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Friday, December 18, 2015

Heaven Must Have Sent You

Chuck Pyle, fly fishing  
When musician and song writer Chuck Pyle passed away on November 6th, he'd been fly fishing on a lake close to home, casting out across the water, no doubt watching his line arc and loop as he reached for the shadowed depths. When Chuck didn't come home at dusk, his sweetheart Terri followed her own heart line, that mysterious filament that links two souls as surely as a nylon line links rainbow trout to faithful angler. Near dark, she headed out to the lake to find him…

Chuck Pyle, Lambert wedding
But that story is Terri’s to tell, not mine, and when she’s ready, I know her own poetry will lead her back to the peace and joy that Chuck’s music brought to the world. The story that is mine to tell is of the friendship that evolved between Chuck and Terri and John and me over the last ten years, and of the song that he sang at my daughter’s wedding. 

As my daughter walked arm in arm with her father toward the young cowboy to whom she had already given her heart and was about to commit her future, Chuck's voice floated out over the crowd. “High, wide and handsome... swept her up on his horse…keep her steady, cowgirl...don't let go of the reins...you are ready now, girl, never mind the growing pains...”* 

A few moments later, her father sat down and the minister asked the bride and groom to sit apart on either side of him. Beyond them rose the Colorado mountains while Chuck's lyrics floated out across the canyon below. "Worlds out there are waiting, big and wide as the sky, no more hesitating, it's now or never, do or die...."

Bucking Horse by John Gritts
After the wedding, John gave Chuck a print of his pen and ink drawing, "Bucking Horse." That year for Christmas,Terri framed it and they hung it over their bed.  

Lives and stories interweave themselves in mysterious ways. Four years after Chuck sang at my daughter's wedding, my faithful horse Farside left this world suddenly, galloping up the path to the Milky Way. Four days later, Terri went looking for Chuck at the lake. The following day, my daughter gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I like to imagine that my horse gave Chuck a ride to "the far side" and from that mysterious place, Chuck once again serenaded my daughter, this time as she brought baby Jayde into the world with her husband beside her... keep 'er steady cowgirl, you are ready now girl...

A Cowboy's Christmas Dream
Chuck Pyle
This week, John and I have been listening to some of Chuck's favorite holiday songs on his CD, A Cowboy's Christmas Dream. And we've been reading tributes from musicians around the world. “He was a consummate writer,” musician Jim Ratts is quoted in Denver's Westword Magazine. “He was writing all the time. It wasn’t just songs. It was poems. It was notes. It was letters. It was journals. It was anything that he could do to put words together. I just think he was crafting his art..."

Terri Watson and Chuck Pyle, Sitka, Alaska
Chuck was not only crafting his art, he was crafting the way his admirers might view the world. Affectionately known as the Zen Cowboy, he rode that "trail of inspiration" on a spiritual quest that he shared with all of us. And at the heart of that quest, was Terri. He did not ride that trail alone, yet her trail now is a solitary one, the lonely journey grief-filled. 

Terri Watson,
photo by Chuck Pyle
I wish now that during all those times I had thanked Chuck for his music, that I had also thanked Terri. Theirs was not solely a partnership of love, it was also an artistic partnership. Perhaps it's not too late to say, "Thank you, Terri, for riding alongside Chuck, for keeping 'er steady." In Chuck's words, Heaven must have sent you...


John Gritts and Page Lambert
And thank you, John, for walking alongside me as I travel this literary path, trying to put those words together, trying to craft my art. I would sing to you, if I could. Instead, let's put Chuck's CD Romancing the Moment in the stereo and dance to I found a dream, and the dream was you... 

Note: Donations may be made to the Chuck Pyle Memorial Fund, P.O Box 726, Palmer Lake, CO 80133. *"Keep 'er steady" song lyrics from the CD Higher Ground--Songs of Colorado, copyright Chuck Pyle, used with permission.