Sunday, July 7, 2013

Waltzing Matilda

July 7, 2013

Events are never the same...and this one was no exception to that.  Our Fourth of July BBQ and Blues loomed in front of us and it had all of the look of a huge success.  The band seemed like an ace in the hole.  Richard Taelour, Two Grammy award winners, Half of Merl Haggard's band, and Harmonica Steve who had helped Richard send my friend Kieth home just weeks before.  I bragged up these guys and invited people to come listen to them even if they could not afford to buy the BBQ.  And...they did.
We sold 100 less BBQ than we had the year before.  Lots of product left over which means that if we cannot sell it than this event becomes a loss.  But, that is a chance and a choice that you make before it all starts and that is a part of this game.
Looking back, the band (as incredible as they were) was actually a part of the reason that it was less.  People came from all around to listen and watch.  Parking spaces filled up early.  And, I have been told that people came to eat some BBQ, drove around, could not find a spot to park, and gave up and left.
But this post is not to grumble about that for no event should be measured by money but by did it make people happy and this one truly did.  And I will try and post some of my highlights as I remember them before they are forgotten.  After all, is that not one of the reasons of a blog?
I came down early in the morning to handle last minute affairs such as printing up the menu and such.  Breakfast came faster than I expected and I ended up working out on the floor.  This made the morning fly by and before I knew it, it was afternoon.  I downed some lunch and headed home to put my head down for a couple of minutes as I knew that I would be there late in the evening.
I drove my Model A down, parked it, and set to the last minute details.  The set up seemed almost flawless as people did what they have done so many times before.  The band came early to set up and I could not find a power bar for them so I had my buddy, Zin, drive me to the store to get one.
The BBQ and the band seem to start at the same time.  And both seemed to rock.  People lined up for both of them.  The whole thing flowed and my stress level remained like the weather....high but cooler than the days before.  Everyone did their job, the band sounded unbelievable, and the comments on the BBQ were that it was a hit.
But, as I walked around, something seemed different.  I realized fast what that was.  In the past the line for the BBQ was down the side of the parking lot.  Tonight, it was there but not even partly as long.  Fortunately, Jim saw the same thing and pulled back on his cooking but not as fast as was needed.  In the end, we still had three trays of BBQ that we are going to need to use up somehow.
My VVA brothers all did their part and I walked around doing what I am suppose to do....look for problems and solve them.  But other than the lack of eaters, there didn't seem to be any.  Over and over, I was thanked for the night, the food, the atmosphere, and the music.  So, I just walked around the lot and the floors and talked to people.  And because this is what I enjoy, it was a great night.
I stepped out on the deck and one of the customers pulled me to the side to let me know that we had a Major General (thats two stars) here tonight.  He said the General wanted to meet me so I waited as he was down in the chow line. I expected a large broad shouldered man with a stern confident look and gait.  But what I saw walking across the deck was a guy no bigger than me, wearing a Washington Huskie shirt, and looking just like one of the guys. So...I treated him that way.  It just seemed natural.
"What the heck are you doing on my deck wearing that shirt?", I asked.  A large smile spread across his face as he put down his BBQ and turned to engage me.  "I am really a Duck fan!", he countered, "I just wear this to stimulate the conversation.".
And then he impressed me and showed me why he had accomplished the feat of making it to two stars.  He engaged.  His eyes were solid on mine, His handshake was firm, and his attention locked.  He thanked me for all that I do and went on to say that he was intending on settling here in the future and he wants to know some of the main guys in the veteran community as he intends to get involved once he gets here. I was truly impressed and do so look forward to knowing this man better in the future.  I can see where he might become a leader here as he has in the Army now.  One who will get the job done.
The end of the first set of the band came fast and Judy and I sat down for a quick bite.  The first thing we noticed was that our ribs were cold.  I jumped up and checked the line, finding the sterno on that unit was used up.  Kevin quickly solved that problem and we kept on rolling.

Harmonica Steve showed up for the second set and his sweet harp sound took the band up yet another notch.  People were standing around listening while others danced in front of the group.  Ed, our WW2 tap dancer, danced his heart out and entertained the crowd even more.  I took a few pictures of the band from different angles as the sun was setting behind them and I struggled to find that perfect picture.  I was trying to get Ken and Steve together in a picture as they had played together in their past in Hawaii.
When the band finished playing, the parking lot emptied.  It looked like a quiet night at Jake's.  Nothing like I have ever experienced in the past.  In past years, people have stayed and ended up enjoying the fireworks like one big family.  Tonight, my families had other things they needed to do.  Other places they needed to be.  And at nine.....just an hour before the butte event lot was bare.
Then the last minute people began to show up and take slots.  I walked around talking to some who I knew and waiting to stop others who had decided that they would bring their own fireworks.   I was talking with an old retired police friend of mine when some small fireworks popped off right behind us.  I walked over to find what looked like a couple of families letting their young people have some fun.  The fireworks were of the small type so I mentioned to them that I would allow as long as they kept it small like that.
What I got in return was just a bit of attitude from these small people.  "That is all we have!", they responded.  "Ok, keep it down please and clean up after yourself.".  They seem to ignore me as I went over and put a bucket with water next to their group.  I noticed my police friend standing off to the side.  When I rejoined him he said, "Did you notice I had your back there, Lyle.  I wasn't sure if you could handle those small children.".  I looked back over at them and saw that their was an adult there who seemed to be picking up things and putting them in the bucket.
Another truck rolled through the lot and found a slot.  Someone noticed that it had Washington plates (our illegal fireworks are legal there) and I noticed large coolers on the back.  So, I walked over as they climbed out of their truck.  "Did you notice my signs as you drove in?", I asked, "You are welcome here as long as you comply with them.  No alcohol and no fireworks".  He smiled and said he had neither with him.  I stated that I had come over because I had noticed the large coolers.  "Just soda!", he responded, "Do you want one!".  I laughed and told him to enjoy his evening.
I helped close up the diner, grabbed a chair from the back of my car, and joined Carrie and Jay who were there with friends.   We settled down and enjoyed the evening.  The fireworks started and they were....well...not as spectacular as we had hoped.  Jay kept saying  "Boring" as I expected from a young teen.  "I am here to watch the butte burn.", he stated.  As one ember came down and lit a small fire, jay yelled, "Yes!  That is what I am talking about!".
The kids must have gotten equally bored as they began to light off more as the butte show continued on.  The show stopped abruptly without it's usual big ending. We waited and waited and nothing happened.  So, I got up, put my chair away, and began to secure the building.  I was in the kitchen when I heard the grand finale. I rushed over to the window only to find it stop as quickly as it started.
I came outside to find that the ending had been one of the better of the past years.  I walked around thanking people as they began to leave.  One of my friends, Mike, stopped and talked for a second.  He told me that he had read some of my blogs and that we thought allot alike on many topics.  He made an example of how much he also measures a person by their handshake.  My mind flew back to the General earlier in the evening.
As we spoke, the fireworks went off from the kids again and I turned to view.  Many of the group had left and I only saw three young children...not 10 at the most.  I looked around for their parents thinking they must be in the small car next to the kids.  But, as I walked by and looked no one was in the car.
I began bringing in my signs that read "No alcohol, No Fireworks, Thanks" and as I wheeled one behind the building I came across a large black pickup truck.  One of the kids ran to the truck, their father got out, and handed him some more fireworks.  "OK", I yelled, "No more fireworks!".  The dad didn't even look my way as he climbed back in his cab next to a young lady that I assumed was the mother.  I could hear the fireworks go off as I rounded the building.  "Did you hear what I said?", I asked.
"That is the end of them.", the young man snapped back.  "I know", I said, "and you kids are going to pick up all of your mess.".  "No, we are not." came the reply, "Most of it is too small to pick up.".  "Yes, you are.", I stated firmly, "And I am helping you.".  I began to pick up the expended product that littered my lot as they too began picking up and placing in the water bucket.  They had decided that this grumpy old grandpa actually meant what he said and that they best mind.  I turned to find their parents had driven back around and were waiting in the darkened truck by the side of my building.
I wanted to engage them as I walked past staring at them with my now loaded bucket.  I thought best not to for more than one reason.  It was over, I was angry, and nothing good could come of my lecturing them in front of their kids.   So I just gave them the look and watched as the kids piled in the back and they all drove off.  If those kids would have gotten hurt letting off the fireworks in our lot...I am sure that the probably would have found me the negligent party.
I spent the rest of the evening talking with a few vet friends who had hung around afterwards. I pulled out close to long day was complete.
As I drove home, I thought back of the many highlights of the day.   Family, Friends, Food, and great entertainment.  I asked myself what was the highlight of the night....the thing that I enjoyed the most.
My thoughts quickly went to the middle of the second set of the band.  Tony had told me that Richard was going to sing a song for Judy.  I watched as Toni asked him to play it.  He mouthed to her that the band did not know the tune.  Toni was relentless (as Toni can be) and Richard grumbled.....I heard him say, "I guess I better play this to keep out of being in trouble.".  A single guitar crooned out into the night the notes to the song, "Waltzing Matlida".  I looked down to watch my bride began to get tears in her eyes.  The song was short but it had made it's point.
For although Judy is now an American citizen.....she will always be an Australian.  And my sweethearts evening had just been made.