One of the toughest decisions Herb Stump will have to make at the end of August is whether or not to stop blowing into his harmonica if he needs to dip into the Kettle River to cool off during his marathon “harmonica blowoff” on Aug. 30 and 31.
“Harmonica Herb” has pledged to march between Beaverdell to Carmi for 27.5 hours, starting early on Aug. 30 at the Red Rock Garage in Beaverdell and returning by lunch time the next day for a Show and Shine and barbecue at his starting point. Stump will be marching as a fundraiser for the Ride for Dad, an organization that promotes motorcycle, ATV, Jet Ski and snowmobile rides to raise money for research into treatments and cures for prostate cancer in Canada.
“As I walk, I’ll be playing,” Stump said. “Right into the creek. If I stop, I’m not playing,” which means that blissful time in the cool water would count against his precious 210 minutes allocated for breaks along his trek.
The Canadian Army veteran and lifelong musician is inviting the public to bring their best walking shoes and try to keep up alongside him and join in the music. Of course, with the day-long cardio of walking along with the energy of blowing through the small holes and narrow reeds of harmonicas for hours on end could slow Stump’s pace slightly.
But, he said, “I don’t smoke or drink or nothing, so my lungs aren’t too wracked out yet.”
Considering the extra air expenditure though, Stump will be more discerning in his harmonica selection on walking day. Normally, he said, “I just grab a handful in the morning,” before stuffing his cargo shorts’ pockets with his instruments. Out of the hundreds of harmonicas that’s he’s collected, built and repaired since being introduced to them by his grandmother in his childhood, not all are conducive to his marathon goal.
“Some of them have too much air loss in them,” Stump explained. “Some of them have small reeds, so it’s like blowing through a straw.”
Before the trek, Stump said, “I plan to go through all my favourite harmonicas, but there are certain ones that won’t work.”
The wandering musician said that he’s supporting Ride for Dad because “so many people that I know in my life have gone down with [prostate cancer.” Even when he’s been roaming the Boundary putting up posters, he said, “people are coming up to me and telling me their stories too.”
On his training walks, which have run upwards of 26 kilometres so far, Stump said that he’s already welcomed some companions, though not necessarily human.
“When you’re getting up there [playing high notes],” Stump said, marmots are going ‘What’s that?’ because they chirp too. But nothing really runs away from me either.”
Stump’s Harmonica Blowoff is scheduled to leave the Red Rock Garage in Beaverdell at 7 a.m. on Aug. 30.
According to Guinness World Records, the longest-ever harmonica marathon title is owned by Su Pheaktra Bonnyface Chanmongkhon, also known as Bonny B., a Cambodian-Swiss blues musician. Chanmongkhon accomplished the feat on Mar. 1, 2009, in Switzerland, after the 34-year-old musician played for 24 hours without a single break. Funds raised from that effort went to support a school in Cambodia.
The record does not indicate how far Chanmongkhon walked while he played.