Feat of clay
As a wee poppet, my favorite season was spring. Once it hit, any concentration and common sense I had vanished as surely and swiftly as The Lost Tribe of Israel.
Meanwhile, school was just a place my body was stuck in while my mind wandered and gamboled about in the woods, hills and verdant fields. Teachers talked, wrote on the blackboard and gave assignments; meanwhile, I was lost in thoughts of birds, butterflies, soft breezes and warm sunshine. The smell of newly-liberated earth and moldy leaves was as intoxicating to me as Huxley’s Soma.
Admittedly, I was always in a fog of one fantasy or other, but come spring, I was lost in it.
It wasn’t till a full half-century later that I realized my love affair with spring had been a false love of the cruelest kind.
Here’s the deal: To my tender and innocent mind, summer began when school let out. So any time before that was spring — at least to me. It was just one more case of Innocence Deluded. School let out in mid-June, so what I’d thought was spring was actually summer, and it had been for a while.
As for spring? I’ve seen it written about and heard people talk about it. I’ve seen it lauded in poems and paintings. So I know it exists. But I know something else: It does not exist here.
Let’s face the harsh truth: The only seasons we have here are summer, hunting season, early winter, winter, deep winter, late winter, and then summer again. And anyone who tries to tell you otherwise is either sadly deluded or doesn’t know their adenoids from their elbow. St. Patrick’s Day is a perfect example.
Years ago, before it degenerated into moronic slovenliness and public displays of destructive stupidity, St. Patrick’s Day in Plattsburgh was a delight. Basically, it was a town-wide, well-behaved pub crawl. My friends and I went there and wandered the streets, hit up some bars, took in whatever music was offered, and enjoyed a fun time.
And maybe best of all, it was a warm fun time. Since at that time of year P’burgh is weeks ahead of us meteorologically, we left here in winter, and a mere hour later, arrived there in spring. Maybe there was some celebration of Ireland’s patron saint and Irish culture and history, but for us it was a glorious respite, since we knew all too well that once we got back, we’d once again going mano-a-mano with Old Man Winter.
As everyone in My Home Town knows, we have our own St. Pat’s Day parade. And something else we know — odds are it’ll be cold. OK, not sub-zero cold, but cold enough to frost the dupa of the hopelessly optimistic (and thus hopelessly underdressed).
So, creature of comfort that I am, would I pass on the parade and cling to the comfort of my humble but o’erheated digs? Of course not!
Far as I’m concerned, being an SL townie/chauvinist trumps all. A bunch of people get together and put on a parade, and you can bet your bip I’m gonna show up and cheer them on. Which I did. And just for the record, which I’ve done for all our other St. Pat’s parades.
The parades have been steadily getting bigger, and while they may never rival Boston’s or New York’s, I’ve no doubt they’ll continue to grow. But if they don’t, so what? I’m no parade size queen, so if I get to see a wee parade, out in the fresh air. and get to shmooze with a bunch of my pals, it’s a rollicking good time. Which indeed this last one was.
I watched the parade from atop Berkeley Hill with my buddy and the shining light of Clan Guidach, Millie Neufeld, who’s always good for pleasant convo and a bunch of yucks.
And then there was the parade itself. We had a piper; the Grand Marshal, Dennis Dwyer; past Grand Marshals, the Winter Carnival King and Queen, step dancers, the clans, the Soma Beats, Lawn Chair Ladies, Canoodlers, and other delights I’m sad to say I’ve forgotten.
But without giving anyone else short shrift, I had two favorites. They were the Jamaican Bobsled Team and Coakley Hardware’s chariot.
What I liked most about the Jamaican Bobsledders was their wonderful spirit. I mean, face it: It wasn’t their holiday, their town, or even their country, yet there they were, at least as friendly and high-spirited as the best of us. Hopefully, their appearance in our parades wasn’t a one-time thing.
Coakley’s entry was their chariot, which made its initial appearance in the Winter Carnival parade. Given the St. Pat’s theme, the chariot was tricked out with green decorations and manned by St. Patrick himself, and (perfect for the Adirondacks) a genuine French-Canadian leprechaun.
The chariot itself was less mere transportation than a work of art. What made it so? Read on.
The back story is Mr. Coakley wanted a float for Winter Carnival and asked if anyone in our local store could build one. His question was answered in spades as Clay Sauvie not only rose to the occasion, but acquitted himself beyond admirably.
He started out as most of us would — searching the internet for pics of Roman chariots. Once he found one he liked, he got right on it, which he had to, since he’d been given only a month’s notice.
With an unlimited amount of money and time, any jamoke can have anything they want made for them. It would literally be a no-brainer.
But to start a project like that chariot, tabula rasa, build it all by your lonesome, and on a shoestring is nothing less than brilliant. It is also exactly what Clay did.
First, the lumber was salvaged from discarded pallets. Second, he built it as he went along, without written plans or drawings, relying only on his skills and intuition. And third, not only is the chariot so solid and well-made it’ll be rolling in parades long after I’ve left this Vale of Tears, it’s a thing of beauty. Its fixings and finishing touches are too numerous to list here, and a photo (or a whole bunch of them) couldn’t do justice to them. But if there are no pictures, how can you trust my judgment?
It’s easy: The next time you’re at Coakley’s, check out the chariot to your heart’s content. And if Clay’s in the store, I’m sure he’d be happy to give you a guided tour of it.
But what if you’re not going to Coakley’s anytime soon?
Simple: Make a special trip.
You won’t be disappointed.