Every town has a historical figure celebrity; either one that was born in the town, like Cincinnati and Taft; or moved to the town and did something important, comparable to Larry Bird in Boston; or they died in the town; the way Davy Crockett did in San Antonio. The town I grew up in, Golden, CO, has William Frederick Cody. Perhaps you know him better as Buffalo Bill, perhaps you have never heard of him at all. Golden-ites have heard of him, and love him so much that four days every summer are dedicated to his memory. These four days are known as “Buffalo Bill Days.”
Almost every year I lived in Golden, I would make my way downtown and partake in the festivities. Then I moved away and haven’t attended “Buffalo Bill Days” since 2000. So eight years later I decided it was time to experience it again. Now I would like to share with you the events I partook in, and just exactly how enjoyable they were.
The events of “Buffalo Bill Days” actually begin on Thursday with a golf tournament, and a luncheon for chamber of commerce members and other V.I.P.s on Friday. But for us common folk “Buffalo Bill Days” start Saturday morning with a pancake breakfast at the fire station. I was supposed to meet my mother, sister, and my sister’s boyfriend at 9 A.M. to enjoy delicious pancakes at a reasonable price, five dollars, which would go towards charity.
Armed with a flask full of whiskey I headed west towards Golden. I arrived downtown and found parking and the time was five after nine. I began my trek from the car to the firehouse during which time I called my mom to find out her location. No answer. So I tried calling my sister. No answer. I was almost to the firehouse and I hadn’t a clue as to the whereabouts of my family. I called my mom again. The good news was she answered, the bad news: she hadn’t left her house yet, in Arvada, a good fifteen to twenty minutes away. She said not to wait for her and just meet up with my sister and her boyfriend and enjoy breakfast, a task that would prove more difficult than I would expect.
I hung up with my mom and once again called my sister. And once again she didn’t answer.
I’m stood in front of the firehouse at 9:20 wondered two things. First, where is my sister? And second, why did I park so far away?
After another unsuccessful phone call to my sister I went into the firehouse for some breakfast. Upon entering I saw a lot of people eating pancakes, but I didn’t see anyone making any. I found one of the volunteers who informed me that they were done with the breakfast, and any pancakes that were left could be found at the end of the far table. I walked over and saw one pancake left. It might as well have been half a doughnut.
So with an empty stomach, and a disgruntled attitude towards my family I made my way up Main Street to stake a claim where I could watch the parade.
To me the parade has felt like the official start of “Buffalo Bill Days.” I found a descent spot near Woody’s pizzeria. It was ironic, during high school CJS reader Keithage, along with myself and another friend used to hang out and loiter in front of Woody’s during nights of no money fun. Now, because there was a parade, this loitering was perfectly acceptable. Such hypocrisy.
The parade was to start at ten A.M., twenty minutes from when I sat down. My mom finally showed up, and was able to sit next to me even though about twenty small children were now in the vicinity. A man shows up with two children and wants to set them on a ledge above a family sitting on the curb. He first asks them if it is ok, and if his kids’ feet get annoying to let him know. He should have cleared things with me. His bastard child continued to try to steal my water bottle and tossed his shoes at me until they finally ended up in the flowerbed. No one will ever know if it was him or me who threw the shoes there.
The parade started with several folks dressed as old timey cowboys. One of which I assume is Buffalo Bill. They walked up and down the street, greeted children, and tried to make the crowd feel as though they were in the old west. Unfortunately the modern fire truck that rolled in behind them destroyed the illusion.
My sister finally showed up. She and her boyfriend had breakfast at the place where he works. What a couple of jerks. I asked her who she thought would win in a fight: these Buffalo Bill actors or the Black Bart actors from Casa Bonita? I said the Casa Bonita actors because they have a gorilla. She gave me the what-is-wrong-with-you-stare that I usually receive from her.
This was the first parade I attended in over a decade and I learned quickly that parades do not appeal to someone who is 25 and used up his child-like-joy earlier in the week while watching “Elf.” I also learned that the candy is also given out only to the children. I remember being at parades in my youth and they would throw the candy from their floats. Now days they walk along and hand it out.
The Ataris are right; being grown up is half as fun as growing up.
There were large gaps between what I will call floats; mostly they were nothing more than flat bed trucks with realtors waving at the crowd. The large gaps triggered my A.D.D. and made the parade last too long, damn near two hours. And there wasn’t a single marching band, which was disappointing, even though in my youth I hated the marching bands. That was due mainly to the fact that if it wasn’t M.C. Hammer, Vanilla Ice, The Beach Boys, or “Walk Like an Egyptian” by the Bengals, I didn’t like it.
When to parade did finally end we went to the park, where the bulk of “Buffalo Bill Days” was located. The main attraction was the stage that let local bands play. The first one up were some teenagers from Denver that played shitty renditions of Debbie Gibson tunes, as well as some other awful covers. Most notably Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a song they also played while being pulled on a flat bed truck in the parade.
The rest of the park was filled with vendors. Half of which had nothing to do with Buffalo Bill or the old west or anything that could be related to either. Since I had been robbed of breakfast I was eager to put something in my belly. I decided on pure sugar, deep-fried, a delicacy only found at events of this nature, I am speaking of the funnel cake. But don’t fret; I washed it down with a beer.
After I finally had breakfast, I wandered the park. I watched the people on what was referred to as “The Trampoline Thing,” such eloquent and creative folks in Golden. Patrons of “the Trampoline Thing” were harnessed in a bungee, um, harness, similar to a Sumo wrestler’s belt with a bungee rope on each side, and a trampoline below them. They would jump on the trampoline and then be launched high into the air, then whipped back down. The younger participants with no fear would do flips and the like. Fun to watch, but my fear of heights would not let my try.
I found my mom again and she introduced me to an old friend of hers from high school. He said he now lived in Phoenix, but still came to Golden every year for “Buffalo Bill Days.” I guess once a townie, always a townie. At this point I knew that it was time to leave.
I crowd was now very large and I was growing uncomfortable. I attempted to make my way through all these people who walked slow, or randomly stopped in the middle of the path. I was now sure that “Buffalo Bill Days” does not need to be attended by me. Although that does mean I’ll miss the rubber duck race. A gaggle of rubber ducks with numbers on them, is released down Clear Creek. It’s another event that appeals to children and people who aren’t so cynical.
If I feel it necessary to honor Buffalo Bill next year, then I will take a trip up to his grave and have a drink with the dead man. There’s a good chance that I won’t find it necessary to honor the man, so I’ll go have a drink elsewhere. It was nice to visit my home town, and relive the sense of community that exists there, but if I don’t do it again for another eight years, that I am ok with that.
Water World sounded like a better way to try and reconnect with childhood.
28 Jul 2008 Lee S. Hart