Winfield, Kansas, and the musical world

I have been gorging myself on western and midwestern small-town culture, since retiring.  In the last few weeks, I’ve been to a rodeo, a county fair, and Charlie Adams Day (a festival honoring a town legend and his horse).  Last week I attended a huge event that shows just how influential a small town can be.

Winfield is a little town in rural Kansas that was the home of the now defunct but much-beloved Lutheran school St. John’s College.  It was also the home of a man named S. L. Mossman.  He made guitars.  Really good guitars.  In the 1960s, more and more people wanted them, and his business grew, though he refused to mass produce the guitars and kept making them by hand.  After awhile, his company sponsored a competition there in Winfield for the best flat-pick guitar player.  Around that event grew a festival, with more championships (in finger-style guitar, mandolin, banjo, dulcimer, autoharp, and fiddle) and performances in bluegrass, folk, and other kinds of acoustic music.  Thus was born the Walnut Valley Festival, which has launched the careers of countless musicians and has become one of the premier events in American music.

My brother Jimmy, author of the most-read post ever on this blog, and I went to Winfield last week for the festival along with my friend the musician, novelist, and pastor, the right Rev. Fred Baue.  After the jump, I will tell you of our adventures, my musical discoveries with YouTube videos, and some of what I learned. [Read more…]

Labor & Leisure

Labor Day heralds the end of summer vocations.  Now the Fall begins and it’s back to work.  For students and teachers like me, it has always meant getting serious again and going back to the classrooms for another school year.

This year, for me, the holiday is hitting me in a completely different way since I am retiring.  All summer I have been madly busy finishing up my job, so Labor Day is heralding the beginning of my not laboring, at least in the same way I have all of my life. [Read more…]

New edition of our book on classical education

The book that I did with Andrew Kern some time ago is back in a new, expanded, updated edition.  Its title and subject: Classical Education. [Read more…]

Retirees following the grandchildren?

As I said, we are retiring and have moved to be close to grandchildren.  The thing is, virtually everyone I know in my generation who has retired or who is planning to retire is doing the same thing.

My parents didn’t move to be closer to us when they retired.  They remained the family anchors, and during the holidays it was over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go.  And they were certainly good grandparents.

Is moving to be nearer one’s adult children and grandchildren a trend, or just my limited sampling and personal experience?  If it’s a new trend, how do you account for it?  I’ll offer some of my theories after the jump. [Read more…]

Unburden’d crawl toward death

’tis our fast intent

To shake all cares and business from our age,

Conferring them on younger strengths while we

Unburden’d crawl toward death.

(Shakespeare, King Lear, Act I. scene 1. lines 38-41)

Have any greater lines ever been written about retirement?  OK, it didn’t work out very well for King Lear.  I’m hoping that it will work out better for me.  Like Lear, I have two daughters that I hope to spend more time with.  I’m hoping they won’t turn me out into the storm, though I’ll be moving to a land of thunderstorms.  Unlike Lear, I have a wife who is good company and a whole passel of grandchildren.

[Read more…]

A book that teaches kids about church

My daughter, Dcs. Mary Moerbe, has published another children’s book:  Whisper, Whisper:  Learning about Church.  It teaches children, aged 4 and younger, what is going on in the worship service (with special reference to the liturgy) and helps them participate in it.

The book uses a rhyming text for the children and wonderful art by Martha Aviles, but it also has commentary and sidebars giving tips for parents.   You can “look inside” the book at the Amazon link.  More details after the jump.

This is a quite brilliant and helpful work, and I say that not just because it’s written by my daughter.  The tendency is often to kick children out of church–whether in a nursery or some kind of “children’s church”–and then we wonder why they don’t attend when they are older.  Our children are children of God, and they can learn to worship Him at a very young age, building habits and behaviors that will be a foundation for the rest of their lives. [Read more…]


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