My Thoughts: God Bless America

Heavenly Father, I pray for our country and that our leaders will make wise decisions with Your direction. “In God we trust” I pray for peace and understanding without judgement for all of America and the world. I pray for all of those who are suffering with loss of loved ones, homes, and property in America, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and more due to storms, earth quakes, and wild fires. I pray for those who are grieving the horrors of the recent mass shootings. Father, we live in scary times and never have we needed Your guidance more. I pray for Your will to be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. ~Amen

I am thankful to live in the land of the free.

I have always loved this American favorite patriotic song, God Bless America, written by Irving Berlin during World War I.

The Shifting, Whispering Sands, Recitation & Flute Accompaniment by Howard Ball

Listen as I recite this Western song and poem, Shifting Whispering Sands, written by Vivian Clark Gilbert and his wife, Mary Margaret Hadler. It was first recorded in 1955 by Rusty Draper. My favorite recording was by Johnny Cash

      Shifting Whispering Sands

Yes it always whispers to me
of the days of long ago,
when the settlers and the miners
fought the crafty Navajo.

How the cattle roamed the valley,
happy people worked the land,
and now everything is covered
by the shifting, whispering sands.

I discovered the valley of the shifting, whispering sands
while prospecting for gold in one of our western States.

I saw the silent windmills, the crumbling water tanks,
the bones of cattle and burros picked clean by buzzards,
and bleached by the desert sun.

I stumbled over a crumbling buckboard, nearly covered by the sands.
And stopping to rest,
I heard a tinkling, whispering sound.
Then suddenly realized
that even though the wind was quiet
the sand did not lie still.

I seemed to be surrounded by a mystery,
so heavy and oppressive, I could scarcely breathe.

For days and weeks I wandered aimlessly in this valley,
seeking answers to the many questions
that raced through my fevered mind.
“Where was everyone? Why the white bones? The dry wells?
The barren valley where people must have lived and died?”

Finally, I could go no further.
My food and water gone.
I sat down and buried my face in my hands.
And resting thus, I learned the secret
of the shifting, whispering sands.

How I managed to escape from the valley, I do not know.
But now to pay my final debt for being spared,
I must tell you what I learned out on the desert
so many years ago.

When the day is awfully quiet,
and the breeze seems not to blow,
One would think the sand was resting,
but you’ll find, this is not so.

It is whispering, softly whispering,
as it slowly moves along,
and for those who stop and listen,
it will sing this mournful song.

Of sidewinders, and the horn toads,
of the thorny chaparral.
Of sunny days and moonlit nights,
the coyotes lonely yell.

How the stars seemed, you could touch them,
as you lay and gaze on high
at the heavens where we’re hoping
we’ll be going when we die.

Yes, it always whispers to me
of the days of long ago,
when the settlers and the miners
fought the crafty Navajo.

How the cattle roamed the valley,
happy people worked the land.
Now everything is covered
by the shifting, whispering sands.

How the miner left his buckboards,
went to work his claims that day.

And the burros broke their halters
when they thought he’d gone to stay.
Wandering far in search of water
on to old sidewinder’s well.
And their bones picked clean by buzzards
that were circling when they fell.

How they found the ancient miner
lying dead upon the sand.
After months they could but wonder,
if he died by human hand?

So they dug his grave and laid him
on his back, and crossed his hands.
And his secret still is hidden
by the shifting, whispering sands.

This is what they whispered to me
on the quiet desert air,
of the people and the cattle,
and the miner lying there.

“If you want to learn their secret,
wander through this quiet land.
And I’m sure you’ll hear the story
of the shifting, whispering sands.”

Yes, it always whispers to me
of the days of long ago,
when the settlers and the miners
fought the crafty Navajo.

How the cattle roamed the valley,
happy people worked the land.
Now everything is covered 
by the shifting, whispering sands.

To listen to more of my flute music, songs, poems, and recitations, please visit My Music page.

As Long as the Grass Shall Grow: Recitation and Flute Accompaniment by Howard Ball

 Listen as I recite (and accompany with the Native American flute)
this song released by Johnny Cash in 1964.

      As Long As the Grass Shall Grow
As long as the moon shall rise, as long as the rivers flow,
As long as the sun will shine, as long as the grass shall grow.
The Senecas are an Indian tribe of the Iroquios nation,
Down on the New York Pennsylvania Line you’ll find their reservation.
After the US revolution, Cornplanter was a chief.
He told the tribe these men they could trust – that was his true belief.
He went down to Independence Hall and there was a treaty signed,
That promised peace with the USA and Indian rights combined.
George Washington gave his signature. The Government gave its hand.
They said that now and forever more that this was Indian land.
As long as the moon shall rise…
On the Seneca reservation there is much sadness now.
Washington’s treaty has been broken and there is no hope, no how.
Across the Allegheny River they’re throwing up a dam.
It will flood the Indian country, a proud day for Uncle Sam.
It has broke the ancient treaty with a politician’s grin.
It will drown the Indian’s graveyards. Cornplanter, can you swim?
The earth is mother to the the Senecas. They’re trampling sacred ground,
Changing the mint green earth to black mud flats, as honor hobbles down.
As long as the moon shall rise…
The Iroquios Indians used to rule from Canada way south.
But no one fears the Indians now and smiles the liar’s mouth.
The Senecas hired an expert to figure another site,
But the great, good army engineers said that he had no right.
Although he showed them another plan and showed them another way,
They laughed in his face and said no deal – Kinuza dam is here to stay.
Congress turned the Indians down, brushed off the Indians plea,
So the Senecas have renamed the dam – they call it Lake Perfidy.
As long as the moon shall rise…
Washington, Adams, and Kennedy – now hear their pledges ring.
The treaties are safe. We’ll keep our word, but what is that gurgling?
It’s the back water from Perfidy Lake, it’s rising all the time –
Over the homes, and over the fields, and over the promises fine.
No boats will sail on Lake Perfidy – in winter it will fill.
In summer it will be a swamp, and all the fish will kill.
But the Government of the USA has corrected George’s vow.
The father of our country must be wrong – what’s an Indian anyhow?
As long as the moon shall rise, (look up) as long as the rivers flow, (are you thirsty)
As long as the sun will shine, (my brother are you warm) as long as the grass shall grow
For more recitations of Poems, Songs, and Prayers, as well as flute music, please see my Flute Sounds page.

The Sounds of Nature

The Sounds of Nature

As I walk a new path today,
I anticipate where God will lead me, and I begin to pray.

I climb higher, walking up the hill,
high above me is a noise – so loud and shrill.

It is the chirp of an eagle flying high,
amidst the white clouds in a clear blue sky.

All the birds are singing their song.
I‘m listening to nature as I stroll along.

How many times have I heard that sound –
of a humming bird flying around?

Frogs jumping in the pond just below,
and suddenly I hear the call of a crow.

As a deer jumps the trail in front of me,
I hear the sound of wild turkeys roosting in a tree.

And geese are honking their call, high in the sky.
I’m hearing so much and I ask myself why?

As the wind billows up and blows through a tree,
I wonder what these sounds are saying to me?

I’m tired and I sit down on a log.
I hear the croaking of a bull frog.

My flute in hand, I commence to play
to see what I can add to the sounds of the day.

I begin to ponder, as I sit there,
“The sound of my flute is much like a prayer.”

I’m filled with gratitude for all that I hear,
and that the sounds of nature are always near.

By Howard Ball

Ceremony of Tears, a Poem About the Building of Grand Coulee Dam and a Tribute to the Local Native People

Image result for Grand coulee dam being built

Ceremony of Tears

The Grand Coulee Dam would have no fish ladder to climb,
no way for the salmon to get up the line.

For many generations the Indians had fished the river there,
thousands of salmon running year after year.

The salmon would swim up the Columbia river to spawn,
where the Indian people fished from dusk to dawn.

The white man didn’t understand or care about the Indian way,
how much the fish helped them from day to day.

The spawning salmon and the food that they gave
were meals that their families could store and save.

The fish would swim to a place that was called Kettle Falls.
Many tribes would come there when the season would call.

A Salmon Chief was chosen out of respect.
He would take care of problems, lead and direct.

The young men would climb out over the falls,
and catch the jumping salmon in basket stalls.

They’d fish with spears and nets too,
any way they could catch them and subdue.

The men would then pass the salmon to the shore,
where women and children prepared them and more.

The women placed the salmon on sticks around a fire, and some to sun-dry,
to store them for the future – such an important supply.

The days were long with excitement and strife.
Oh how they would miss this old way of life.

There were Chelans, Colvilles, Nespelems, and the San Poils;
The Lakes, the Palouse, and Wenatchees laboring in their toil.

The Methow, the Okanogan, and Chief Joseph’s band,
they all shared in the fishing and gave a helping hand.

The Kalispell and the Kootenai fished there too,
and the Bloods came from Canada – there weren’t just a few.

The Spokane Tribe and the Coeurd’Alene’s came,
the quest to catch the returning salmon was always the same.

They named the huge lake that covered the land, Lake Roosevelt,
for the United States President who had taken a stand.

From the Grand Coulee Dam to the Canadian border,
it was 140 miles of lake to get into order.

The dam would provide energy and irrigation for a lot of dry earth,
yet cover towns where people had lived since the time of their birth.

The beautiful history and culture of a people covered forever,
could not be saved with another endeavor.

The changing world, and modern progress were here to stay,
and so the people gathered to grieve and remember on this final day.

They traveled from many places, covering hundreds of miles,
to say a final farewell to their fishing grounds known as Kettle Falls.

The gathering of the people with their memories, questions, and fears
would forever be known as, The Ceremony of Tears.

By Howard Ball

As founder and owner of Ball and Dodd Funeral Home in Spokane, Washington, My father was in charge of moving all of the Indian graves to higher ground when Grand Coulee Dam was built. The stories of the people’s sadness and challenges at their way of life being forever changed greatly affected me. I wrote this poem as a tribute to the Native People of this region. Please see my blog post about the film, Echoes of Yesterday, produced by Lon Gibby Productions, which documents my father’s project.

For a recording of me reciting this poem, accompanied by my flute music, please listen here:

Ceremony of Tears 

      Ceremony of Tears

For more recordings of my music and recitations see my Flute Sounds page.