A Garden Hose Virtuoso

Frank, the first salesman to collar us.

While searching for a replacement for our 12-year-old popup truck camper, Sooney (my wife, guide, and navigator) and I visited Caveman RV in Grants Pass. The two of us have shared the 8′ of floor space in that rig for nearly 400 nights, and are ready for some amenities not available in a lightweight Four-Wheel truck camper. A bathroom doubling as a repository for wet garments would have suited us well during our 3-month trip to Alaska.

The first salesman to collar us was Frank Baskins, a jovial fellow who really knows his product—the Lance family of trailers and truck campers. A large ring was nearly lost among the small, meaty fingers he thrust in our direction. We deflected with a knuckle bump, our preferred “handshake” during flu season, and that solicited the first laugh of many to which he accompanied a warm, “Hi there, I’m Frank.” We were then ushered into his cave…and another decade.

Frank is old school whose desk is tattooed with post-it notes, stuffed pen holders, and there was no sign of an office computer. Oh, and I got suckered by a plastic replica of spilled Starbucks coffee among other office memorabilia cluttering a wooden bookshelf.

We enjoyed our visit in his toasty office, and chatted about everything but RVs for quite a while. He told us about his family and we shared our common love of music with anecdotes of magical journeys with unanticipated adventures. It was then back to work and we headed outside and maneuvered among their vast inventory to a model Frank though we’d like.

After a spell, our quest for information fulfilled, he closed with yet another tale, this one an animated account of a recent visit to Italy. At one point, he teared up and comfortably went right on. He is sincere, a charming, low-key salesman, and easy to like.

After a week mulling over a shrinking stack of commercial brochures, we contacted Frank about a revisit to see other Lance products. While showing us a cozy travel trailer, he mentioned some of the standard equipment included with a purchase.

Suddenly, he excused himself with an animated, “Wait a minute. I’ll be right back.” Without Frank to entertain us, we became aware of the outgassing formaldehyde and other solvents commonly used in trailer construction. Our mental note to each other was to make sure our new rig is ventilated before pulling it off the lot.

He returned bearing a coiled 10′ length of white, conventional drinking hose  that is provided with the purchase of every Lance product. Clearly excited, a beaming Frank told us about his remarkable trip to New Orleans. Preparing for that pilgrimage, for it was indeed a personal, spiritual journey, he captivated us with the tale how he was determined to learn to play that hose as if it was a jazz trumpet.

With conviction, he shared his mantra: “If I practice, I think I can do something with this.”

With his Lance ball cap tilted back on his head, a solidly-built Frank puckered up and drifted into another zone, playing that hose as he would a valveless horn. When Sooney asked about the required embouchure, he said it was a combination of diaphragm and lip pressure that produced the sound. He held the coiled part of the hose in his left hand and treated it as would a dancer grooving along to an inner vibe. We learned that the coil didn’t affect the sound that resembled what you’d expect from someone bugling a conch shell. It definitely affected us listeners as he moved this way and that with extraordinary grace. I pulled out my iPhone and videoed his demonstration, thankfully capturing his commentary.

YouTube player

Here’s Frank playing his jazz hose. Click the “Full Screen” icon for a better effect.

After a variety of jazz licks he mentioned, “If I vibrate my voice as it goes through…” and he tailed right into a couple plaintive notes with an entirely different texture.

After his remarkable performance, Frank related how he and his wife, Bonnie, traveled to New Orleans in 2016 with the sole purpose of gigging with some street musicians. She videoed Frank in snazzy summer garb, hanging out with a classy jazz guitar and snare drum duo who were busking a crowded sidewalk. Several passers-by showed their appreciation with more than applause.

“This is what his dream is, so we had to find a place for him to play it,” Bonnie can be heard saying off camera.

“We were in New Orleans,” said Frank, “and when we finished, everyone was clapping, and (the guitarist) he said, ‘Frank, you feel music. We didn’t even practice and I’ve lived here all my life and have never seen anything like that in my life.'”

“So when you YouTube it, Man Plays Garden Hose Like a Trumpet, you’ll see. I had my orange shorts on and my white Pirana Joe shirt, and I was just into it. It turned out pretty good.”

From both the YouTube video and the short snippet I captured on my phone, Frank’s “It turned out pretty good” was an understatement. There was no way we could have anticipated such a remarkable musical odyssey coupled with our search for an RV. But then, Frank is remarkable.