Back in the 1980’s I worked for Pat’s Schwinn Cyclery for one of the best men I knew, and certainly one of the best bike shop owners. Ross Patterson knew business and he knew bicycles. I loved bikes, both riding and working on them. However I needed to supplement my income so also worked as a security guard at the Mesa Arizona Temple.
There was a stand of bamboo in the south parking lot just north of the cooling towers and support building. About 1992 the gardeners cut all of the bamboo down and were giving it to anybody who wanted it. Since I just loved to make things I decided to collect some and take it home. A temple co-worker from Peru, an 80 year old custodian, remembered how to make the “Quena” style flute from the Andes region he grew up in. He showed me how and I proceeded to try my hand at making the quena and giving a flute to all the missionaries at the visitors center and many people I worked with.
I left work at Pat’s bike shop and started at Anasazi Foundation in 1996. It was my working with my hands and carving a spoon that connected me with Mike Merchant at a science camp for home schoolers in 1996. I loved Mike and what he was about immediately. I soon had connected with his work at Anasazi in Mesa. This is where I got to know some very fine young adults working on the trails helping youth and making more flutes. Shane Gallagher and Matt Abney both helped me on my flute journey and I still treasure flutes they made for me.
I was learning to make primitive bows at that time and in the late 1990’s I went to show this skill to the Varsity Scouts at Mountain Man Rendezvous at R/C on the Mogollon Rim. I made a sinew backed bow from a branch of my backyard Mulberry tree. I talked to many people at the rendezvous, and one was a guy making flutes called Trader Lee. I had made many different styles of flute by this time, but I had never met a flute maker like Lee Wach. We got together later to trade flutes and share info I learned the fact there is a science and formulas to guide my flute makings. Lee loaned me some very interesting books by Lew Paxton Price. Lew wrote in great detail of all aspects of flute making. I still read and glean much info from these books, as I got some of my own.
I am currently making flutes as I can find time. One interesting thing I have been able to do is trade flutes with other makers around the world. Mine have gone to the Czeck Republic, Bulgaria, Canada, and Japan. I learn from others making and send my best work out for their enjoyment. I have kept few of the flutes I make preferring to share my talent with others. I am creative by nature so do not make a lot of exact replicas of successful flutes. Because of this I have some failures and just accept that all I make will not play a song. I do enjoy the making most of all.
I am available at times to teach about flute making. The Mountain Man Rendezvous has had my input 3 times. Once with primitive bows and twice with flute making. I wanted to teach making and using a sling but the leaders wisely nixed that suggestion. I said I could teach the Tarahumara or Apache style flute instead. I took at least 600 cane and bamboo pieces that could be made into a short 6-8 inch flute. I did not expect a very successful varsity scout teaching experience. I was wrong and used up most of the materials I had taken and had not one broken window because of my station and what I taught. Maybe some people wished the flutes were silent but many boys enjoyed the fact that they had made their very own musical instrument. Some were very nicely done.
I hope to continue making and sharing flutes and the songs I have inside. As a friend Rick Dalton says, “Whatever you do, don’t die with your music still inside of you!” Rick and Stephanie Abney and others have helped me to share and express my songs and I hope to be more sharing as time goes on. God gave me much and music is at the center of my life in so many ways. My family all sing and do music in some way. I was able to play Native American Style flutes at our Ward Christmas party in 2007. To touch others is an added blessing because I am always moved by this music.