Well, I’m back. I have not posted on this blog all year, and I don’t know why, really. Busy? Sure, that’s part of it. Working too hard? If you are one of my bosses, then yes, every day. And I don’t think, as I said in my last post, that it’s that I’m out of good stories, because I’m not. Out of inspiration, that certain writer’s magic that happens when a writer gets “in the zone?” Well, maybe, but I hope not. So, rather than make excuses, with your permission I’d like to simply pick up where I left off, and we’ll see if we can’t make this a regular thing, again.
Oh, and to those of you who actually requested that I get back on here and pump some life back into this blog – thank you. I like to think of myself as an inspired writer, but you, my readers, are why I do this after all. So let’s go.
How about some coming attractions first? Think of this as my promise to you of future posts that will be worth reading. I went back to my hometown for a few weeks this past summer, I want to tell you all about that. (That will be a pretty long post). I want to tell you about The Wizard’s Den, about the Toyata and the dining room chair, about Batman and the willow tree, and about the flumes. So those are all wherethebleepiswyoming posts coming your way soon, and I promise not to disappear on you again.
So here it is – coming up on the end of summer, labor day weekend, and my favorite time of year, fall. And in my town, growing up – this particular point – right at the end of summer with school about to start – meant one thing and one thing only – Oktoberfest.
One of the things I may not have told you about my hometown yet was that it was founded by first-generation German immigrants, around the year 1900. To this day, the town has a healthy population of German descendants. This inherited German culture played itself out in the form of the Oktoberfest during the first week of September nearly every year I lived there, which by the way was from 1972 – 1988.
The first week of every September, the town’s Community Hall, which looked conspicuously like a converted aircraft hangar, was transformed into a crowded hall of beer-swilling townsfolk, German folk dancing, sauerkraut, and cabbage burgers. Now if past experience in relating all of this is any indicator, you just went, “Cabbage what?”
Cabbage burgers. Hollow, baked bread pockets made with slightly sweet dough and filled with spiced beef and boiled cabbage. Often times with some German cheeses thrown in as well. Yum. I could eat these things all day, next to Italian food (my all-time favorite, which is odd since I don’t have any Italian blood in me but I do have quite a bit of German) cabbage burgers are one of my favorite foods.
And there was this little German hut on a trailer that looked like it had somehow been hijacked from Bavaria, where you could buy buttons, mugs, suspenders, lederhosen, and other items of classic German culture. (Lederhosen are very heavy leather shorts that go down to the knees, and have suspenders attached to them to keep them from plopping immediately to your ankles while engaging in German folk dances in these affronts to sensible fashion).
The Oktoberfest was a week-long affair, and the oom-pah music and general buzz of conversation and celebration could usually be heard for blocks. The Oktoberfest was the only time of the year the town ever had any traffic to speak of.
And with good reason. People would come from all around the state to attend our town’s Oktoberfest.
One guy put the whole thing on each year – it was his sole passion. Like a self-made German Beer Garden version of Santa Claus, each year he transformed the town for a week into a German folk festival that brought in tourism dollars from all over the state.
Like I said, this went on every year – the last one I attended was in September 1987, out of high school for four months by then. In the summer of 1988, I moved to California. I heard that the guy who had always put on the Oktoberfest passed away from natural causes that same year, and a decades-old local tradition quietly died with him.
In 2006, a pile of oily rags were left in the kitchen of the Community Hall. They smoldered to combustion, and the dry, old timbers of the Community Hall went up like balsa wood, causing one of the worst fires in the town’s history. The Community Hall was completely destroyed. Luckily, no lives were lost, and the Fire Department saved the surrounding buildings, preventing a much larger blaze.
A friend of mine who still lives there told me that in September of 2011 someone bought that old Bavarian hut on a trailer from the town storage, and took upon the responsibility of resurrecting the town’s annual Oktoberfest. It really did do my heart good to hear that. But then, I was always a sucker for nostalgia. I really hope it works out……
One of the things about the Oktoberfest, like I said, was that for me it really taught me about the town’s roots. At the beginning of the 20th Century, people sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in steam ships and started across the Great Plains any way they could – sort of after the Oregon Trail days and way before the great Westward migration brought on by the Great Depression. Most came by train, with the advent 30 years earlier of the first transcontinental railroad in North America.
And some of them settled in this desert valley between mountain ranges to carve irrigation canals and a new life out of the scorched, barren land.
All I can say about that is that those folks were made of sterner stuff than me.
So that’s how the town got started, mostly by German immigrants like I said. I don’t know exactly when the first town Oktoberfest was, but I know it goes back at least to the late 60s.
And for one week a year, the town celebrated its roots the only way it knew how – tradition.
And so it goes. I would really like to see the Oktoberfest be resurrected, it’s only right, and the town deserves it.
I have some related posts for you on this subject – next time we will talk about the Tyroleans. Then after that I want to tell you a story – a story I like to call One Day After School I Learned About War.
If you’re reading this (again) thank you for sticking with me in my absence, and thank you for asking me to write again. We’ll talk again – soon!