Jay Meehan: Independence daze
I didn’t recognize it as a naked Emperor until it had waddled up to the front of the chanting mob to explain why a recent flare-up with bone spurs would once again preclude any taking up of pitchfork and torch to lead them into the fray.
But, I digress. The road I intended to roam would have come up through Charleston before Deer Creek, Keetley before Jordanelle, the Outlaw Trail prior to Hole in the Wall, and the Alamo Saloon just ahead of Darlene taming the joint. Oh, those were the days. It didn’t get much better than free-pouring Red-Eye from the brown bag you rode in on.
For some reason, it has become my nature to reach back beyond memory to that place where making it up as you go is the only way out. What I do recall, however, is the trail that led up through town to Park City’s legendary Fourth of July goings-on. I wore that down to bedrock.
Then there were the Idaho-panhandle mining-camp coming-of-age days of my youth. One particular 4th of July parade stands out like no other. With rabid anti-communism at its peak, I spent the entire parade route with rifle on shoulder marching in a small circle in front of a Stalin-looking character in the back of a 2 1/2 ton flatbed truck.
The rear of the vehicle had been bisected into halves demonstrating the boot heel of totalitarianism (me) versus the freedom of democracy (a slightly older friend lounging by a fishing hole with rod in hand and sporting a straw hat). I always sensed a bit of corruption in the assigning of roles. I never did like that guy much.
But back to my days celebrating freedom in Park City. My first stop, once the rugby pitch adopted its current north-south orientation, was this smallish tree near its northeast corner. There, under boughs seemingly bred for just such purpose, a beer cooler and low-rider beach chair could seek refuge from the midday sun until their reasons for being became manifest later in the day.
And that would take place once the tribe returned from interacting with the then much smaller parade up on Main Street and the cooler was ceremoniously breached. From then on, the sole gurgling within earshot would come not only from the babbling brook known as Poison Creek, but also from the emptying of aluminum cans.
There wasn’t a lot of manicuring going on in town in those days. Weeds and grasses were pretty much given free reign. If an “edger” or “weed whacker” had stumbled into the old burg, it might have been mistaken for the drive train to some abandoned Willys Jeep.
Depending on the year, my quiver may have well included the prototype Louisville Slugger that I never left home without following the post parade cultural brouhaha of 1971. Never did research its DNA to discover if it were maple or ash, but it felt smooth to the grip and never turned up missing from its perch next to the cue-rack at the Alamo.
There was this most-pleasing gauntlet you got to run in those days as you made your way up Main Street to your favored parade-viewing locale. Exchanging top-shelf trash talk with Art Durante, the maestro himself, out front of his Main Street Hardware emporium became a favorite rite-of-passage.
Closing down your business for the holiday wasn’t always the consensus economic option back then. Often you could find quality banter available with Barry the Lapidary or at any of the custom leather or jewelry shops along the street. And it goes without saying that your favorite watering hole was open for counseling.
Early on, the non-threatening and friendly confines of the Alamo Saloon became the tribe’s go-to hangout. Easily the most literature friendly along the libation-distribution circuit, it drew a wide variety of ex-pat communities that had arrived in town to have their way with whatever slope-style amenities they could conjure.
These days, however, moseying up the parade backstage of Swede Alley prior to the fighter jet flyover and siren wail that kick things off, startles the senses. Serving as a reminder of both the growth of this community and the rituals it demands, one arrives face-to-face with change.
If that weren’t enough, we now have the current political climate to deal with. A perception of expanding fascism has some of us taking a knee. It doesn’t take much of an imagination to see the riotous post-parade antics of 1971 once again raising its head. Not that cooler heads won’t prevail.
Speaking of which, I believe there’s a cooler down on the rugby pitch that requires attention. Happy Independence Day!
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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