Emmaline loves Letongaloosa, but she isn’t from here. She was born in Wyotah, a state way out West in the Rocky Mountains.
According to history, The Great Western Colonizer emigrated to the Wyotah valley from the East with a bunch of pioneers in 1846. He was leading a band of social liberals who wanted to exercise their Constitutional right to become conservatives. The Wyotah pioneers crossed the plains, climbed the Rocky Mountains, and stopped when they came to a desolate-looking valley. There, according to legend, The Great Colonizer said, “This may be it,” and they decided to settle down. That was July 24, 1847.
After much hard work the Wyotah pioneers made the desert blossom as a rose, and the Great Western Colonizer ordered settlers to spread out to the north and south.
Emmaline’s great grandparents moved south, and she was born in Buckboard, asmall town a hundred miles from the capital of Wyotah. Emmaline lived in Buckboard until she married me.
Now, five decades later, we still go to Buckboard to participate in the 24th of July festivities.
Up in The Place, Wyotah’s state capital, they mount a huge celebration on the 24th of July. There are concerts, fireworks, a marathon, a 10K race, and a hugely popular, miles-long parade. The parade features beautifully decorated floats, dignitaries riding in new and antique convertibles, marching bands, horse clubs, trained dog acts, stilt walkers, flag-waving school children, and a ton of sign-bearing church groups.
Buckboard has celebrated the 24th of July for almost as many years as The Place has.
The big events on the 24th are The Parade and The Demolition Derby, and The Fireworks.
The Parade has always been my favorite, but I was a bit disappointed in both The Demolition Derby and the Parade this year. I was disappointed in the Demolition Derby because there is a dearth of 1970 and 1980 clunker automobiles in which helmeted contestants can drive around the rodeo arena and bash into each other
On the 24th , Main Street is lined with folding chairs, some of which have been in place for several days. The celebration begins at 6 a.m. with the BOOM. That’s when the Buckboard Volunteer Firemen set off a blast that rattles windows all over town. Then they drive the fire truck through town, its horns honking and its sirens blaring. At 7 a.m. everybody walks down to the city park for the annual Firemen’s Breakfast—pancakes, bacon, ham, eggs, pan-fried potatoes–served at picnic tables.
Emmaline and I watch The Parade from folding chairs on the steps of the Town Hall. By the time the honor guard marches by with the flags, Main Street is lined five and six deep with spectators.
The Parade begins at 10 a.m. and travels down Main Street from north to south. My disappointment with this year’s 24th of July parade centered on quality, not quantity. This year’s parade lasted longer and had more participants than ever before. The problem was, there weren’t more floats, nor more bands, there were just more vehicles.
The float on which “Miss Buckboard,” and her attendants rode was beautiful, as were the floats of “Miss Lakeville,” and “Miss Mount Oakdale,” from two nearby towns.
But after that it was vehicle after four-wheeled vehicle, mostly black, mostly newer SUVs, carrying advertising signs. The signs touted everything from chiropractors and podiatrists to optometrists and dental hygienists. I counted five vehicles with “get out of debt” or “payday loan,” signs on them. Many of those opportunists threw handfuls of candy to scrambling kids on the street. One woman, pushed a big antique baby carriage, that had a sign advertising her child care service. I didn’t mind that—at least she was walking.
Next year on the 24th , I’m going rent a big black SUV and put a sign on it that that reads: “ Infernal Revenue Service.” I’m going to wear a dark suit, white shirt, a power tie, and dark glasses. I’m going to stand, with a pen and notebook beside the SUV at the end of the parade route. I bet no one will notice the typo. -30-
Dr. Larry Day is a retired J-School Professor from KU and author of Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia available on Amazon.