Jay Meehan: Love you madly!
Both the hose and the galoot were draped over the corral railing patiently waiting on one of the large horse troughs to fill so as to move on to the next. The musing was more or less all about time well spent and the lack thereof.
As has been the recent wont of many of us, those who arrived in Park City following the installation of Treasure Mountain Resort but prior to the boom days, we’ve been witnessing more and more of our peer group checking into the next dimension.
We are pretty much flooded with memories and the joy that comes from the recognition of having spent quality time with such magical folks. There is sadness to be sure but it really doesn’t get much better than hugging friends and hoisting pints while spinning yarns and swapping lies.
Something happens when one crosses the threshold into Park City for the first time and a sort of “goofiness” ensues. Not that we didn’t tote a pack mule of our own eccentricities, but the town has always possessed a welcoming manner in which the outrageous could easily put down roots.
So, with my boot hooked around the lower railing, visions of Denis Orton and Larry McKown danced in my head. They both moved on last week with the voids left in their respective wakes requiring a not-small number of coordinates to properly specify. Although Denis was of a more recent vintage, Larry was one of us “Silverbacks.”
The initial McKown memory to play out had my wife Virginia and I enter the Buffalo Grill for breakfast on a beautiful 1970 early fall morning. When a few of us had blown through Park City during mid-winter a couple of years earlier, the building had been occupied by Pop Jenks. A new era had dawned.
Main Street’s newest culinary digs were to die for, cozy as all get-out and packed to the rafters with relative newcomers anxious to check out the slopes. The entrepreneurs of this new establishment were Larry and Julie McKown and their sidekick Jim Patten.
A casual friendliness pervaded the joint. First of all, they had booked “Porky” Joe Onn to continually work the room from his centrally located flapjack-filled table. Porky, a backslapper and belly-laugher, appeared to know everyone in all eleven western states. This would be our first encounter with the raconteur-in-question.
Before we knew it, he had pulled a chair over to ours, began waxing on how his dog-eared paperback was set against a backdrop of the old west, and that he’d sure like to unload his ex-wife’s skis if we were in the market.
It turned out we were and so, following our delicious and bountiful repast, Virginia left the Buffalo Grill that morning with a pair of 180 centimeter Head 360 boards tossed over her shoulder. For no extra charge, they came with the word “Deb” engraved in cursive on the toe of each ski.
The McKown-Patten Cartel would next open the Crazy Horse Saloon a short mosey up Main Street from the Buffalo Grill. Seemingly, this was only a matter of days after our intro to the Buffalo Grill but I ‘spose it could have been as much as a year later. It didn’t take long at all for the Crazy Horse to become my watering hole of choice.
In my first Core Sample column from 20 years ago, I announced myself with “I didn’t recognize it as a German Shepherd until it had sailed across the bar at eye-level and crashed into the opposite wall.” Now, could your watering hole do that?
Zion Canyon and Springdale would be their next stop. As I heard it, somehow they managed to open a highly successful Motel and Restaurant without Porky – but they may have had flapjacks. It wouldn’t be long, of course, before Flanigan’s Inn & Restaurant became the talk of the southwest.
Denis Orton embodied the qualities of the quintessential Park City barkeep. When D.O. was on shift, sliding upon a barstool at Mileti’s back in the day was not unlike “talking God and baseball with the man with the yard full of rusty cars.” That’s a Shel Silverstein line but I shamelessly use it continually as if it were my own.
Denis and I bonded at the intersection of World Music and Verbal Stimuli. The cat knew his stuff and was a walking talking entertainment. We’d been known to talk folk, jazz, ethnic, indigenous, neo-traditional, bourbon, rye, Scotch, and Ibuprofens until the cows came home.
We miss you guys deeply. As Duke Ellington would say, “Love You Madly!”
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.
“Even the dogs were celebrating the reemergence of the sun.”