Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day - 2009

Happy Memorial Day! Last night, 60 Minutes' Andy Rooney gave a touching editorial about Memorial Day - how we tend to forget the veterans who fought for the freedoms we enjoy today. He said that the men and women in uniform didn't "give their lives, their lives were taken from them." That said, how can we not remember the men and women of the military and the sacrifices that they've made in the past and continue to make today. We have never forgotten.

The picture above is of my dad, Galen L. Hoover, when he was in what was then called the "Army Air Corps." My dad was in World War II as were so many other fathers of friends that I grew up with. Like most veterans, my dad didn't say too much about the war and his role in it. I do know he was a "Gunnery Sergeant" throughout much of his enlistment. I knew he flew in one of the B-27s or similar aircraft and for a time after he no longer flew, he was a gunnery instructor, training other enlisted men how to fire aircraft-mounted guns. My dad was a peaceful man and I'm sure anything that involved the taking of lives was hard for him to fathom - but he would have done his job with honor.

When my dad passed away in 2003, my brother and I wanted to give him a military burial. We had talked with him about this type of grave-side service before and his response was, "Naw, I don't want you to have to sit through all that." But my brother and I felt differently. Sitting through "all that" was an honor and a tribute to his life in the service of our country.

Also serving in World War II as an enlisted man in the Navy was my uncle, Bernard Austin. He served on board a submarine. My uncle is still living and has had many adventures in his lifetime - it is way past time that I sit down with my uncle to record (if he'll let me!) some of the times and travels he had over the years.

So today being Memorial Day in Grand Lake, Mr. H. and I decided to take in a bit of local color. We'd heard that Grand Lake holds a nice parade on Memorial Day. The weather looked a little threatening, but we decided to brave the elements anyway. I am SO glad we did!

We began with breakfast at a fantastic little place called the Fat Cat Cafe on the main drag. A wonderful buffet with pastries to die for and run by a darling English gal. We shared a table with another couple who invited us to join them in the crowded cafe. They were from Estes Park. The hubby, Arnie, works for the park service and was recently transferred from Estes Park to Rocky Mountain National Park. His main duties include the keeping of the road between Grand Lake and Estes Park known as Trail Ridge Road. Not an easy task as Trail Ridge rises to some 12,000-plus feet in altitude with stunning views. I believe his wife's name was Becky - she was an interesting, friendly gal - as are most all of the people we've met here in the mountains.

Now - on to the parade! We were so surprised at the large turnout for the rainy-day parade - lots of kids and the parade participants were many. The weather didn't hinder any one's enjoyment or enthusiasm for this group of hardy individuals that paraded down the avenue. Mr. H. and I raised the deck of the truck and sat on the tailgate. We still needed an umbrella because the elements were worsening as the morning wore on.

I do love a parade! The small band of Grand County veterans marched behind the colors and with the local marching band bringing up the rear, it was hard to ignore the lump in my throat and the tears that blurred my eyes.

The main street in the village was lined with bunting and flags. Rarely have I seen a more patriotic display for this national holiday.

The businesses up one side of the street and down the other were festive with patriotic displays in honor of Memorial Day.
It seemed everything including the transports had been adorned and draped by flags. They waved in the breeze and brightened the gray morning that splashed rain down on bare heads and hats alike.

And talk about lumps in the throat! For bringing forth a feeling of pride for flag and country, can anything beat a Color Guard of uniformed military men or women?!! Marching in precision, their forms reflected in the wet streets, they carried on the tradition in style.

There were ALL KINDS of interesting vehicles and individuals given a place of honor on the parade route, including this friendly soul who I'd seen around the town at various times. A war veteran, no doubt.

As is this man, no doubt, despite looking like a ringer for Willie Nelson. The lady in the red coat in the background was waving wildly at him, which caught my eye when I looked at the photograph. For that reason and because the man seemed so singularly lost in thought, I employed my cropping tool to get a better look.

And here is the uncropped photo - the signs on the truck read "Air Force" so I'm guessing this was another honored war veteran. I wondered how his flip-flop shod feet were keeping warm in the drizzle.

This marching band didn't carry a sign, but I'm guessing this was a group from the local high school. They sounded pretty good for their small number (I counted 12) and if every so often an off-note or a little "pitchyness" found its way into a high-spirited march, so be it. Their playing of "It's a Grand Old Flag" about did me in. It was beyond wonderful!

Is it just small town parades or do most parades have impromptu, not on the program, moments such as the one above when the bearded man above broke loose from the parade observers to greet one of the band members?!!

Despite the rain, or possibly because of it! -the kids were loving the parade - especially since a great many of the parade entrants carried bags full of candy that they tossed into small waiting hands!

This was a very snazzy painted vehicle denoting Rocky Mountain National Park. The entrance to this amazing place is just outside the village of Grand Lake and adjacent to our home in Columbine Lake, which is a planned development just half a mile or so from the village.
With the old-fashioned Western bank as the background, my interest was captured by this little guy on the small bike outfitted with training wheels and a flag. He was buzzing along behind a quick-gated forest ranger who was passing out candy to the kids along the way. I don't think she missed a single one!

He was a brave little guy with his bright yellow slicker and bicycle helmet. He kept right behind the forest ranger - perhaps she was his mom? Regardless, they were a fun pair to observe!

This is the kind of old red tractor that we used to play with as kids. There was a tricycle version of it that my best friend Freddy, who lived down the block, used to ride. It's pedals were cleverly hidden beneath the "engine." I had a green and white Schwinn, but I sure did like Freddy's tractor and rode it every chance I got. And every kid's toy barnyard set in those days included one of these babies! This Real McCoy version was driven in the parade to advertise a fantastic restaurant here called the Rapids. Delicious food but bring lots of money!

Here are some pint-sized snowmobiles. Snowmobiles for kids! Who knew?!!!!

These next pictures are for Jim - or Son-in-Law #1 as I call him in my column. Leave it to Jim to find a little brewery right on the main street of town on his very first visit to the area. We spent a fun afternoon there when he and Ashley visited us out here a few years ago and I recall that Jim pronounced that some of their varieties (varietals?) were respectable.

And I have NO IDEA what the chicken represents. Maybe somebody had been imbibing a few too many of those stout ales!

And, yes, wouldn't you know it. There was even a chicken "follow-up" vehicle with - you guessed it - kegs for seats! Now how come this second chicken had to travel on a less impressive mode of transportation. Was he, like the hapless Dalmatian that didn't make the cut for the Bud wagon, doomed to be denied the glory for good?

This was a first for a parade - bumper cars? These guys were having a blast on the rain-slicked street and those treadless tires!

Another mode of transportation available for rent up here at the lake. A two-person bicycle with riding room for the younger traveler. The little girl riding in front was very educated in the ways of parade travel as she waved at onlookers on both sides of the street.

The rear view of this fun looking wheeled vehicle. And with all this rain - where were the canoes, the rowboats, the kayaks? None were seen in the parade, but an older corvette and a 50s-something T-bird were looking good. Also an old Pontiac convertible made its way along the street - in the rain!

And what's a parade without TONS of fire trucks and other emergency vehicles. They - and their sirens made a colorful showing at the parade along with a good number of firefighters who were passing out candy to the kids. And possibly to Mr. H. I noticed he had a few goodies when we left.....just a kid at heart, I guess :)

But the best was yet to come when it came to modes of transportation in this parade. Below is a for-sure cowboy. His horse was prancing prettily and this young wrangler was definitely not of the "urban cowboy" persuasion. This boy had the hat, the neck scarf, the chaps, the boots - the whole nine yards. You could tell he was probably riding a horse before he could walk and he rode in his saddle like it was part of him.

This horse danced gracefully down the street - it's almost as if he knew many eyes were on him.

Another wrangler rode adjacent to the cowboy; this rider was a woman. She was also quite comfortable in the saddle and frequently stopped her mount to bend down to give the kids candy along the way. Her horse, a pretty dapple grey with just a hint of a Roman nose was gentle and seemed unaffected by all the activity around him.

These ranch folks are a dying breed and I love watching them as they ride their big horses with such grace and ease. I was a crazy horse-loving kid and rode a lot in high school. I never realized my dream of owning my own horse - but it sure doesn't stop me from admiring these beautiful animals and the true-grit cowboys and girls that are keeping the tradition alive.

With only the streetsweeper left behind him to bring this year's parade to a close, the young cowboy rides off - if not exactly into the sunset, then toward the beautiful snow-capped mountains. The Memorial Day parade was done. It was a Grand Tradition in the small village of Grand Lake, Colorado, where the snowy mountains, the drizzly morning and some hardy Americans gathered to pay tribute to the brave men and brave women of our Grand Country - the U.S.A.

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