News from Vermont #279 - Boy He's Good

January 10th, 2013


Betsy recently made the comment "Y'can herd folks into a cattle shoot just so far until they find a way to 'bolt.'" That brought back all kinds of recollections to me; namely that I'm pretty good at herdin' cattle. Yup, I can get right in a critter's head and stay one jump ahead of it but kids, now they're a different story. We all carry regrets about our child-rearing days and one that Betsy carried for a long time has recently immerged to her as a "plus".

When our boys Robby and Tommy were young, we took a family shopping trip to Burlington. Robby, thirteen at the time, made it clear from the start that he wanted to separate from the rest of us. "Please let me go to 'my own stores'" he begged, promising to be careful and meet us back at our car at an appointed time. We searched our souls but he had worked hard picking strawberries and doing other tasks on our farm. We considered him mature for his years and let him go. Betsy, Tommy, eleven, and I headed off in a different direction.

As I remember, our time that day was "shaded" with fear that something would go wrong. When we returned to our car, however, there stood our oldest son with a strangely happy look on his face and a big case by his side..."What is that?" Betsy asked. "I bought a bass with my strawberry money" Robby said in a firm voice. Betsy "hit the roof" in a BIG way..."You were suppose to save that're a trombone and piano player, Robby.". She railed on about "spreading himself too thin" and the trials of impulsive spending. Robby wasn't buying the "impulsive"...he said he'd been thinking "bass" for a long time. Needless to say, the bass episode leant the opposite of good "rhythm" for our trip home and in Betsy's mind, for years after that.

Fast forward to the summer of 2012 on Church Street in Burlington, Vermont: Betsy and I stand elbow to elbow in a huge crowd listening to a new and dynamic jazz group perform for Burlington's famous "Discover Jazz Festival". The audience includes many local jazz luminaries plus droves of other folks swaying to the sounds. The performers include our two sons, Tommy, trumpet luminary on his own, and Robby, the group's leader and one of Vermont's most well known bassists. Robby, the musician, had composed and arranged all the music; Robby the businessman had busted into the tightly juried Discover Jazz lineup and folks were loving it!

Robby's living has centered around the bass for years now. He has played both upright bass and bass guitar professionally since his early 20s and at twenty-nine, he went back to college and obtained a BA degree in music performance. He also works by the day in a woodshop repairing cellos and basses, a luthier by trade.

In the world of music, the bass is a "blue-collar" instrument...standing ovations are as rare for a bass player as invitations to solo; that's not its nature. The job of the bass player is to provide a solid "rhythmic foundation" for all the other musicians...without the bass, they would all fall flat. And that's a perfect metaphor for Robby Morse's life...he's always there for people, but shying from the limelight. Like the proverbial "water over the dam", there's been a trillion "waves of sound" since the day that Robby Morse "bolted" back in Burlington and millions of those waves have his name on them. Betsy's had to eat her words many times over about ways a boy should spend his "strawberry money". We're both so proud of him for knowing what he wants and going after it. In fact, these days, Betsy's advice to him is in the fortissimo range..."You can do anything you want Robby...just be happy, help the world play music, and for goodness sake, take a bow!".

While I'm "crowing" about my boys, I've got to point out another family milestone: Betsy and I became first time grandparents last night, Jan. 9, with the birth of Tommy's baby girl! She's so brand new that we haven't met her and don't even know her name yet but that will change before the end of this day. One thing we know for sure though...this baby girl is the ninth-generation Morse maple sugarmaker and we're so proud of her and her parents, Tommy and Monika!

As this month matures, we're enjoying a good old fashion "January thaw". Yup, it'll be above freezing for about three days now which makes us think of an old Vermont adage: "There'll be a sap run for every day of January thaw.". That means we'll get three major sap runs when our season starts in about a month! As you may remember, last year we got "skunked" with a terrible sugar season so we're excited to think of a better one this year. In spite of the bad year, we still have a small supply of Grade A Medium Amber, Grade A Dark Amber, and Grade B syrup left and its excellent syrup. You can get some by going to We'll keep you posted on progress of sugarin '13!