured in the “Woodstock” movie. In an interview John said he was not scheduled to perform. He had hitched a ride on a helicopter and attended the festival as a fan and to support his musician friends. He didn’t even bring a guitar with him. After a fairly long bout of rain, the crew needed to sweep down the stage to make it safe for the electronic equipment. They needed someone who could fill in with just an acoustic guitar, so John borrowed a guitar from his friend and fellow folk singer, Tim Hardin, and performed a totally improvised acoustic set.

In talking about the performance, he said it was a magical moment for him. He was wearing a self-tie-dyed outfit and pretty high on pot. In the middle of the set, the clouds parted and the sun came out. His solo career got a big boost from that performance. John had his biggest solo hit, “Welcome Back” in 1976, the theme song to the television show “Welcome Back Cotter”.

When we saw him perform in Seattle, John still had his voice and put on a great show in the small club. I was determined to speak to him. During the break he went to the bathroom and I followed him. I didn’t want to be creepy, so I waited outside the door. When he came out, I said, “John, thank you for your music.” He said, “You’re welcome.” And that was the extent of it. He got back on stage and finished the show. When we saw him in Tucson years later, he had all but lost his voice. He still put on a good show, but his croaky voice did not work well singing the old “Spoonful” songs but sounded appropriate for the early folk and blues songs. 

The Lovin’ Spoonful was truly an authentic American band that pioneered a genre of rock & roll that is still popular to this day.


Wednesday, June 1, 2022

The "Girl Groups"


I was in middle school when early rock & roll all but died out and “girl groups” began appearing over the radio airwaves. These groups sprung out of the male dominated Doo-Wop era of the forties and fifties. The “girl group” phenomenon lasted from about 1957 to 1966.The early groups were mostly teenagers who sang together in school and church. “Mr. Lee”, by the Bobbettes was the first song to make the pop charts. These five teenage girls from East Harlem, originally called themselves the Harlem Queens. They grew up in the projects and like the Doo-Wop groups before them, practiced in the hallways and on the playground.

“Maybe”, by the Chantels, was the next song to become a hit. It was a million seller in 1957 and re-released in 1969 after Janis Joplin covered it. The Chantels were five high school girls, ages 14 to 17, who attended parochial school in the Bronx and sang together in the school choir.

My favorite “girl group”, and the act that solidified the “girl group” sound was the Shirelles, four teenagers from Passaic, New Jersey. They began singing together at high school shows and parties, initially calling themselves the Poquellos. They had a sweetness and innocence to their sound, with back-ground harmonies like the earlier Doo-Wop groups. Their first single “I Met Him on a Sunday” was a song they wrote themselves and sang at school parties. Their second single, “Dedicated to the One I Love”, was a cover of a 1957 “5 Royals” song. The Shirelles version was released in 1959, but without a national distributer, only charted at #83 on the Billboard Top 100. In 1961, after they had several hits, the song was re-released and shot to #3. In 1967, the Mamas and the Papas covered the song "Dedicated to the one I Love" which went to #2. This was the first song that Michelle Phillips sang lead on instead of Cass Elliot.  

“Tonight’s the Night”, the Shirelles next hit single, was co-written by lead singer Shirley Owens. “Will You Love MeTomorrow” written by Carole King and her then husband Jerry Goffin was their first #1 song and the first #1 by any “girl group”.  Both of these songs would later make Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the greatest hits of all time. “Mama Said” reached #4 and in early 1962 “Baby It’s You” (co-written by Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Barney Williams) went to #8, It was recorded by the Beatles and put on their first album “Please Please Me” along with another Shirelles’ song, “Boys”, sung by Ringo. In 1969, a group called Smith had the biggest hit with “Baby It’s You”, but I favor the Shirelles’ version. The Shirelles second #1 hit, and their biggest selling single was “Soldier Boy”. Even though they continued to record new material until the late sixties, the Shirelles’ last hit single was “Foolish Little Girl” in 1963, charting at # 4.

Following in the wake of the Shirelles, came a host of other “girl groups” and 1963 was their most successful year. The Chiffons had hits with, “He’s So Fine” and “One Fine Day”(another Carole King/Jerry Goffin song),  The Ronnettes (Phil Spector’s Group) with “Be My Baby”, Martha and The Vandellas (a Motown act) had two hits, “Heatwave” and “Come and Get These Memories”, the Chrystals with “DaDoo Run Run”, and the Angels had a hit with “My Boyfriend’s Back”.

The most popular “girl group” was the Supremes (another Motown act). In 1964 they had two hits, “Where did Our Love Go,” and “Baby Love”. They went on to have 12 number one hits and for a time rivaled the Beatles popularity.

But in 1964, after the Beatles came to America, popular music became dominated by British groups, pushing out and replacing many musical styles, including almost all of the “girl groups”.



Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Surf Rock



When I was in high school in Ferguson, Missouri in the early sixties, I dreamed of traveling to California and living the lifestyle of a surfer.  The southern California mystique was in the minds and hearts of many young people at the time. Rock & roll had nearly died in the early sixties. The hard-edged originality of early rockers, like Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry and Little Richard was gone and the airwaves were filled with clean cut white singers; (lots of Bobbys--Vinton, Vee, Rydel) and Fabian, Shelly Fabre, Connie Francis etc. Most sang well, but it was mainly sanitized pop music. Two major styles of music sprung out of the void, Motown and Surf Music.

Surf Rock is a southern California phenomenon integral to the surf culture of the early sixties, originating mainly in Orange County. Dick Dale is credited as the creator and pioneer.  His family moved to Orange County when he was a seventeen-year-old senior in high school. Dick began surfing and wanted to play music that represented his experience. He was influenced by the instrumental rock music of Duane Eddy, Link Wray and The Venturers. He played a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar and worked with Leo Fender to invent an amplifier that could increase the sound and get a reverb effect that emulated the sound of the waves. This reverb, called the “wet sound”, was built into the fenders amps.  He also made use of the vibrato arm of the guitar to bend the notes and he added tremolo picking, rapid picking that became the signature sound of surf bands.

            Dick Dale and the Deltones song Let’s Go Trippin’ is thought to be the first Surf Rock song. The group introduced it in 1960 at a dance concert at the Rendezvous Ballroom in Newport Beach on the Balboa peninsula. These concerts became known as “Stomps” because the surfers who attended would stomp on the floor in time with the music causing the old dance hall to shake. The dance, “the surfer’s stomp” was born from this.

            The Beach Boys were by far the most popular surf rock band, even though the surfers at the time would not have considered them to be authentic. Surf music was exclusively instrumental until Brian Wilson and The Beach Boys borrowed the basic sound and added the rich harmonies of the late fifties college circuit groups like the Four Freshman and the Hi-Los.  In 1961 the Beach Boys came out with Surfin’, but probably the first surfing song I heard in Missouri was Surfin’ Sufari, followed by Surfin’ USA and Surfer Girl.

Surf music splintered into two genres, instrumental surf rock and vocal surf pop. By 1963 both types of surf music were getting airplay across the country with hits like, Pipeline by the Chantays, Wipeout by the Safaris, and Surf City (co-written by Brian Wilson) by Jan & Dean. Many non-surfing musical groups jumped on the bandwagon and surf music began to fill the airwaves.

During those long, cold winter months in Missouri, intoxicating waves of surf music entered my ears and washed over my brain. I could only dream of the surfing scene of southern California, but it was a dream that enlightened my imagination and warmed my soul.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Nevada Lineman

Returning home to Washington from Arizona on highway 93, Katie and I had an experience where an everyday worker came to the rescue, and became the “hero” of our story. We were on our way to Boise, Idaho after spending the night in an RV park in Ely, Nevada. Highway 93 is a long desolate highway. You have to make sure your gas tank is filled before starting out, because there are stretches of over a hundred miles with no gas station in sight. In 2001 I traveled this highway on a motorcycle, and had not calculated my gas correctly. I coasted on empty into a farmer’s driveway and begged him for enough gas to get me to Las Vegas. He was reluctant, but finally sold me some at an inflated price.

This time we had plenty of gas in the RV to cross Great Basin country. Each basin we entered was greater than the last, big open, expansive areas with mountains off in the distance on all sides. There were few cars or trucks on the highway, but about four hours into our trip, I noticed a small brightly colored car approaching in my rear-view mirror. Quickly it grew bigger and bigger and then blew by us, doing well over the speed limit. It was a new, orange, Audi TT. I wished it would have been going slower, not because of any danger factor, but because I wanted to look at the car. It looked really cool.

I had plenty of time to admire the car just a few minutes later. As we came over a rise, the TT was stopped, dead in the road and a Nevada Sheriff’s car was right in front of it, parked sideways, blocking both lanes. We slowed down and stopped behind the TT. The Sheriff must have just gotten there. There seemed to be no reason why he was stopping traffic. We waited, not knowing what was going on for quite a while. Finally, the deputy got out of his car. I sarcastically commented to Katie that he probably had to finish his coffee and donut first.

He was heavy-set and moved like a giant sloth. Opening the trunk of his squad car, he took out a bright lime green work safety vest and put it on. Then he took two stacks of orange cones out and began placing them on the highway around his vehicle. Bubba, as we referred to him, was straight out of casting for a Smokey and the Bandit movie. He never looked over at us, even though we were just one small car away from him.

Cars and trucks began to stack up behind us and on the other side, coming toward us. Still wondering what was going on, we suddenly saw the top of a telephone pole across the road burst into flames. It continued to burn, until the cross piece that held the wires toppled over and fell to the ground next to the pole. The wires it was holding were attached to a pole on our side of the road. So, when the cross piece fell, the wires lay strewn across the highway. If Bubba hadn’t arrived, we would have driven by unknowingly and without consequence. But somebody behind us or in front of us, would have plowed, right into the live wires. I don’t understand how Bubba knew to arrive when he did. He never acted like he was in a hurry or gave any indication of what was going on. The cones he placed around his car, were in the exact right place after the wires fell.

At least now we knew why we were stopped. A couple of fire trucks and another Sheriffs’ car showed up. All of the first responders got out of their vehicles and gathered in groups to talk. Nobody did anything concerning the still burning telephone pole, or the wires lying across the highway.

We waited for over an hour. Long lines of cars and trucks now waited along with us. Then the cavalry arrived or I should say, one utility truck. We watched as it drove along the line of cars and then went off the road and over to the telephone pole on our side of the highway, not the one that was on fire. Only one worker emerged from the vehicle. He put on a harness and pulled out some tools from the truck. Katie and I were elated. We had just driven over 4 hours and had been waiting an hour, while the firemen in full fire-fighting gear chatted with the deputies. The utility worker didn’t chat with anyone. He just methodically did what needed to be done.

We were happy to be waiting in our RV as opposed to a car. We had a place to pee and plenty of snacks and drinks in the frig and cupboards. As we watched the utility worker do his job, I plugged in my I-pod. I had just the right song to play for the occasion, Wichita Lineman.  I had three different versions. The most popular by Glen Campbell, a cover by James Taylor and a version by Jimmy Webb, who wrote the song. I chose Glen’s. What a great song.

We were traveling with our friends Nick and Suzanne. They were in their own RV ahead of us and probably getting close to Boise by now. They are dedicated Birders and have taught us to always have binoculars handy. You never know when an interesting bird might show up. So, I was watching Nevada lineman, through our binoculars. He climbed into his cherry picker and maneuvered it up close to the wires. He put some sort of clip on each wire, I assume to stop the electric flow. I noticed that he was a young handsome guy with jet black hair and beard. I mentioned this to Katie and she grabbed the binoculars and I had a tough time getting them back.

The lineman lowered himself back down, walked across the street, cut the wires and pulled them off the road, one at a time. None of the firemen or deputies helped or even spoke to him. When the last wire was removed, Bubba sauntered back to his car in front of the TT, removed his vest, folded it and placed it in the trunk. He ambled around, picking up each cone, stacked them, and put them back in the trunk. The Nevada lineman was putting his tools away. Just when I was getting ready to play Working Class Hero by John Lennon, Bubba pulled his car to the side of the road and began waving the cars through.

The TT took off like a shot. As we started up, Katie told me to honk the horn to thank the lineman, whose back was toward us. I honked and he turned around and gave us a wave in reply.  He truly was the hero.

It was after dark when we finally pulled into the RV resort in Boise.