Walt Sample & Toby

Walt Sample & Toby

It is ten degrees this frosty morning (Thursday, December 15, 2016) here at the Fur Peace Ranch in Southeast Ohio. Maverick and I just came in from a chilly but necessary walk across the parking lot and down the old road to the A Frame. The remains of the Super Moon were falling slowly into the tree line. From our vantage point on the road we could see the lights twinkling from Donnie’s farm over there by SR 681. My heart was heavy with the loss of our dear friend Walt Sample late last night. December 14th, 2016, was just shy of becoming December 15th when Walt’s son called to give us the news.

There is never a good time for bad news and I realize that on this planet we call home, millions die each day. That said, each of us humans navigates the world with our own universe and the circles of these universes may or may not intersect. There may be magic in these meetings. I have been fortunate in my life to have had a number of these meetings but one of the most memorable was with Walt Sample. He came to us at the Fur Peace Ranch a number of years ago… I can’t really remember when. It was immediately apparent to me that we were born to be friends and I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

He was a man of infinite spirit with a love of all things good in this world and the rare ability to find good in most things. He had talents in many fields. In his art whether it be music or painting, the purist of truths always shone through utterly free of artifice. One must check out Big Mule Music and you will get some small idea of what I’m talking about.

Walt & Jorma at the Source Of The Sacred Soil

Walt & Jorma at the Source Of The Sacred Soil

In late August, one of our dear friends, Rob McNurlin, was down on The Crossroads in Mississippi and brought some dirt back from said crossroads. We called it Devil Dirt… and there was something dangerous about it. Walt thought we should strike back on the good vibe and came up with the idea of Sacred Soil from the Fur Peace Ranch. We had been doing some excavating so we had a huge pile of dirt. Walt loaded up the sifter, we made labels and le voila, Fur Peace Ranch Sacred Soil! I say ‘we,’ but it was all Walt, sitting in garage next to the Harleys giving substance to yet another dream. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well here in Southeast Ohio and every little bit counts.

Walt and another kind of mule

Walt and another kind of mule

A renaissance man…father… husband… brother to all who were authentic. He didn’t suffer fools handily… he disdained poseurs… but he treated all with respect.

He passed suddenly, without warning and he although it is not for me to say how any man perceives his own passing, I would imagine that Walt would have wanted it this way. His great heart, having done its duty, retired the field. He had many different relationships with all he knew. I did not write with him. We thought about it… talked about it… but never got around to it. We were, however, friends!

All of us who knew Walt will miss him in our own way, but none of us will ever forget him. For me that ever-present smile, hearty handshake and the sly look that said he had something really cool to show me will live in my heart always.

At this point in my life, unexpected phone calls as often as not do not bring good news. Simply put, as the book of life is opened some of us do not make the next page and that’s just the way it is.

So in closing this sad but yet celebratory little note as I looked at the Super Moon last night and early this morning I was immediately reminded that by some strange coincidence yesterday morning I was listening to Jimmy Durante singing I’ll Be Seeing You by Sammy Fain and Irving Kahal.

I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day and through
In that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees
The wishing well
I’ll be seeing you
In every lovely summer’s day
In everything that’s night and day
I’ll always think of you that way
I’ll find you in the morning sun
And when the night is new
I’ll be looking at the moon
But I’ll be seeing you
I’ll be seeing you

I’ll be seeing you my friend… in my heart always… In the meantime

Fair wind and following seas brother. My the spirit wind always be at your back!

Big indeed!

Big indeed!


  1. Comment made on December 21, 2016 by Paul

    Jorma, I am so sorry for the loss of your good friend. It sounds like he was bigger than life and exactly the kind of individual you would have as a good friend. Every such passing diminishes us and the world around us. May he Rest In Peace. Blessings

  2. Comment made on December 20, 2016 by Mike Copeland

    Sorry for your, and our, loss. He will be with us always…

  3. Comment made on December 20, 2016 by Bake

    So sorry for your loss Jorma. He sounds and looks like a great guy. I’m amazed when you sit down with such people how much you can learn about things you never knew of, but always wondered. Please pass my regards to Toby too, I’m sure he’s missing his special friend. I’ll keep his family in my prayers, as I do you.

  4. Comment made on December 20, 2016 by Ray Gallo

    Hi Jorma, Im sorry to hear about your good friend. That was a beautiful tribute to him.

  5. Comment made on December 19, 2016 by Anna Stegemoeller

    @Greg Martelli, Walt had two mules as far as I know. Toby is the tall mule. Walt said he needed a smaller mule to ride when he was drinking. In response, Bill Kirchen said that he’d had to give up drinking ’cause he couldn’t keep a small mule. Everyone laughed. Walt also talked about the mules needing companionship…so thus, having two. I’ll have to make a point of listening to a braying band of mules.

  6. Comment made on December 19, 2016 by Mitch Spector

    Sorry to hear this Jorma ..Prayers

  7. Comment made on December 19, 2016 by cliff pazik

    Walt loved the FPR and everyone there. Your words are comforting; thank you! Now for some Jimmy Durante…cliff

  8. Comment made on December 18, 2016 by Anna Stegemoeller

    A fine tribute to Walt. He was one of the best of us. I really liked him. Thanks, Walt.

  9. Comment made on December 18, 2016 by Art Chikofsky

    Condolences, prayers, and hugs.

  10. Comment made on December 18, 2016 by Sheila Sample

    Thank you for the wonderful words about my brother!It touched my heart.

  11. Comment made on December 18, 2016 by Jack Blind

    Well said about a dear friend. Luv & Peace, uncle jack

  12. Comment made on December 18, 2016 by Frank Filipo

    Beautifully said, Jorma. I had the luck of once sharing a class at FPR with Walt. He was a big man who made a big impression on me during those few days spent together. It is quite easy to understand the outpouring of affection that marks his passing. These song lyrics come to my mind, as I remember the never ending smile on Walt’s face.

    Smile tho’ your heart is aching
    Smile even tho’ it’s breaking
    When there are clouds in the sky
    You’ll get by

    If you smile
    Thro’ your fear and sorrow
    Smile and maybe tomorrow
    You’ll see the sun come shin-ing thro’ for you

    Light up your face with gladness
    Hide ev-‘ry trace of sadness
    Altho’ a tear may be ever so near

    That’s the time
    You must keep on trying
    Smile, what’s the use of crying
    You’ll find that life is still worth-while

    If you just smile

  13. Comment made on December 18, 2016 by Carey Georgas

    I’ll be damned, Jimmy Durante movie on TCM this morning. First time I’ve seen him in years. Call his memory forth, and he appears!

  14. Comment made on December 18, 2016 by Carey Georgas

    Yes, hybrid between donkey and horse. Can’t reproduce.@Greg Martelli

  15. Comment made on December 18, 2016 by Greg Martelli

    Interesting, did not know that , must be because their sterile?

  16. Comment made on December 17, 2016 by jim hitchcock

    @Greg Martelli
    Huh, did not know till now that a group of mules were actually called a ‘barren’.

  17. Comment made on December 17, 2016 by Joey Hudoklin

    Walt sounds like a wonderful man

  18. Comment made on December 17, 2016 by JD

    I am sorry for your loss; I feel Walt’s spirit through your words.

  19. Comment made on December 17, 2016 by Greg Martelli

    To me the coolest thing ,is he enjoyed the company of mules.
    Born in Brooklyn ,grew up in Ct.,I’ve been in Kentuck for 39 years,we had our horses ,cattle,chicken ,sheep on a farm in the next county(Bourbon), we live in Clark.
    The neighbor raised mules, you have not lived a full life until you hear a group of mules braying!!!
    I’d say his life was enhanced by the same choir ,perhaps he had a solo mule.The song might not be as full as if there was a herd ,but the siren song is just as sweet.
    If they brayed at night ,you knew the coyotes were around.
    They don’t mess with the mules.

  20. Comment made on December 17, 2016 by rich lindbloom

    ” But spirit is something that no one destroys” – low spark of high heeled boys

  21. Comment made on December 17, 2016 by Ben

    Condolences to you and the family Jorma. Another good chapter to hold dear.

  22. Comment made on December 17, 2016 by jim hitchcock

    The pic of Walt with Toby speaks volumes about the guy. Appreciate you sharing part of his story, Jorma.

  23. Comment made on December 17, 2016 by DennisK

    RIP Walt, 

    “Fur Peace Ranch Sacred Soil – Caution: This product grows guitar players, sprouts friendship, nourshes souls, causes uncontrollable creativity, happiness, inspiration and joy.” …Indeed it does!

  24. Comment made on December 16, 2016 by carey georgas

    I dunno, Johno. My mom and dad both died in a 3 year period between ’05 and ’08 from the big c. Having to watch day by day (we all lived in the same town) was tough, I mean double tough. What I learned from it was to try and live my life so that no thought goes unsaid, no hurt unhealed, so that if I drop or the ones I love drop, there’ll be no regrets, no sorrow for things left undone. When my grandkids leave from visiting I hug them like it’s gonna be the last time. Not in a morbid sense, but with the thought that we aren’t just saying goodbye, but transmuting the hug into an exchange of heart-love. Everyone has their own perspective. Peace.@johno

  25. Comment made on December 16, 2016 by mikie

    We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when
    But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day
    Keep smiling thru just like you always do
    Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away

    The Johnny Cash rendition of that tune is almost chilling. It seemed to fit well at the end of Dr. Strangelove, also.

    Sorry for the loss of your friend. m

  26. Comment made on December 16, 2016 by johno

    Walt’s passing came unexpectedly – that’s the worst kind. You never get a chance to say good bye. Once the shock wears off – you’re left empty handed. Very sad indeed. It seems the older I get the more I realize I could be next. My Dad died 10 years ago. He fell downstairs at home(be careful). It was unexpected – I didn’t get to say good bye. But I’ll see him soon – I have no doubt about that. My life has taught me that there are other levels of consciousness and of the existence of the afterlife. Your body dies but your spirit goes on forever. Hallelujah.

  27. Comment made on December 16, 2016 by eaglesteve

    My condolences for your lose.

  28. Comment made on December 16, 2016 by rich l

    “I’ll be looking at the moon
    But I’ll be seeing you
    I’ll be seeing you.”

    Odd, I saw that moon yesterday morning – it was truly magnificent. It was white in my neck of the woods when I drove to work about 7. I actually wondered if you caught it Jorma.

    I’m thinking it couldn’t be a coincidence, that for some reason, that song came to you. Great lyrics – first time I’ve ever heard of I’ll Be Seeing You.

    “Take your sandals off Jorma, you’re standing on sacred ground.”

    Good Night Moon

  29. Comment made on December 16, 2016 by Ham n Eggs

    Ha Chadda cha cha, anytime Jimmy Durante can help you find solace in sorrow shows there has to be some “Good Grief” there.
    I’m truly sorry for your loss, condolences to all.
    Love All Ways

  30. Comment made on December 16, 2016 by Carey Georgas

    Beautiful tribute to an obviously special friend.

  31. Comment made on December 16, 2016 by Pat Harper

    He was a big man in so many ways.

  32. Comment made on December 16, 2016 by Brian Doyle

    Just went through the same thing with Tappy Wright, a Jimi Hendrix manager I’ve come to be good friends with in the past few years. Now there’s nothing but a cold empty universe at the end of his phone number. I also just met Jimi photographer Ron Raffaelli and really hit it off with him after staying at his house. 6 weeks later Cheryl posted he died at home.

    I came in to post that there’s a TV movie about the Harley Davidson company and its history on The Discovery Channel.

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