Thursday, September 25, 2008

Yes, It's Still Done

It's Homecoming week in Pierre. (Although speaking as someone who hasn't attended such festivities in my hometown in many years,I've always wondered how many dispersed alumni actually come back to visit now.) The schools - all of them,not just the high school - have had various theme days, one of which - nerd day - gave me the opportunity to drag an old suit out of the closet. Both the jacket and the wide-legged (not just bell-bottomed) slacks are tan plaid, hand-made in about 1973 from organic free-range polyester; truly a remarkable garment worthy of Steve Urkel's wardrobe. My daughter wore it to generally good reviews at school; she remarked on it's high level of comfort. I'm trying not to think about the fact that it fits her pretty well, or that I once wore it to actual public functions. I was Urkel well before Urkel.

The parade was last evening. It was pretty traditional; the high school band marched, the middle school band strolled, and a small band of unknown origin consisting of adults (my wife believed it to be the city band, which I didn't know existed) rode on a trailer while playing. There were the usual entries from various school organizations, city businesses, and - this being an election year -advocates for various candidates and ballot issues. Candy was thrown and retrieved; anticipating the resulting increased need, one dentist gave out toothbrushes. Old-style floats were absent, which is understandable. I recall the time and materials involved in creating such things in my youth; recreating them today would be very expensive. I was surprised by the lack of fire department representation. A parade should have a fire truck; I believe it's in the Constitution somewhere.

A line of what are referred to as Govmobiles brought up the rear. These are vehicles - almost all vans, although there was one motor home - that are rescued on the way to, or perhaps from, the junkyard; gaudily painted (usually in school colors, although one had a hippie peace-and-love motif); and driven around during the week or until they expire. For those of you who worry about such things, they are required to have license and insurance, which I'm told is breathtakingly expensive and requires a group of students to finance.

There will be other high jinks, notably the tossing of eggs at various targets. My wife isn't working at Wal-Mart this week, but in past years they have denied large egg purchases to young people. I have been told that eggs can damage car paint, although I'm not sure that's true of modern paint; I may have to research does seem to be true (at least for the clear coat on top) unless they are washed off quickly.

In my hometown we had jousts between pickups carrying kids wielding water balloons and "cream puffs" (tissues with whipped cream - if you being chased by another pickup, toss them into the slipstream and they would fly back onto the pursuing vehicle's windshield). One year some classmates built a catapult that could launch a water-filled garbage bag. It was hard to load and it's accuracy was woeful but when on target it had considerable effect. I don't know if they still do that, or other classics such as toilet-papering houses; I'm pretty sure the tipping over of outhouses is no longer practiced since just locating one would involve more advance scouting than it would be worth. I suppose tipping over a modern chemical toilet would be possible, but the possible hazards would outweigh any potential mirth.

This will culminate with a football game and other festivities that contribute to a sense of community that has faded away in many parts of the country. I think a lot of people don't realize what they've lost.

No comments: