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Saturday, March 26, 2011

The April Birthday's Party

We’re calling this one the 30th Anniversary…, but we really aren’t sure.  There was much discussion, debate, and even a fair bit of delusion bantered about before the 25th Anniversary was declared five years ago.  And to this day Dave and I don’t have enough fingers to count back on and figure out just what year we might have thrown in together and started buying a keg of beer and asking a few friends to join us in a celebration of our birthdays, which are just three days…,  and one year apart.  He’s the old fart…, just needed to make that clear.  He’s turning 60 on the 16th of April this year and he feels it’s about time to “retire” from this particular party scene.  And since this Pugilist will be 59 three days behind Dave …, I am backing him up and throwing in the towel too.  Yeah..., that old rock and roll has declared victory in the fight for my soul, it’s time to put down the gloves, live on love, and retire in my prime..., before I am counted out and can’t get up off the mat anymore.  With a very special hat tip to Tom Russell.
In the interest of full disclosure, the seeds of this function were sown in about 1975.  I got my name in the paper for things that didn’t exactly make my parents proud..., OK..., not at all proud.  Thanks to my Dad and brother Larry and the Bail Out Funds they provided..., I wasn’t in jail.  I had a new girlfriend from Lewiston and she hadn’t meet a lot of my Weippe friends yet, so I thought that throwing a birthday party for myself at a friends house would be a good idea.  I miscalculated a little..., and failed to send an engraved invitation to the Clearwater County cops.  They were a bit insulted by that I guess.  It’s not like I sent out invitations, it was all word of mouth..., and they got the word alright.  So I am not sure just what their problem was..., but they definitely had one.  They stopped several car loads of prospective attendees and informed them that the party had been cancelled.  Luckily for those folks, there were laws back in those days against unreasonable search and seizure..., that were respected and observed by even the most zealous of cops and courts.  But it did scare the celebratory intentions right out of a lot of people.  Including yours truly.

So..., there was a little break in the party action as I tight roped my way through a couple years of probation and the “withheld judgment” of a felony conviction and three year prison sentence hanging over my head like an ax ready to fall.  The documented record indicates that I was on my best behavior and rewarded with a “clean” record after that.  And that accomplishment can cause one to be in a bit of a celebratory mood once again.  It must have been ’78 or ’79 when I decided to give the birthday party thing another try.  I picked Fraser Park, about five miles west of Weippe, as the setting this time and bought a keg of beer.  The park  featured a baseball diamond that our “Fraser Hippie” fast pitch softball team used during the season.  The driveway into the park was highly visible for a respectable distance and there were eighty acres of stately Ponderosa Pine trees that one could quickly disappear into if such need should ever present itself.  The need didn’t materialize and The Party was a resounding success with beautiful weather.

Dave Daniels and Terry Nygaard
I continued the practice as sole proprietor until my old chum Dave Daniels threw in with me as co-sponsor of The Party in ’81 or ’82..., we think.  Dave and I could have been classmates and graduated high school together..., if he would have had the foresight to flunk a grade.  But he graduated with his own class a year ahead of me, got married, and moved to Lewiston.  He got drafted and did a tour in “Nam”..., I got drafted and did a tour of Virginia.  After he got out of the service he got divorced and bought a hippie van, worked the oil-shale fields of Wyoming for a while, then settled in Missoula for a few years, before he came back home to Weippe.  We spent many wild years chasing Wild Women together, from Montana to Idaho and back before he returned to Idaho for good.  We got in a couple more years of free wheeling bachelorhood before he met Kathy and decided to settle down.  He didn’t even give me a chance..., but he let me take pictures at the wedding.  Dave’s mom and stepdad fronted them a few acres of property on the Heywood Ranch about five miles east of Weippe.  They carved out a homestead, built a log home, and a huge shop-garage.  In their spare time they raised Jesse, Kaylin, and Dusty.
Kathy Daniels and her sister "Sissy" Burnham

After I moved to Forks, WA in 1987, Dave & Kathy continued The Party tradition out on their place on Heywood Meadows..., and started calling it The April Birthday’s Party in honor of the other friends that had the good fortune to be born in that month.  I missed quite a few years of parties through the late ’80’s and all of the ’90’s.  Then I made a career change and found a job with paid vacation time
Julie Spence
that afforded Julie and I the luxury to take a week or so off every year..., and  we started attending again.  After that first year in ’00 or ’01 when we brought over about 30 dozen oysters and introduced those inland folks to a coastal tradition of barbecued oysters in the shell..., we received much
No better way to cook and eat oysters
encouragement to not miss any more of the parties.  Along with the admonishment, “Don’t forget the oysters!”

The weather can be a little dicey in April.  We have had short sleeve T-shirt, sunburn short wearing weather…, and we had have had rain and snow and sleet and hail and thunder and lightning.  Spring time in Idaho can deliver most of those conditions in an eight hour shift.  Dave’s 50 X 60 foot shop with an industrial strength wood stove has provided warmth and shelter on many occasions.  For the most part we have been pretty lucky with the weather through the years, occasionally the bonfire gets lit up a little early…, just like some of the guests.

Just a brief little hail storm..., sunshine soon followed
But we have hired security to handle anything that gets out of hand…, be it the bonfire or fired up guests.  Not paid security mind you…, just highered security.  Rob Jinotti from Missoula, MT handles those duties.  A former member of the once notorious, but now disbanded S.L. Motorcycle Club - Missoula Chapter (of which Dave was once a proud, card carrying member when he lived there), assumed the position, so to speak.  Partly because Rob has a shirt that reads “SECURITY” on the back.  OK…, mostly because of that.   Dave and I never felt the need for security before Rob showed up with that shirt…, but his services are
Rob Jinotti
indispensable now.  I have had to have a chat or two with him about his tendency to profile guests and even resort to tactics that border on harassment…, of the younger female guests.  But after he shared the particulars from his notebook in regard the strawberry blond in the tight sweater…, and pointed out that he spent just about as much time interrogating my wife Julie as he did any of the other young girls…, I realized that Rob is strictly business and thoroughly professional when it comes to party security.  And Julie is a true trooper and doesn’t object to the scrutiny. 

The Party isn’t all about Beer and Wild Women these days.  That was certainly the case in the early days when Dave and I were free wheeling bachelors and were attempting to recruit as many of those Wild Women as possible to sign on to the Clearwater Chapter of the S.L.M.C.  Somewhere along the line, after Dave and Kathy got married, someone thought that food could be entered into the mix without ruining The Party.  That must have been after Dave’s father, Chuck passed away.  Chuck always said, “I just can’t see the logic in ruining a $20 drunk with a $2 hamburger.”  Sage words of wisdom that still carry a great deal of valididty.  But without Chuck around to keep the perspective in focus, a pig roast got started along with a potluck to go with it.  I have to admit that it hasn’t had the detrimental effect that I had envisioned when I first got wind of the practice. 
A long time friend of ours, Tom Donahue has a pig roasting set-up and he makes a little money on the side catering to gatherings somewhat like ours (there really is nothing else comparable) on weekends.  During the week Tom is a cable TV guy in Lewiston.  He claims that they hired him at his interview.  One of the questions was, “Why should we hire you?”  Tom says he replied, “Well…, I already know how to do the job.  You guys told me that if I hooked myself up to your cable system just one
Tom Donahue
more time…, you were going to have me thrown in jail.”  I think the real story is that they procured his services to roast a pig for one of their company parties…, and wanted to ensure that he would be available for that service from then on.  It’s a lot of work for Tom to kill and butcher the pig, oversee the roasting process, and carve the finished product.  So one year Dave and I thought we should show our appreciation by giving him a year off.  Tom was devastated.  Oh…, he wouldn’t admit it.  He tried to put up a brave front and act like he was just having the greatest time of his life.  But it was obvious that the beaming smile on his face was forced and that he was just trying to drown his sorrows…, and he spent a good share of his time pouring out those sorrows to my wife Julie…, when Rob Jinotti wasn’t interrogating her.  So we have refrained from subjecting Tom to that trauma again.  And Rob and I trade off, making sure that Tom’s wife Casey is safe and secure while Tom is busy.  Tom really appreciates that..., though he tries to hide it..., just like he tried to hide his disappointment at not having to kill, butcher, cook, and carve the pig one year.

Another steady and stalwart fixture at The Party is The Big Guy.  Terry Nygaard is a rather imposing figure of Norwegian decent.  If he had red hair and beard instead of of those blond curly locks, you would swear he was a reincarnation of Eric the Red..., or at least a damn close relative of that Viking marauder.  If I ever had to
Terry Nygaard and Ed White
follow a man into battle, you can bet your bottom dollar that I would line squarely up behind The Big Guy.  Luckily for all of us he is about as friendly, fun loving, and gentle as a giant can be.  Unless the need is otherwise.  Terry is an iron worker by trade, but during a couple of slow years he was forced take a job for Spence Brothers Logging.  We were lucky and glad to have him..., on the job and off.  There is still a friendly rivalry between us regarding who makes the best camp gravy for a crew of hungary loggers.  He and his wife Diane make their home in the Tri-Cities now, where Terry is working on the Hanford site clean up.  We tease him that he positively glows in the dark..., and he does..., just not from any job related consequences.  Diane was a childhood friend of my wife Julie’s and she was positively ecstatic when Julie and I hooked up.  One year Julie couldn’t make to over to The Party and she instructed me to be sure to give Diane a hug for her.  Being the ever obedient spouse that I am..., oh man did I.  More than once.  Did I mention that Terry is a very understanding fellow?  And there’s not a doubt in my mind that he would not hesitate in the least to perform as nobly as me if the situation were reversed.

Oh yeah..., I could go on..., and on..., about all the folks, friends and family that  I hope to see there in a few long weeks.  But the truth is..., a year or so back Rob Jinotti and I were warming ourselves by the wood stove..., carefully observing the dancers on the floor..., and especially that strawberry blond in the tight sweater...,
when Rob says, “How many of these suckers do you know?”  It was a good turn out that year and it would have taken a while to count all the folks in the shop..., let alone out by the bonfire..., but it didn’t take long to count up the people I knew.  I said, “Well..., it wouldn’t be much of a party if it was just people I know here.”  Yeah..., it seems that through some quirk of the space-time continuum..., Jesse, Kaylin and Dusty had grown up.  It was as much their and their friends party as it was ours.  
So I won’t waste time and space here trying to list all the old friends and family that I hope to see there this year.  There is also the danger of leaving someone off the list and injuring some feelings..., if I haven’t already.  I would also like to list all the ones that I can be sure that I won’t see again..., at least at this Party in this life.  But I can’t not name one.  And I am sure you know who that is.  Jack S. Smith..., my old
Larry Spence - Jack smith - Me
partner Jackson will be there in spirit and through his music.  With the help of Ellen Thompson, that tape I wrote about has been transferred to CD and Jackson’s music will there along with his spirit.  Jackson had played at some of the Parties that I missed when he didn’t have other gigs booked.  But the
Dave McIntosh and Ellen Thompson
year Julie and I made our return..., Jackson wasn’t going to play.  His house had been ripped off and all his guitars stolen.  He had taken it as a sign that he shouldn’t play music again.  I was pretty shocked to hear Linda explain the situation, the depression Jackson was suffering from, and how long it had been going on.  I would like to think that it was my presence that induced Jackson to get up on stage and play again that night.  And I would like to think that it was at that Party that he gave me the tape that I wrote about a while back.  
The reality is that I am no surer of that than I am of the fact or fiction that this is the 30th consecutive year that Dave has kept the spirit and tradition alive and  well.  What matters are the memories of all the friends and family that have, over the years, helped make us feel like we created something special.  Something that has brought as much enjoyment and pleasure to everyone who honored us with their presence, as they brought to us by them being there.  Thank you one and all.
Now.., Let’s Party..., April 16, 2011.  One more time.  Oh..., one more thing..., I promise not to forget the oysters.
Me and Linda Smith


  1. No mountain oysters, please. We have enough of those here in the Texas brush.

  2. Big DITTO on that Mauberly !!!!!

    When my Dad got into the cattle business I helped him "work calves" the first year and took home some of those oysters and gave a try to one batch. Threw the rest of them out. Then again..., if Tom Donahue had been the one to do all the work and served them up to me..., I might have developed at taste for them..., maybe.

  3. Being one of those privileged April people it has always been great fun attending the "Party". I also went for a few years without attending. Since this is the Last Official April Birthday Party I will have to be there.

    Thanks for clearing up why Robin is Security.

    You can forget the oysters.