24 Musical Notes You’ll Never Hear On “American Idol”

On this Memorial Day 2012, I want to pause from the usual outdoors discussion and focus on something even more important to each of our lives—OUR FREEDOM.  Truly, that hidden duck marsh, the rolling grasslands filled with pheasants or the lake beaming with hungry panfish would mean nothing to us but for the sacrifice of the many brave men and women who have served this country so honorably over the years.

Today, I want to focus on some music that you may not be aware turns 150 years old next month.   Most of us refer to the music as TAPS, but it’s also known around the world on U.S. military bases as “Day is Done.”   Indeed, before the 24–musical notes was ever played at a funeral the song grew in popularity as an American Civil War bugle call to signify it’s time to call it a day.   Time to “extinguish the lights” (campfires) and prepare for a new day upcoming.   It was sounded by both Union and Confederate sides.

For more on the history of TAPS, please view this short video:

Personally, I was first touched by TAPS back in 2003 at the funeral of my good friend and Veteran, Jack Holmes.   It was a cold, blustery December day as I stood graveside with hundreds of other mourners about to say goodbye for the final time.   The color guard shot their three volleys (21–gun salute), then someone reached over and pressed the “play” button on a boom box to play a cassette recording of TAPS.

At the time the whole ceremony was emotional, but it just seemed sort of odd to hear TAPS come from an electronic player.   Years later, I learned how live buglers are in short supply making it a necessity in many circumstances to play TAPS in this manner.   Many of us feel all veterans who have displayed the colors of our armed services deserve much better than a taped recording of our national song of remembrance.   They deserve a live bugler.

It had been over 30 years since I last played a trumpet in high school.   Even at that, my old band instructor, Gary Skundberg, would likely be the first to admit that I was “mediocre at best” when it came to my brass-playing music skills.   Still, I decided earlier this year to purchase a new bugle and to eventually donate my time and skills in the playing of TAPS for military funerals when the need arises.

Here is a quick video I put together of me practicing TAPS in my back yard.   I attempt to practice daily in order to stay polished for when I am called upon to help honor a true hero at the moment they are being laid to rest. 

Many of us TAPS buglers feel that these musical notes, even if played imperfectly sounded from the heart, is still far better than a perfect rendition being played by a device using batteries.   Quite honestly, the most famous sounding of TAPS was likely at President John F. Kennedy’s funeral and the TAPS bugler in that situation had a broken note just six notes in to the sounding.   Rather than appearing as a mistake, it just emphasized the deep, raw emotions evoked by the playing of TAPS.

On this Memorial Day 2012, I plan to travel to several area cemeteries and sound TAPS as my personal recognition to friends and family who have served this country so proud and made tremendous sacrifices allowing us the lives we live today.   Memorial Day is not just a long weekend or a national BBQ day…it is a day we remember and give thanks to our Veterans who have been laid to their final rest.

I certainly understand that TAPS will never appear on your iTunes play lists or on your favorite TV musical talent show.   But I do hope when you hear TAPS sounded it stirs the emotions deep inside you to remember why many of you are sitting relaxing and enjoying yet another day away from work.

God Bless all of our military personnel both past and present.   And when people approach a TAPS bugler to say thanks once the horn has gone silent…our response is always “it was my honor to have had this opportunity.”

©2012 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.


2012 Minnesota Fishing Opener In Photos

Unfortunately, at the very last moment, I was not able to make my annual trek north for the Minnesota Fishing Opener this past Saturday.   The boat was packed, supplies were all organized, the family was all primed to go…but, alas, it was not meant to be.   As I have previously chronicled in this blog…my mother is currently in her waning days of life and we had to make the tough decision that it just wasn’t prudent to be 5–hours away (at Fish Camp) during this moment in time.

That being said, several of the other guys in my group did make the trek to Bemidji, Minnesota staying at the Finn-n-Feather Resort.   Here’s their weekend in pictures.   Enjoy!

(All photos courtesy of Todd Rost)



















Perhaps now you better understand why missing the Minnesota Fishing Opener is not something I plan to do next year or any year thereafter.

©2012 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.



Take Your Daughter To Work Day

How about take your daughter to the turkey blind, instead?

Last week was my chosen hunting period here in Minnesota for the spring wild turkey hunting season.   In Minnesota, we must draw a permit for a selected 5–day hunting period to hunt turkeys.   I’m going to be quite honest with you in saying the turkey hunting was largely unremarkable in terms of relating any success stories or having a great “what if” story.


Here, Elsie and her dad wait patiently for a big tom turkey to walk by the blind. Note the coordinating pink camo and Hello Kitty boots.

Yet, what will likely be the most precious memory in my mind was taking my almost 4–y/o daughter with me to the blind.   She begged me to go turkey hunting.   Moreover, when we finally had to leave the blind to go back home she cried because she wanted to stay longer.

Needless to say she is excited about the outdoors and starting to develop the passion just like her “old man.”   In fact, this week all she can talk about is heading “up north” on Friday for the Minnesota Fishing Opener which begins on Saturday.

I’m convinced we need to start these kids early to instill in them a love of the outdoors.   In an age where children are bombarded with fancy toys, high-definition television, fast-paced video games and the like…the outdoors is in a competition for young minds like no previous generation has ever experienced.

It certainly behooves those of us as outdoorsmen to do our part to ensure the next generation has the opportunity to experience all the wonders of nature.   To this day some of my fondest memories were those moments spent as a youth doing outdoor related activities.   Let’s not deprive our children of those same great memories by failing to involve them in the activities we so dearly cherish.

Todd Rost and Elsie pose for a picture outside the hunting blind.

I’ll be perfectly frank…taking a young child with a talkative, inquisitive personality to the turkey blind will likely not increase your chances for bagging game.   That’s not the point.   Unlike video games where a player can shoot a trophy animal every 5–10 minutes with some make-believe scenario…it’s important to show kids that REAL hunting is not all about killing.

Indeed, REAL hunting is about spending time (often with people you care deeply about) participating in an activity that should be as natural as anything else you could possibly do in life.   Like it or not, kids tend to learn and develop who they will one day become based on watching those adults who make an impression on their lives.   Again, I contend, if you leave a kid at home each time you go hunting or on a fishing trip…what sort of impression are you making?

If I don’t shoot another critter or catch another fish that would be perfectly fine so long as I am giving the kids in my life the opportunity to do the same.   When you start living the hunt through the eyes of a youngster, you’ll quickly regain some of that invigorated excitement you once had as a youth learning about the outdoors.

Long before my daughter, Elsie, starts growing interested in boys…I want her first love to be deer, turkeys, walleyes, ducks, crappies, pheasants…well, I think you get the picture.

©2012 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.