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.



Thanks For Your Concern

Several weeks back I informed you in this blog how I had placed my mother into hospice (end-of-life) care and how I would likely be stepping away from regular blogging for a while during this process.   Several of you have reached out to me asking how things are going, so I will just give a brief summary.

Quite honestly, two months ago when I place my mother into hospice, my brother and I both agreed by all accounts she wouldn’t last long.   She had simply reached a point in her life where she wanted things to be over.   Being nursing home bound and requiring staff to feed, bathe, and do all of the day-to-day life needs simply caused her to lose her will to thrive at the age of 85.

I must say the process of watching a loved one creep toward their last breath is not very easy.   At times it is downright heartbreaking, at other times it is emotionally and physically draining, yet, with everything going on it has also been a period where I have done some deep introspection about death.   Heck, for that matter…maybe it would be more appropriate to say about life.

Those of us who are sportsmen often deal with death.   We take the lives of the game or fish we pursue, we sometimes have to make the excruciating decision to put our canine partners down.   Hell, if you’ve made it to middle age you may have already said “goodbye” to several hunting and fishing partners who have passed on.

Death is not easy.   It is also not predictable.   Yet, watching my mother inch toward “better days ahead” in a spiritual sense has certainly given me a greater appreciation for my life.   During the process I’ve learned as much about myself as I have about her wonderful time spent on earth.

Over the course of the past several weeks I’ve taken my time to grieve.   We’ve said all the “goodbyes” and “I Love You’s” a person would expect to hear from a caring family.   I’ve tried to spend as much time at her bedside as is feasible, yet carrying on with the other important facets of life—like family and work.

Indeed, my mind lately has been distracted and distant much of the time.   As important as blogging is to me…other priorities had taken on greater importance to my life at this moment in time.   I know most of you understand.

However, with all of this said…I’m reaching a point where I need to regain control of my life and attempt to bring it back into balance.   So much of my life has been “on hold” during the past several months anticipating something that isn’t quite happening at the pace I once expected it would.   To some extent, it is time to move on with my life.

In ten days the 2012 Minnesota Fishing Opener kicks off and I had considered breaking tradition and not going this year on my normal 5–hour trek from home.   Not the case.   As I have done all previous years in this blog, I plan to go and write about my experiences on the water during this special annual fishing weekend.

My mother, well…she continues to get weaker and hardly eats or drinks.   She has many more bad days than she experiences any good days.   From hour to hour I don’t know what to expect from her as her health and mental state fluctuates quite unpredictably.

In closing, I want to thank all of you for expressing your concern and your prayers.   My family appreciates everything and is strengthened by such heartfelt generosity.   On a bright note, I’m here to tell you I’m attempting to get back into the swing of posting regular pieces to this blog.   I hope you’ll cut me some slack and understanding if it doesn’t happen…but that is my intent.

Be strong & courageous.  Do not be terrified or discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. -Josh. 1:9

Jim Braaten