MARCH 15, 2014 –– This is a saga of a soggy day for some sons of the sod who binged on blarney, loaded up with liquid courage and made their Irish ancestors proud.
As the luck of the Irish would have it, I was there to record their achievement: Taking part in the shortest St. Patrick’s Day Parade ever held.
The location of this historic event was the small Colorado town of Parachute, on the banks of the Colorado River. The year of “The Parade,” 1983, found the town smarting from being on the sticky “bust” end of the boom-bust stick. Less than a year before, Exxon rudely and abruptly stopped its huge oil shale project north of Parachute and fired 2,000 workers in one day. With their dream of becoming a city with thousands of new citizens dashed, Parachute and its hundreds of remaining residents were still bitter and bummed.
If ever a town needed a shot of Irish cheer, and whiskey, it was Parachute. And as Irish luck would have it, the town was home to a delightful Irish pub called O’Leary’s (very Irish), which also served as the town’s Catholic Church on Sundays (extremely Irish).
I was an eager young reporter, so I got to O’Leary’s early. Unfortunately, a green beer breakfast left my notebook unusable, which means the following recollections are somewhat suspect. The nasty rainstorm and the big picture (like the painting of the nude lady on the wall – covered during Mass, of course) were unforgettable.
As the 10 a.m. parade start time rolled around, the potential parade-goers decided to wait out the downpour and “warm up” by “parading” forcefully to the bar and pouring down more libations.
Around 11 a.m., the crowd started to thin, and there was uncertainty if the parade would happen at all, since the number of potential participants able to stand, much less march, was starting to shrink.
Finally, the word arrived: “The float is ready.”
About 25 soggy souls made the mad dash through the rain for a half-block to the “float:” a white, flatbed truck with shamrocks painted on the doors.
People started to climb aboard, and after allowing about 47 seconds for loading, the truck took off, leaving a handful of “participants” sprawled in the street. Yes, they were yelling “colorful” Irish curses.
Now carrying at least 10 people, the truck screamed down the street through the rain as people yelled, “Kiss Me I’m Irish,” or “Where’s Paddy O’Furniture?” or something. Those who didn’t get aboard the float ran alongside, also yelling strange Irish oaths and toasts and gibberish.
For a glorious 45 seconds and half a block, the parade and the participants were parading at full blast.
Then, without warning, the truck screeched to an abrupt stop, staggering the few folks still standing upright and ending the parade. The confused looks and sudden silence gave way to grins and yells when the town participants realized the truck had stopped right smack dab in front of O’Leary’s Pub.
And that, my friends, is the finest example of “the luck of the Irish” you will ever find.
(Jon Klusmire of Bishop is no longer young or eager.)