The Flutist On Top of Idaho

Shane at the top of Mt. Borah.

On August 22nd, Shane Harris stood on top of 12,662-foot Mt. Borah, Idaho’s tallest mountain, pulled a Drone Flute out of his backpack, and proceeded to play. A haunting tune greeted other climbers as they joined Shane on the peak.

The melody floated across Borah’s cliffs and boulders, as if specifically written for that ancient mountain, evoking the flute’s indigenous roots. “A flute?” the other climbers must have asked themselves. “Here on Mount Borah?”

But those of us who know Shane aren’t surprised—delighted, perhaps, but not surprised. For Shane possesses the soul of an artist, a whimsical touch, and an intuitive ability to add an element of magic to an event, sealing it into one’s memory forever.

So there he stood on the craggy rock, surrounded by mostly strangers, save for his climbing friends, Brent and Logan, and played his flute.

Logan, Shane, and Brent.

Made by Joe, Shane’s long-time friend, dating back to when they were art students at Boise State University, the flute was crafted with skill and careful consideration: big leaf maple from Joe’s yard; American holly collected from the bottom of the Snoqualmie River, and even bowhead baleen from the Arctic.

Shane and his flute.

Below Shane stretched the 5 miles and 5,000-foot-elevation-gain he had just conquered, including the infamous Chicken-Out Ridge. Yet, as I pictured it, Shane wasn’t looking down but upward, his heart open, reaching to the heavens, full of love and bittersweet memories.

And, despite the hazy skies—filled with evidence of the West’s ubiquitous forest fires—I’m sure Shane’s melody drifted up and up, finding a direct path to those-–Kelly Fanning and Sam Rohm—for whom the performance was intended. Although I wasn’t there, I could see Shane, his genuineness apparent to everyone, carrying Kelly, Sam, and all the people he has loved on his shoulders, sharing his accomplishment by commemorating their memory.

Shane coming down Chicken-Out Ridge on his way to the summit.

That evening, my husband Keith—who had also climbed Borah that day—and I joined Shane at the Mackay Tourist Park, where he was camping for the weekend. Stories were swapped. Shane’s sweetheart Bobbie told me that, while waiting at the bottom of Borah to pick up Shane, she showed his picture to another climber, who lit up, saying, “He definitely made it to the top. When we got there, we heard this beautiful, ethereal music and it made the climb extra special.”

Later, we all gathered around the campfire as Bobbie on guitar, Brent on mandolin—both members of the Blue Road Ramblers—and Shane on upright bass sang tunes from Lyle Lovett to Nancy Sinatra. CCR’s Down in the Corner was sung in memory of Sam; Don McLean’s American Pie for Kelly (friends Roger and Cathy helped us remember the lyrics to that lengthy song).

The campground grew quiet; lights flickered on in trailers and motorhomes. Another campfire flamed to life, and I sensed an audience beyond our small group. A sliver of moon brightened the sky, highlighting a silhouette of mountains, finally visible as the smoky haze cleared.

The concert continued around me; yet, I couldn’t get a solo flutist out of my mind. Playing on top of Idaho, playing from his heart, playing not only for Kelly and Sam, but for all who love him and know that, even though we don’t share his genes, Shane has been a brother to us all.Resized_20200822_201932(1)

Happy birthday, Shane! Thank you for organizing the Borah trip, but, most of all, thank you for your friendship and for never failing to delight me with your inventiveness and thoughtfulness!

8 thoughts on “The Flutist On Top of Idaho

  1. gailirey September 16, 2020 / 5:02 pm

    Nice story Erin. Greetings from Lake Emma!GailSent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone


    • Erin September 16, 2020 / 5:04 pm

      Thanks, Gail! And I hope you are doing well, staying healthy, and enjoying life!


  2. Ellen Morris Prewitt September 21, 2020 / 2:56 pm

    What a wonderful tribute. My sister, who just completed a forestry stint in the Idaho Sawtooths, would have loved to have been one of the strangers. I don’t know if that was near this or not but from a New Orleans perspective, it seems near. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erin September 22, 2020 / 3:47 pm

      Thank you! And Mt. Borah (a short distance from Mackay, Idaho) is very close to the Sawtooths. How wonderful that your sister had an opportunity to spend time there–it is a splendid area with peaks, as their name implies, that seem to tear at the sky. Take care and enjoy the rest of your week!


  3. Susan Morrison September 21, 2020 / 9:26 pm

    What a beautiful story and what a wonderful tribute. Thank you for sharing . Love it.
    Made my week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Erin September 22, 2020 / 3:43 pm

      Thank you so much for the kind words! Enjoy the rest of your week!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Geri Lawhon December 26, 2020 / 10:25 am

    What a wonderful surprise for the others that climbed that day. Great post, and thank you for sharing it.


    • Erin December 27, 2020 / 4:34 pm

      Thanks, Geri! It was truly a magical day and such a wonderful reflection on Shane. Take care!

      Liked by 1 person

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