Cliff's Blog Pages


Today is August 21 2006, and just a couple of weeks until the first Boots and Laces dance of the season, and I'm hoping my first opportunity to call a full tip.

On September 23, I have been invited to call a dance with a new/old friend I met/remet at Caller's College.  I have been honored to be able to do something that when I was dreaming about becoming a caller I wanted to call at least one tip on the stage in Coquille Oregon where Dad's last club is located, and thanks to the club caller Colette, I have been given that opportunity.  Crossing my fingers and studying the materials from school so I'm ready.  And to make things even sweeter, my mother will be in attendance.

Moving on....been a while since I've updated this.  Thanks to a local caller (thanks a million to Kevin Thomaier!), I was introduced to sight calling...have had my struggles with that, but really feel that on New Year's Eve, I called the best tip I have ever called, and perhaps there is hope for me.  I'm doing tips every place that will let me close to a microphone, and hopefully at least starting the process of building the right kind of reputation.


08/11/2007  Had an awesome night Friday night! There are some local callers that perhaps could have made the jump to national caller, and Friday night I went to a dance where one of these individuals was calling. I was just blown away two years ago when I heard him call the first time, and he's good enough to have done a couple of records. Friday night I had the honor of calling a tip with him. I did the patter portion, and it was an incredibly experience having him standing beside me cheering me on...he would see the resolution coming and was I think as excited as I was.  Thanks a million Mike DeSisto!

Then came the singing call. All my music is on record, but there was no turntable so we went through his music and found one that I worked on last spring, but never got comfortable enough to start performing....but had to go with what I had, and he stayed with me and we did "Rocky Top" as a duet, and again what a thrill....singing a great song with somebody that I have very much admired, and aspired to be like.

06/03/07    Last night was Leo and my second dance, the "Catt and the Hat" Dance at Cedar grange.  We had a small turnout, but we got the opportunity to work on our teaching as we had some brand new people in attendance, and by including them we got to dance.  Thanks to all the dancers for working with us and helping everybody have a good time.

A special thanks to Kappie Kappenman who did the cueing last night and the other dances Leo and I have done.

Looking forward to State, and soon after that another week at Caller's College.  This is going to be great because thanks to the help of Eddie, Kevin, and everybody else I am more ready this year to learn what is presented.

6/17/07    State is over for this year, but the memories will live on.  I'll admit the week leading up to the event was interesting because I revisited being a bundle of nerves.  But thanks to the tutelage and advice of many good friends, KISS was the order of the day.  It was so tempting to try to impress the dancers that were there, but at the same time I kept thinking in the time leading to taking that stage about all the times I tried to get fancy and quickly found myself in over my head, and that just wasn't going to happen this time.  I kept things pretty simple, but people seemed to enjoy it so I have to put that one in the win column. 

A special thanks to all of those that came out to support me, and those that wanted to but couldn't because of manning the T-Shirt table.  Also a huge thanks to Kevin and Linda Thomaier, Kappie Kappenman, and Jack Hardin (all members of NWCA) who came out to support me, and really helped a lot during my second patter when I got a little lost.  Jack was there with a subtle hand signal to help get me back on track, and allowed me the opportunity to keep the dancers dancing and enjoying themselves.

Now it's time to get ready for my second year at Caller's College, and the challenges that lie ahead.

7/13/07;  Got back from Caller's College yesterday, and first order of business was trying to catch up on some sleep, and second order of business is update the Blog.  Again this year it was a great experience, and the teaching of Jerry Junk, Daryl Clendenin, and the addition of Mr. Stephen Cole made it great!  Somewhat like last year, it was like taking a big drink from a fire hydrant, but this year I was a little more ready.  Funny thing about this calling thing....the more I learn, the more I realize I have to learn.

We were presented with a little different resolution method, and I wish I could have picked up on it a little quicker, but as I promised Daryl, I will have it down by next year.  More tools in the toolbox, and I am realizing I have to cut myself a slack for the simple reason that one does not pick up a new tool and immediately become an expert with that tool.

It was just great seeing Coleeta and Chuck Quigley again at school!  We will always have a common bond as she was my Dad's apprentice, and stepped up and took over the Sets in Order club in Coquille Oregon when he was unable to continue, but it goes beyond that.  They are just awesome people, just as the others that attended the school.

A very, very special thank you to Eddie, Gail, LA, Diana, and Andy and Trish that made the drive to the mountains Wednesday night to attend the graduation dance.  I don't have the words to express what it means to have people that will make that kind of sacrifice to support me and my fellow students.  This also extends to all the wonderful dancers that made the trip up to the ranch to help provide dancers for our lessons.  It was WAYYYYYYY hot up there this year, and there were several couples that literally danced for hours to help us...and it wasn't always fun dancing....but there they were back the next day.  We could not have accomplished what we did without that incredible support.

Now I must direct my attention forward to tomorrow afternoon when I have been asked to do a demo at Pacific Days, and the dances and filling in I will be doing for Eddie the rest of the summer.  I'll admit I'm more than a little nervous about some of the challenges, but when my teacher says I'm ready, well it's time to get out there and justify the faith he has shown in me, as well as the faith and support of the Boots and Laces, along with every other person that has supported me in this process.

I have come to realize over the past few years that I owe a huge debt to square dancing, and that tally sheet has gotten longer by every blown patter, mistake, and the other things that each and every one of the people I call family have endured while I learn, and if there is one thing I know, there is only one way I will ever be able to repay that debt....becoming the best square dance caller I can be, and reach the point I can walk on stage, and two hours or so later watch the people that mean so much to me walk out of that hall with a smile on their face because we had a good time that night.


Just a word about demos.  I failed to update this after the Pacific Days demo, and that's my bad, but I just got back from a second demo and feel I've received an initiation of sorts.  Unfortunately, it was nothing like the good natured initiations in pictures on the main page, but a study on how things can go wrong.

For a decade I told young football players that mistakes are a part of the game, and a mistake is only negative if you fail to learn, so right now I have to keep pointing that back at myself, and it will be a positive because I know what can happen and how to stop it.  In my civilian perspective, the bazillion channel mixing boards, monitors and PA speakers seems like the old "Tim Tailor" MORE POWER!!  But after this morning, my well worn Hilton 95 and my Hilton Speakers for what we as callers do are so much particular because the sound heads really don't understand the technology, so they will leave it alone.

The event started off nicely enough...a beautiful Seattle Day, no rain, and just enough cloud cover to make it more comfortable for the dancers.  I look for the sound guys to figure out how to set up, and honestly they didn't seem to want to be bothered.  I found a folding table, set everything up so that only two things needed to happen.  I plug in the power strip, and the sound guy patches via two 1/2" male fittings to his sound board.  I flip two switches and we are dancing.


I plug in the power strip, and Nothing, Nada, Zip.  I tried another outlet (these were junction boxes on a feeder electric cable) with the same results.  Finally the 8th one worked, but for some reason the receiver for my wireless microphone has no power.  Okay...I carry a backup microphone for this type of party....but the gentleman on the board cannot give me any microphone output, so I switch to a stage microphone, and play the I DON'T NEED ANY REVERB PLEASE discussion.

The sound is very ugly, and I'm informed since the audio outs on my set were speaker and not line-outs this was causing distortion.  (I cleared up the distortion by getting the guy on the mixing board to sit on his hands and I cleaned it up on the Hilton).  So let's bring out the dancers with a little flair...they promenaded into the courtyard from the street, circled around acknowledging the crowd, then formed into squares...then I went into a short little patter to finish the opening.  Going fine until there is a pop and the mixing board goes dead...or at least that was the end of all audio output beyond me trying to shout.  Used the old "Explode and Repair" to square them up, then waited about five minutes while they got the power to the box, and by now the vision of my speakers and stands two blocks away in the trunk of my car has started dancing in my head.

They get it back on, and I made it all the way through "Gentle on My Mind".  I figure, "rough start but we are okay".  Little did I know......

Working through the next singing call..going along nicely, then all of a sudden the volume went through the roof, making me thankful there was a monitor speaker about two feet from my left ear, and once again no audio output.  Explode and repair folks.  Let's start another singing call.  Moving along very nicely, and there is this horrible pop and very painful feedback.  I look over, and one of the sound people (provided by the event) had decided for some reason to unplug the output running to the the middle of a singing call.  Then of course he needs to plug it back in with another thunderous din of feedback.  I managed to keep going on at this point, but then the record started skipping, and when I looked over apparently when the sound guy decided to unplug me in the middle of a song, the output cable for the turntable to amp was in his way, and he had moved it, and draped it over the counterweight of the tone played fine at first, but ran into the cable as it tried to track.  Of course I didn't discover what it was until I'd lost the floor again.

I'm thinking to myself that there has to be an end to this somewhere, and gotta keep going.  It was time to get the crowd back so I pulled out "Folsom Prison Blues".  Jerry Junk helped me a ton with it at Caller's College, and it was working.  The crowd's toes were tapping, the smiles were coming out, heads were bobbing to the beat, and I'm starting to relax and sing the song.  You guessed it....halfway through the first figure, an explosion of sound that pretty much put my right eardrum in direct contact with the left, and the crowd and dancers rocked back as a tidal wave of sound slammed into them.  Lost the floor again.  Squared them up again, and I'm guessing the .... uh ... strong look I threw at the sound guy convinced him to put his hands in his pockets for the rest of the show.  I restarted the record and got all the way through it.

Andy Garboden was there, and I had asked him to call a tip so I went out and dance.  I didn't mention earlier, but we were scheduled to start at 10, but didn't start because they were behind (and the hookup fiasco) until 10:25.  While he was doing that I was informed that we were done because the next event had to start on time so we finished and got on out of there.

The lesson:

Use your own equipment!!! In almost any situation you can pre-stage the setup on a table or something and in a matter of a few moments be up and dancing.  Additionally, you are in complete control of your setup, and by now you know how to make it work right.  My mistake was putting the success of the demo in the hands of someone who perhaps was a competent sound person but does not understand the specific needs of a square dance caller or a square dance.

Now back to a more pleasant subject to end this little entry with....the Pacific Days demo.  This sound guy just rocked.  Took him about 30 seconds to hook up the system, I only had to ask him once to drop the reverb and make the voice very clean.  He wanted me to run my Microphone through the mixer board, but I handed it to him and he hooked it up in about the time it took me to turn around.  We had a good time, good sound, no problem.

The really best part of that demo was an unexpected, (or at least not anticipated) moment as I walked up and one of the early arrivers saw me and said, "Good deal..our caller is here".  Okay...perhaps on face value not such a big deal, but for the first time in my life, I was the caller!  Not sharing a dance, not a guest tip.  I was in charge and this demo failed or succeeded based on what I did from that point on, and my friends that really felt good!