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Musician and well-digger tapped to open San Benito Rodeo

Local violinist Dan Lynch will be performing the national anthem to kick things off.
Dan Lynch with violin (left of center). Photo courtesy of Dan Lynch.
Dan Lynch with violin (left of center). Photo courtesy of Dan Lynch.

The San Benito County Saddle Horse Show and Rodeo returns to Bolado Park on June 24 and will, as always, begin with the playing of the national anthem. This year, “The Star-Spangled Banner” will be performed by Dan Lynch, a man known perhaps less for his music and more for his work digging wells and providing water to thirsty farms and developments.

Lynch, 65, who regularly plays with local country-western bands, is a well-digger by trade. He will be playing the anthem on his violin, an instrument he picked up by chance.

“I was about eight or nine when I started playing at school,” he said. “You had to play something and I really didn’t get a choice. I didn’t get along with the violin at first so they started me with piano and flute.”

Lynch was hiking in the mountains on his way to school across a thousand-acre lot belonging to his family and he heard some beautiful music and went to find the source.

“I went up to the top of a ridge and there was an older gentleman named Rudy playing some Vivaldi,” Lynch said. “He looked at me and said, ‘Welcome to your lesson.’ He made me pick up the violin. It had been made in 1793 and he taught me some stuff on it.”

The stranger then told Lynch that their meeting was meant to be; that he was dying of cancer and wanted Lynch to take the violin.

“Under protest, I accepted it,” he said. “And off I went to school with this 1793 violin. Then, when I got older, I did a lot of traveling. When I was 17, I hitchhiked across the United States. I kept the violin with me for years until once, when I was hiking through torrential rain in Maui, it came apart.”

His travels helped expand his musical experience, finding fellow musicians in campgrounds and rest stops. Back home he had friends in bands as well. Today he performs with two bands, the Courthouse Ramblers and the Aromas Quarry Boys.

Dan Lynch (right) playing the violin. Photo courtesy of Dan Lynch.
Dan Lynch (right) playing the violin. Photo courtesy of Dan Lynch.

“I have always had a connection with people who play music,” he said. “I started performing when I was 17 or 18. People would say, ‘You’re going to perform at this wedding with these people,’ and I would. The first real band I joined was on a working horse ranch that had a house band and we did a lot of dances there. It drew people from all over the place and we’d have hoedowns.”

Lynch favors Texas swing music and older country music, naming Hank Williams, Bob Wills, Johnny Gimble and Bill Monroe as favorites. In performance, he draws from a repertoire of blues, bluegrass, country rock and country jazz.

“COVID knocked the heck out of all the restaurant jobs we had,” he said. “But we’ve gotten back to playing the last Friday of every month at the Aromas Grill and we have some weddings and things like that lined up again.”

Lynch’s day job helps him line up work as well. He specializes in plumbing and rural water, so he has contacts throughout the farming and ranching community.

“I have always enjoyed playing music for people,” he said, “but I’ve also been a contractor since I was 20 years old. I started with a job in Colorado when I was hitchhiking, doing foundations. Then I worked for Anderson Nevis house movers—I’d ride the roof in the middle of the night pulling electrical wires out of the way as it moved down the street. Then I did plumbing until the carpenters hired me, paying me more. Then the plumbers paid me more and I would work for them until the carpenters offered me more. And I kept going back and forth between them.”

Eventually, Lynch earned three licenses for plumbing and well digging, settling into that as a career.

“Everybody wants and needs water,” he said. “For drinking, for farming, and the need just keeps increasing. Droughts and regulation have spurred much more need in rural areas. They want their own wells and their own systems.”

One of the most significant wells he has drilled is at the Betabel property off of Hwy 101.

“We got one well out there that got into an ancient formation,” he said. “The headwaters going to Moss Landing run underneath that property. There used to be a lake here, a stable body of water 400 feet above sea level for 250 million years. When the San Andreas Fault first slid, it opened a fissure right there and the entire lake drained out, cutting a 900-foot-deep trench in Monterey Bay.”

While Lynch’s knowledge of local geology guarantees him as much work as he wants, what will will come into play this weekend will be his aptitude for remembering Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline songs as he performs for the rodeo barbecue on June 25. But first, he will face the crowd and officially open the event.

“You just have to close your eyes and pretend you are singing in your living room,” he said. “But I have done the anthem at the rodeo before and it is always an honor. I love this country and it means a lot to me to be able to do it. I am hoping people will feel what I feel when I perform it, a sense of national pride.”

 

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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink first approached me as a photographer. They were the ones to encourage me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.