Posts Tagged ‘folk singers’

I updated my End of the Beginning post and somehow none of it was saved, so, try, try again. The title comes from a song by my good friend and talented singer/songwriter John Flynn : http://johnflynn.net  You can hear the song there.

The lovely and talented John Flynn

The songs resonates with me because I realize there are far more years behind me than there are ahead. I have lost one parent:

Sterling L. Hornsby Sept. 27, 1920-Dec. 24, 2009

My mother is 90 and a half, and I don’t think it will be long before I become a motherless child:

Velma Ruth Stewart Hornsby, April 2, 1921-

Mother and Dad lived for 40 years in the old house where they watched 3 generations grow up:

family on the porch

grandchildren, great-grandchildren, even great-great grandchildren:


Jan. 2010 DFW Cemetery

The time came when Mother could no longer stay in that old house:

Our experiment with sending her to live in a fancy “assisted living” facility didn’t work out. After a mistake with her medication that almost killed her, my sister Gwen took Mother home with her.

Mother's lonely new home

So now I find myself at the beginning of the end, although I hope it’ll be a long time before I get there. John’s song says “The journey of a single step can begin with a thousand miles.” Here was where I started:

Shirley Jean Hornsby Sept. 1946

I grew up, went to college, got married:

Sept. 2, 1967

We had kids:

Baylor and Mom Oct. 1971

Jeff and Mom, Bangkok, July 1973

Then we had some grandkids:

Ashley b. Sept. 1, 1994

Amber and Autumn, Jan. 27, 1996

We got divorced, but later became friends again. I had some adventures, did a lot of traveling, met some interesting people and some great friends, mostly because of Arlo Guthrie:

Shirley, Arlo & Annie Aug. 1989

"Matterhorn" in Okemah, Ok.

Guthrie Center Fall Revival - Blunderites all

Guthrie Center 1996

John Flynn and the Flynettes, Okemah WoodyFest

To quote John again, I’m thankful “for old friends you can count on, even though their ranks are thinning.”

Alasdair and Shirley, Macchu Picchu. Miss you always

Dennis Lachappelle, best bus driver and best friend anyone could ever ask for.

Goodbye, old friend

There are others I dearly miss: dear, sweet Jack Dultz, Gay, who will always be sitting at the front table at the church, Gerry Harper – your daughter grew up to be as wonderful as you were, sweetheart. So many friends and loved ones gone but never forgotten.

Our sons grew up:

Baylor and Jeff

Our granddaughters are teenagers!

So, what happens next? I need to work on that Bucket list – maybe finish the mystery I started writing many moons ago. I have continued to write and get published – here’s the launch of the latest anthology from the Final Twist, Oct. 2011:

Shirley at Murder by the Book

Chorus of The End of the Beginning” “Oh, the journey you make, from the first breath you take, to your last dying day, the mystery will take your breath away …”

Kris Kristofferson, who accompanies John on this song, has a song with a similar line:

From the rockin’ of the cradle to the rollin’ of the hearse, the going up was worth the comin’ down. I do believe he’s right. Journey on …


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John Flynn

The title comes from a new song by my friend John Flynn, a very talented singer/songwriter and a fine human being. http://johnflynn.net

It resonates with me, because I realize, like it or not, there are far more years behind me than there are in front of me. I’ve lost one parent:

Sterling L. Hornsby Sept. 27, 1920-Dec. 24, 2009

My mother is 90 and a half, and I don’t think it will be long before I become a motherless child:

Velma Stewart Hornsby April 2, 1921-

When last I wrote, she was just leaving the old house where she and Dad lived for 40 years, watching grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great grandchildren grew up:

leaving home

We had high hopes that she would be happy in the fancy “assisted living” facility where she was promised, and paid for, the full level of care. Being almost blind and deaf and in a wheelchair, she was helpless to do the simplest things. Even though my sister checked on her every day, and I made several visits, she did not get that wonderful care, and the staff did not help her find friends. One day my niece found her sprawled, unconscious, on her bed and asked the nurse to check on her – “Oh, she’s fine, she always sleeps like that-”  Terri insisted on having them check her blood sugar. It was 60. Any lower and she would have gone into a diabetic coma and died. Due to a reaction between a morphine shot she’d had at the ER after she fell and hurt her arm and a pain pill she took later, she came close to death. My sister came and took her home with her. She sits in her room, in her chair, listening to audio books. Sometimes I come and take her to the old house to go through all the stuff collected over a lifetime, and she rides her electric scooter through her garden, and that makes her happy – and sad. We are getting ready to sell the house now. A family with one-year old twins want to buy it – it’s a fixer-upper and they have skills and not much money, so it would be a good fit. Mother wants to know that another family will live there and love it like she did.

Thanksgiving was – well, she put it best, when my cousin called to ask about it -” pitiful.” Only my sister, brother, and niece were there, and the dinner was store-bought. Mother was horrified that the cornbread dressing had sugar in it. Horrors! My oldest niece wrote on FaceBook that it was the first time she could remember when we didn’t gather at Granny and PaPa’s house. Seems like when my dad died, the heart left our family. Mother declared that we WILL all gather there for one more Christmas, and I hope she gets that wish.

The end of the beginning … my sons are grown, I’m not likely to have any more grandchildren – but I do adore the three I have. I have wonderful friends, but some are not doing well and some have gone on to the next world. As John says, “old friends you can count on even though their ranks are thinning.” If I want to achieve the things on my Bucket List, I need to get busy.  “The journey of a step can begin with a thousand miles.” Here I go, taking that step. Maybe I should start with finishing that mystery I’ve been working on for … a good long while.

Book launch Oct. 2011

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Wavy Gravy is famously supposed to have said “If you can remember the ’60’s, you weren’t there.” That may be the case for you and many others of our generation, Mr. Gravy, but I do remember them, and I was there.  I kinda wanted to be a hippie chick, but my parents were strict, my college, Texas Tech, was in the middle of the Bible Belt, and my husband was a law student at Baylor University, then an Army captain, so my hippie plans didn’t work out for me.

Until August of 1989, when I answered the call from Arlo Guthrie to join him on a trip to Europe to avoid the commercialism and hype of the 20th anniversary of Woodstock. I wasn’t sure what might happen, thinking the other travelers might be aging, microbiotic-eating, shaggy-haired and bearded people with whom I couldn’t relate. I had am image of Arlo as a good guy, a hero of my youth, and I didn’t want to find out he had feet of clay. I took the chance anyway.  Boy, was I wrong on both account!

Shirley, Arlo and Annie, Matterhorn in the background

Shirley, Arlo and Annie, Matterhorn in the background

Thanks to Janet Alley, here’s a photo of some of my fellow travelers. The Japanese tourist, who look variously happy or terrified, weren’t part of our group:

Blundering through the Alps

Blundering through the Alps

Some of us tried to plan a 20th anniversary of our escape from the 20th anniversary of Woodstock, but we couldn’t pull it together. Instead, there were mini-reunions at various spots around the country. Here’s a photo of my mini-reunion at the WoodyFest with Judy B., Margaret Barton-Ross, T-Shirt Cathy and me – thanks to Shelley Caldwell for the photoshopping – note, this is still a work in progress:

Judy B., Margaret B-R, T-Shirt, Shirley at the Blundermaterhorn

Judy B., Margaret B-R, T-Shirt, Shirley at the Blundermatterhorn

The trip was the start of my new life. I met some wonderful people who are still my friends, and some I haven’t seen again but remember fondly. I discovered that Arlo Guthrie is who you want to believe he is, no feet of clay. And through him I did get to meet some amazing people – my guru, Ma Jaya, and my guru bai at Kashi Ashram, all of Arlo’s kids & his wife Jackie, a strong and fabulous woman, Kris Kristopherson, Richie Havens, and a bunch of other performers who came to the Indian River festivals in Florida in the early 1990’s. Oh yeah, at Thanksgiving 1989 a bunch of us reunited at Arlo’s Carnegie Hall show, and I got to go backstage, and one of my biggest heroes of all time, Pete Seeger, offered me some popcorn. I even met Wavy Gravy, who was standing in the pond at Kashi that represents the River Ganges, playing a ukelele and singing “The Old Gray Goose She Ain’t What She Used to Be.”   It was a surreal moment, and I’ll never forget it.

Twenty years ago, on the twentieth anniversary of the weekend that would change my life twenty years later (do the math) I was with Arlo & the Blunderites at a little hotel in either Austria or Switzerland. Some of us were sitting outside, when the hotel manager came out and said “Mr. Guthrie, we’re showing the Woodstock movie inside, do you want to watch it?” Arlo declined, but the rest of us decided it was a fine idea. The manager looked at Arlo, his hair now a reddish shade somewhat like a lion’s mane, and said “You know, you don’t look the same.” Maybe not, but he was the same inside, and still is, even though the dark curls are now all gray. Thanks, Arlo, for being who you are and for changing my life in such a good way.

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Just got back from the 11th annual Woody Fest in Okemah, Oklahoma, and boy, am I tired! For several days I hung out with my Blunderite friends and listened to some fine folk singers and got to meet some of them. Who knew John Gorka was so funny?

Judy Biesler, John Gorka, Shirley Wetzel

Judy Beisler, John Gorka, Shirley Wetzel

Or that John Flynn is so darn cute, in addition to being super-talented.

Sean & John Flynn at WoodyFest

Sean & John Flynn at WoodyFest

Or that Annie Guthrie, who I first met when she was 12, would turn out to be a fantastic singer/song writer – well, I guess I should have expected that. All of Arlo & Jackie’s kids are in the music business now. Here’s Cathy & Annie Guthrie and Tony Lee Thomas, Annie’s great good friend

WoodyFest 2008

WoodyFest 2008

Other performers – Terry “Buffalo” Ware, Don Conoscenti, Monica Taylor, Audrey Auld-Mezera (all the way from Tasmania!), Ellis Paul

Terry "Buffalo" Ware, Don Conoscenti, Monica Taylor, Audrey Auld-Mezera, Ellis Paul

Terry "Buffalo" Ware, Don Conoscenti, Monica Taylor, Audrey Auld-Mezera, Ellis Paul

One highlight – getting to visit with Woody’s little sister, Mary Jo. She is truly the Queen of Okemah!

Mary Jo (Guthrie) & Shirley

Mary Jo (Guthrie) & Shirley

Judy Collins was the headliner. She is a legend for sure, but her act didn’t quite fit into the Woody Fest model. She came, she sang, she left. The other singers mingle with each other and with the audience, they back each other up on stage, they don’t put on airs – just the kind of behavior Woody would expect. It’s a great festival, and I hope I’ll be going there for many years to come.

My friends & I had some fun on the way back to Houston:



Kitty & Scary Elvis

Kitty & Scary Elvis

Another place where we couldn't eat

Another place where we couldn't eat

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Shirley & the Man Who should be the Gov.Kinky & Shirley

Kinky Friedman and Shirley Wetzel somewhere in the Texas Hill Country.

Several years ago I came across the website for Kinky Friedman. http://www.kinkyfriedman.com/ He’d gone from being a successful, if controversial singer in the 1970’s (Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys), to a successful mystery novelist. “Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns in the bed” was a favorite Kinky song for my husband shortly before he became my ex-husband. I’m not saying the two were connected, but I’m not saying they weren’t, either. Kinky won the Male Chauvinist of the Year award for that one. I forgave him, partly because I love his mysteries. I told him this story the first time I met him, and he gave me this sage wisdom: “When the horse dies, get off.” Kinky had a website with t-shirts for sale, and I ordered something from the lady who was then in charge of the fan club, Cousin Nancy Parker. She’s not my real cousin, but she feels like kin … I sent her an e-mail and mentioned that it must be great to live in a place named Utopia, Texas. She wrote right back, and we started up an e-friendship. She said I should come on out and visit with her, and I did. I got to meet Kinky and visit the house he lives in on his family’s ranch. Back then, Nancy and her beau Tony Simons had a few dogs and cats. Some were theirs and some were Kinky’s – he had, and has, a habit of picking up strays and bringing them home, but since he was often on the road he dropped them off with Nancy. Time went by, and the critter population at the Parker-Simon hacienda was growing by leaps and bounds. KF decided to make it official, and the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch was born. http://www.utopiarescue.com/

Nancy and Tony are salt-of-the earth, wonderful, fine, outstanding human beings. Tony’s on the quiet side, and that’s good because Nancy hardly ever stops talking 🙂 If you’re ever in the Texas Hill Country area, give them a call, and they’ll invite you out to visit with them and send you home with a dog, or two, a cat, pot-belly pig, turkey, donkey, or no telling what else.

Here’s Nancy at her beloved Yoda’s grave.  Note the Eternal Squirrel

Nancy at Yoda's grave, with Eternal Squirrel

Nancy at Yoda's grave, with Eternal Squirrel

Shirley & Eternal Squirrel, Utopia

Shirley & Eternal Squirrel, Utopia

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How did I come to know Arlo Guthrie, you might ask. It’s a very long story, going back through several lifetimes. Here’s the short version: I always enjoyed his music, but as the years went by after the 60’s ended I kind of forgot about him. My life had hit some pretty big bunps, and I wasn’t feeling too good about anything. One day I read in the paper that Arlo Guthrie was performing at Rockefella’s, and I decided I should go. After all, I figured most of the hippies were long gone and he might not have much of an audience. My friend and I showed up and found it was SRO. We got seats just above the stage, and for the next 2 hours I was transported back in time through those old songs, back to when I was young and happy … when he walked off the stage he looked up, directly into my eyes, and I had the thought that he was gonna be important in my life. Then I had the thought that the other thought was nuts. He was a legend, how could I ever expect to even meet him?

Weeks went by. I started reading about him, and his father Woody, and gained enormous respect for both of them. Woody’s early life was not too different than my own father’s, lots of hardship and tragedy. Arlo’s great-great grandfather, Shadrack Guthrie, lived in Bell County, Texas, at the same time as my Great-Great Grandpa Elisha Erwin Stewart. Small world. I’d signed up for Arlo’s newsletter, The Rolling Blunder Review. One day I got an issue that asked for volunteers to accompany him on a trip to Europe in August, 1989. He wanted to avoid the commercialism of the 20th anniversary of Woodstock, and thought some of us might want to tag along. I thought it was a joke … but what if it wasn’t? It didn’t cost much – but I was pretty low on funds. I threw the paper away. Next day it was back on my desk. Same Day, I got a “pre-approved” credit card application with just the amount of credit I needed to pay for the trip. Who was I to argue with Fate? I signed up. So did 38 other Blunderites. The rest is history.

I’d worried a little that he might not turn out to be the great guy I thought he was. I didn’t need to worry. As soon as I laid eyes on him in the Frankfurt airport, I knew he was everything I’d hoped he’d be, and more … so much more.

It was a life-changing trip. I met some wonderful folks, most of them still friends to this day. Judy B. was one of them. Here’s Judy, Arlo & me at the Guthrie Center, aka Alice’s church in Great Barrington, Mass. Arlo bought in a few years back and now does concerts there. There are community outreach programs, lectures, and other fun stuff there too.Judy, Arlo & Me

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Shirley W., Rob McNurlin, Judy BeislerMy first picturesI will now attempt to upload some of my photos

This is me, Rob McNurlin, and Judy Beisler in 2006, and Arlo Guthrie in concert

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