Rombach Frank's guitar

All units, be on the lookout for a hot Gallagher Dreadnought guitar, swiped from the Fishtrap writers gathering just a few weeks ago. This guitar belonged to Frank Conley, one of the pillars of the early Fishtrap years. Is pillar too strong of a word? I don’t believe it is. When I started loitering around Fishtrap in the late ’90s, Frank and Rich Wandschneider ran the show, and it was pretty magical. Still is, of course. Fishtrap 2.0 continues the tradition. But I recall sitting in meetings back then as a community board member and Rich would conjure up a grand scheme or a bold vision and everybody would say, yeah, that sounds amazing –– pause –– then someone would raise their hand and ask if there were enough funds to pull it off. All eyes would turn to Frank, the nuts and bolts guy of the operation, who would be frowning at the financial statement. Rich would say, Oh, there’s never enough money, but we always figure it out. And he was right.

Rich and Frank reminded me very much of an Oscar and Felix dynamic, set in the world of a scrappy literary nonprofit in the mountains of Oregon. Rich would see a shape in the clouds, Frank would convert that into budget numbers, battery cables were hooked up to a network of creative folks who also wanted to see this happen and, by golly, that notion out of the ether would appear in little ol’ Joseph, Oregon. It was really something to behold.

Frank had these great little fun facts about nature stuff in Wallowa County to close out meetings for the good of the order. He was a naturalist and fishing guide, knew an awful lot about butterflies as I recall, and was just so good at distilling what makes the Wallowas special that you wanted to leave that meeting room and go wander up the nearest trail to take it all in. I was doing a variety show on the radio at the time and said, Frank, hey, we should do these on the radio. Come in and record these little nature nuggets and they’ll be perfect to close out the show. He said let’s do it. I was jazzed.

Later he called to say he wouldn’t be able to do the radio thing after all. I cajoled and said, Aw, c’mon man and all that. But it was no-go. And it wasn’t too long afterwards I learned that Frank had run into a serious health issue and then that was it. Frank Conley isn’t with us anymore.

But his guitar was.

Music was another talent of Frank’s, and his guitar lived on at Fishtrap. Every year that guitar attended the writers gathering to be played, enjoyed, strummed, picked and reverberated. The rest of the year it lives — lived — in the Fishtrap house, where Janis Carper and Mike Midlo would pick it up and make pretty sounds come out of it, in between the work of helping run Fishtrap these days along with Shannon, BoDean, Cam and Whitney. Such a nice, simple, fitting, touching legacy. I’m so angry about this guitar being ripped off.

So here’s my offer, whoever you are that walked off with Frank’s guitar from the Wallowa Lake Lodge sometime on Saturday, July 13 or early Sunday. I’ll buy it back from you. Unless it has dawned on you that taking something that’s not yours is not nice, in which case you can tiptoe up to the back porch of the Fishtrap house under the cover of night and leave the guitar propped against the house where it belongs. The address there is 400 East Grant Street in Enterprise.

Or I’ll pay a ransom. Frank was also really good at doing taxes, which he was kind enough to help me with back in the day and his talent for knowing what to do with a 1099 surely saved me some money. Seems like a good time to put that money to use. Guitar stealer, I suggest you set up an anonymous email account and send me your terms to the new email I just set up, purloineddreadnought@musician.org. We can do the exchange under a bridge or something. Seriously. I want to buy it back. That email works. I just tested it. Stealing this guitar is about the worst course of action you could devise for your karmic credit line. Saint Peter just yanks a lever to open the trap door straight to Hades when something like this pops up on your resume. Let’s make a deal.

Everybody else, if you see a suspicious Gallagher Dreadnought guitar floating around, or have a tip, send out the alert. The ransom fund will work just as well as reward money. I’d love to see and hear this guitar back home.

Jon Rombach is a local columnist for the Chieftain. His stolen guitar hotline is purloineddreadnought@musician.org.

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