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Saturday, March 18, 2006

You Can Go Home Again ... With Your Memories

The year is 1959 and the location is Shamrock, Texas. I am in the first grade and it is Tuesday, March 17th and this is the first St Patrick's day I really remember. I am so excited because we are heading to downtown for the parade.

The parade is massive, with bands from all the high schools from hundreds of miles around. They march in that stiff, six to five, style that is popular in parades and play Sousa marches. Their uniforms are full of cords and colors and I think they are the coolest folks around with their hats and feathered tops.

I was born in Houston, but did most of my growing up in the Panhandle of Texas. We lived in Shamrock for a couple of years, but my great grandmother was a resident for more than 70 years, and when we didn't live there, we made our annual pilgrimage on March 17th. Back then, they didn't move the celebration to the nearest weekend, it was held on the real date. Nowadays, that almost seems foreign.

Right after the parade, which began at about 10 AM, the beard contest starts. I am still amazed that all these men will grow a beard for three months, just for this contest. That's the rules, you see, you have to start off fresh on January 1st and grow the beard until March 17th. I think the judges are giving style points for the men that have dyed theirs green. This is so much fun watching the men strut and having fun showing off for the crowd.

Now it's time for the Miss Irish Rose beauty pageant and the girls are coming on stage. They are all dressed up in their best gowns and walk the stage for the judges. A little later, here they come for the talent portion and there sure are a lot of twirlers while the rest sing. After deliberating, the judges award 1st place to a pretty girl that twirled, I believe.

It's about 3 o'clock and the fiddle contest is starting. This is my Dad's favorite part and he and his dad are extremely excited, though neither are participating. This is THE contest and fiddlers from all over the United States arrive to play for the expert judges. This competition will go into darkness, and all the tunes are familiar to me, because Dad plays recordings of them all the time. He and his dad are two of the biggest fans here and they won't leave for the entire thing. Hours later in the hazy brightness of streetlights at night, in downtown Shamrock, the fiddle contest winner is crowned, to be revered for the next year. This is quite an honor for such a young man.

Time for young boys to go home and head off to bed, but the grownups head to the bull barn for the dance. One of the local western swing bands is playing and the dance will go late into the night. This is almost as much fun as Christmas, but without all the presents.

Things sure were fun back then, especially to a seven year old boy as he dreamed of all the colors of the day and of the men with the funny green beards. These are very fond memories of days spent in Shamrock, Texas with the extended family.

Happy belated Saint Patrick's day to all.

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