Jay Meehan: High country rituals
August 19, 2014
Many of my often-overlapping peer groups hold these annual, somewhat indulgent, ceremonial rites to commemorate those who gave us the slip and left for parts unknown. Punctuated by gatherings at, for the most part, saloons, they are, as one could well imagine, driven by love and intoxicants.
This coming weekend a singular segment of the tribe shall gather once again at a watering hole adjacent to the North Fork of the Duchesne to spin yarns and swap lies about our community’s past guru, mentor, hard-body wrangler, and "Twinkie" distributor, Ernie "the Breadman" Scow.
This particular honky-tonk, it should be noted, sits on uncounted acres at the base of the Uinta range and is backed-up by 17 cabins, an RV constituency, and a tent city, all with potential for, if not ill-repute, at least dubious distinction. Once or twice, throughout the years, our posse just might have misplaced its propriety. Go figure! What would Ernie say?
Ernie, himself, started these annual gatherings back in the day and, when he up and left us, others of his flock, mainly the Block and Tackle band and its various spin-offs, picked up his ever-so-mischievous winks and grins and kept his circle unbroken.
Now, I had been figuring that this year’s gathering might very well be the 20th annual Ernie bash at Defa’s Dude Ranch. In fact Tommy Martinez and I were as recently as last Sunday crunching the numbers over beers at the Shooting Star in Huntsville about which year the 16th Annual T-shirts came out.
Somehow, the fact that, two-years ago, our fellow Ernie-cult member Carol Querry had already configured that the 2012 gathering had fit all the relevant criteria to be henceforth known as the 20th Annual eluded my recall lobes.
I’m assuming that the reason no one else has any interest in this particular trivia question goes back to when Ernie promised us when he started all this that there would be no math involved and they are holding him to it — even in absentia.
Last weekend had another, quite similar, quorum of true believers hunkered down around a couple of tables at a tavern in Hebertown to share anecdotes and commemorate the cantankerous and hilarious antics of one Loran "Longbelly" Larsen.
Loran was one of those invaluable threads of continuity that reached up out of the mine tunnels and shafts, if you caught his drift, to add irreplaceable grit to the burgeoning ski industry infrastructure in Park City.
During the very early days of our transitional economy, when other ex-miners took over the operation of lifts, Loran fabricated prototypes for all matters of rotary tillers and snow-packing implements that would be pulled behind early-generation snow cats. Some of these two-by-four constructed contraptions became the stuff of legend.
Loran also was instrumental in the fabrication of improvisational folklore; a skill set that is probably most responsible for our ongoing love of and infatuation with the man.
Each year, as embellishments to this holy day of obligation, I pull the old "Loran Larsen State Park" sign down off my living room wall and deposit it next to the "Longbelly Logbook." Both will be transported to the shindig, wherein all involved will, when the muse strikes, add a note to Loran in the logbook and, oftentimes after a brew or two, pose with the sign for a snapshot.
The logbook also keeps this crew from miscounting the particular annual gatherings like we always seem to be doing with the Defa’s get-togethers. Turning the pages in the "Longbelly Logbook" is not all that different from counting growth rings on a tree. The years follow each other one after the other and this year was the 17th bash in the 16 years since he left us.
The entries go back to the beginning, when we first met to honor Loran up on the mountain at PCMR just off the Assessment access road at what we had come to call Loran Larsen State Park. From there, for quite a spell, we moved to Clyde’s Billiards in downtown Heber, an intimate watering hole affectionately known as "Tinks."
Once Tinks closed, we adjourned down the road to the "Other End," another Heber haunt of note. That engagement also lasted a few years until management changed and then, as they say, all bets were off. For the last little while, we’ve been conducting Longbelly rituals at the Timpanogos Tavern down near the airport.
Ernie "the Breadman" Scow and Loran "Longbelly" Larsen — a pair of Park City diamonds in the rough that live on in the memories, laughter, and stories of those they left behind. Ornery never had two better ambassadors.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.