Schumilas and Don Happner
The 2006 Fox Report
“Coupl’a jiggers of moonlight and add a star. Pour in a handful of June night and some guitar. Mix in a coupl’a dreamers and there you are! Lovers hail the moonlight cocktail! Now add a coupl’a flowers, a drop of dew. Stir for a coupl’a hours ‘til dreams come true. As to the number of kisses, it’s up to you. Moonlight cocktails need a few …” (“Moonlight Cocktail” by Lucky Roberts and Kim Gannon)
It’s not the festive time of year that has me choose this 1941 jazz standard as my song to sum up our year. We lived it – on and off – all year long! When last I wrote, I was working part-time, teaching in a business program at a community college. Since then I got promoted to lead instructor, which is a full-time position. They let me do it with a compressed work week 3.5 days/week. Very cool! When I’m away, I do nothing but work. Don concentrates his guitar teaching and intensive practicing to that time, while also keeping the house in fine order. I have lost control of the kitchen and I have to ask Don where he puts things now! It is a small price to pay, all things considered. When I come home, we play really hard! I’ve come to really enjoy this lifestyle because work for me is concentrated at the College and fun is concentrated at home. I don’t like being away for 3 nights/week and I hate the commute, especially when it’s stormy. But the cell phone, new snow tires and CMA membership make me feel a little safer. And the old truism “absence makes the heart grow fonder”, certainly works for us.
As for the job - the work, staff, students and pay are all great. On the downside, enrolment isn’t great and a little college can’t run every program every year. My program is to be shelved next year .. boo hoo … but they have offered me something else at a campus closer to home, and there is still the chance something even better will come up. They are trying to get a classroom-based 1st year university (with UofS) running. The marketing manager and CEO are off to Kenya in January to recruit foreign students. Apparently, the government there is interested in education in rural, cold Canada. They want their students to return home after graduation (so they want cold, nasty weather) and they want to keep them in home-billets out of the major centres for as long as possible. Who would have thought our greatest weakness would become our greatest strength? So, it may yet be possible for me to achieve my goal of teaching at the university level, without moving to the big city!
Don’s year was plagued with “honkin’” guitar problems! Over the last few years his prize Larrivee classical guitar has developed a honk on the 4th string, preventing him from serious recording or concert performance. Four luthiers and several thousand dollars later, it is not fixed. After I got the College promotion, I commissioned a new guitar to be built for Don as a surprise – a copy of his Larrivee. Andy Nicol (www.nicollguitar.com) took great care to make it and used the finest wood he could get. So accurate was his replication that when Don got it home to try, it produced the exact same honk as his Larrivee! I half expected Andy to rip his shingle down and give up building but he was inspired. You know these creative types! To simplify, the things everyone thought must be causing the honk on the Larrivee could not be causing it on the new guitar. So, that gave him other ideas. To make a long story short, we expect the Larrivee and the new Nicol guitar to be honkless later this year!
With all this working, we decided to really enjoy any time off I had from the College. I played in my garden. We visited Don’s family in Edmonton and Grande Prairie. We spent much of July just outside of Nelson, BC with Bramm (Don’s son) and Sarah, and some of Don’s friends from years back when he lived in the area. We could never afford to do it without our dear friend Holly, who let us stay in her secluded mountain house that she’s been renovating to rent to tourists. Don and Bramm had lots of fun hiking on Kokanee Glacier and watching 2.5 ft long marmots run around. I fell in love with beach badminton. I need much more practise before I can hit the pro circuit so we’ll be looking for beaches this summer.
No sooner did we get home from the Kootenays and the phone rang. It was my soon to be 89 year old Uncle Joe in Kitchener, Ontario. He and I never mince words. The conversation went like this:
Joe: “Yea Dawn. When are you
We were booked to do workshops for an Arts Council when I got back. Don did guitar playing and I did songwriting. We got tremendous press and the workshops were well attended. I had so many budding songwriters wanting to perform efforts that I decided not to play and just turn the stage over to the participants. It’s a strange situation to sell more CDs when I don’t play than when I do. It was an ego bender for sure. But everyone was happy and they asked us back for the next festival. The music business has been more or less on hold as I make money at the College and Don waits for a repaired guitar. The website is www.larkspurmusic.com if you are interested. I’m hoping to get some new photos up there soon.
Work on the house continues. We were all set to bring in running hot and cold water this spring. In April, we had the money in the bank, the plan ready and the plumber booked. He got us running cold water then abandoned us. The money is still in the bank but we can’t get a plumber. It’s frustrating. We hope to complete the plan this spring, setting up a solar (for summer) and wood (for winter) dual water heating system. I got a feeling we are going to have to become experts at this ourselves – like all the other alternative stuff we do.
As for the critters, we have another weasel living in our woodshed. This one hasn’t gotten brave enough yet to show up on my kitchen counter or run across my face when I’m sleeping. There is a snowshoe hare living behind our sheltered fridge propane tank. It’s a good spot for him because he can see predators very well and it’s warm there. The whiskey jacks (grey jays) and chickadees continue to delight us. There was a mad skirmish this fall when a hawk took a run at the bird feeder but all the chickadees scrambled to safety. From my loft window, I watched a very fat raven try to take off in a wind storm. He could only get about 2 feet off the ground, wings flailing like mad, then plop – back in the snow – had to walk a ways to get a better up draft. It must have been terribly embarrassing for him because all the little birds were watching.
We hope you are all well. I’m online all the time. Don still relies on the phone or Canada Post.
Dawn Schumilas and Don Happner