Sunday, November 22, 2009
Little Big Foot: The Burger Bash
It had been Dee Anna's first time attending the local ministerial group meeting, and she was feeling relieved and pleased with how it had gone.
Now she stood with Father Thomas, who had asked that she call him Tom, on the church steps. Pastor Jeff and Pastor Rodney came out together and Jeff sniffed the air appreciatively. "Ah, smell that? The Chamber of Commerce is at it again." "Just in time," replied Rodney. "It's almost noon."
The men all looked at her in surprise. "Oh, I guess you don't know about the annual burger bash downtown," said Tom, grinning. "You don't want to miss it." They all stepped down onto the sidewalk. "Come on, Dee Anna, let me show you how you how we do things up here in the north woods!"
They drove the few blocks to downtown, but long before the source of the smoke was visible, Dee Anna saw a long line of people. Many of them, mostly men, were dressed head to foot in blaze orange. Those who weren't usually wore at least an orange hat. Most of the men, like the two hunting buddy-pastors she had just met, were bearded.
Dee Anna knew about deer hunting, and she remembered her father once bringing home a big doe that he took off to the butcher. She hadn't liked the venison that resulted. And she had never imagined anything like this. She turned to Father Tom, who was grinning broadly. "What in the world is going on? This is the biggest bunch of people I've seen in one place since arriving in town!"
"Hi there, Tommy," she called, hoping he wouldn't ask her about it. She noticed Brenda was off to the side with a group of women, and then she saw the Halvorsen kids in front of Tommy. "Hi, Pastor," yelled the oldest one, a boy about twelve years old."
"Hey Jeremy, how are you today?" she called. " How come you aren't in school, anyway?"
"School?" He grinned, "It's hunting season, Pastor. Nobody goes to school during deer season."
Dee Anna looked questioningly at Father Tom. "Really? I did not know that. Madeline said something about being out of school. She is over at a friend's house today, but I somehow thought it was just something the elementary school was doing or..." Tom nooded, "Yep, that boy is correct. No one goes to school."
The noon whistle went off, startling her. Tom grinned and added, "Lunch time in the North Woods. And everybody that can manage it takes off of work too. The paper mill lets everyone off a bit early today so they can come down here for the burger bash."
They had been moving forward as they talked, and now Dee Anna could see that a large area of the main street was sectioned off with ropes. A vinyl banner stretched from one corner to the other. "Welcome to the Little Big Foot Burger Bash" it read in orange letters. A group of about ten men wearing blaze orange hats and long white aprons that advertized the Chamber of Commerce were gathered around several smoking grills . There was lots of laughing and loud talk among them, and one swore loudly as he flipped a burger too briskly and sent it sailing off the grill and into the street. Along one side was a tent, and Tom told Dee Anna that it was a beer tent. "A beer tent? In the middle of the street?" Dee Anna shook her head as loud polka music suddenly blared from the tent. "I've never seen anything like it. It's a big block party."
Moving a little closer she saw a long table with mustard, ketchup, bowls of onions and pickles, and cans of soda.
"Hey, Father," called one of the men at a grill, "Who's that beautiful redhead you have with you?" He laughed loudly and leered at Dee Anna. "Too much time at the beer tent," she muttered. "He's harmless," laughed the short little priest, moving to the table and picking up a paper plate for each of them.