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A Postcard from the Past

Updated: Jan 19, 2023

Recently David's old friend Jack sent me some photos and correspondence from David that he had saved from the mid-seventies. I've always loved reading history, so handwritten pieces of paper with messages from the past fascinate me. David mailed this talisman to Jack in 1976, before the internet, when we all mailed each other with personal news. It feels like a living document, and makes me wonder what the post-internet generation will hold in their hands as the years go by; will they be able to contemplate hand-written messages from the past that the sender intended for his or her then-present family and friends?

The ancient Maya envisioned past, present and future as existing simultaneously; this little postcard reaffirms that maybe they were right; the message on the card has traveled across time and space to this reader thanks to Jack. When I hit "publish", it heads to the future and to whomever reads this post.

Handwritten postcard written by David Schnaufer, about five months before winning the Walnut Valley national dulcimer champtionship in 1976. Postcard from David Schnaufer to friend Jack Masters

Aside from the tactile treasure of holding an historic postcard, we can't forget the pleasure of the message itself as we read the news that the writer felt was important. There are many markers of time and place here. He's currently living in Keller, Texas; David was a gypsy at this stage of his life, moving frequently to wherever he could find work as a laborer. This particular band of friends was so important to David that he addressed them by the affectionate term, Buckaroos, a word meaning "cowboy", significant between Texan friends. And there's a country music connotation as well, of which I am very sure David was aware: Buck Owen's had a band named "The Buckaroos" in the sixties and early seventies; his band along with Merle Haggard's band, "The Strangers"contributed to the development of the Bakersfield sound.

Next, note the little armadillo drawing: another Texas reference; David had a pet armadillo at one time named Rosie. More indications the writer was a Texan: the the code-switched phrase, "mucho appreciated" as a result of his growing up in a U.S. state that borders Mexico.

He finishes his note with abundant music references. David mailed this to Jack in January of 1976, the year he would go on to win the national dulcimer championship in the spring. Both his passion for and advanced skill levels on the dulcimer are palpable: he writes to recommend a new tuning he has learned in the Ionian mode--Do Fa Do Do--that he likes for playing Irish music, including a jig with origins in the U.K. called "Dusty Bob's".

Finally, most notably, he signs the card, "Love, David". Despite the abundant tragedies and hardships David had endured by January 1976, the big heart within him that would become his hallmark among his friends, family, colleagues, students and fans by the end of his life was already beating strongly in this twenty-three-year-young man.

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