I left on Monday, June 19 for Baraboo to lend a hand to my good friend, Tim Heilman, to get his home and yard prepared for this year's invasion of larchers for LarchFest 2006. You see, I was the Larch Master by virtue of winning the backgammon tournament the previous year. Therefore it was my duty.
We spent Tuesday and most of Wednesday cutting grass, cutting branches, spreading mulch, cleaning the garage and the house (all of Tim’s summer chores are now done). On Wednesday night, Craig Freeman, Russ Rich, his wife Cindy and their daughter Jackie arrived and we drank beer and played cards until the wee hours.
After a misadventure by Craig and I (we tried to find the local KFC, wound up heading toward Wisconsin Dells and finally settled on take out at a local bar … after a couple of drinks), we tried playing some Texas Hold’em (Tim and I held our own playing this game Tuesday night at a local bar, the same one Craig and I visited).
Since we were not playing for money, betting was a bit irregular. We tried adding “stigma” to betting out of hand by awarding black chips to those who had to “buy” more. All of us having had a few to drink, “stigma” instead became the unofficial “word” of LarchFest 2006, along with “Stella” and “hot beef.” We laughed until tears flowed from our eyes.
I guess you had to be there.
More larchers arrived on Thursday, including my wife, Kelly and the two kiddies, Ian and Abby. But it wasn’t until Friday that LarchFest begin in earnest, when the bulk of the regular larchers arrived -- about 30 in total. The backgammon tournament was begun and a trip to Devils Lake was made so the kiddies could get some swimming and beach time. The rest of the evening was spent drinking, eating, reminiscing and joking around. But really, on everyone’s minds was the big event the next day.
Saturday was planned as the big Birthday party for the five guys who graduated in 1974 from high school in West Bend: Dave Shallow (a real “rocket scientist” who could not make it because of a launch scheduled in the Pacific), Craig Freeman, Tim Rock, Tim Heilman and Russ Rich.
This was the reason LarchFest was held at Tim Heilman’s home instead of our usual camp place. Many more family members and friends had been invited and it was thought Tim’s place was better because of its relative central location in Wisconsin and because it still provided plenty of room for campers.
We anticipated anywhere from 80 to 100 people showing up for the birthday celebration, so Heilman and Rock rose abnormally early on Saturday (just a little hung over) and began the final preparations for the big shindig.
Craig was there by noon. Lillian Rich, Kelly Rock and others provided additional assistance.
The tents were risen, the grill, tables and chairs were set up, food, utensils, condiments, beer were purchased … more beer was drunk.
The highlight Saturday was the band “Tracks Outta Town.” The guys were incredible. They even let my daughter, Abby, join in on tambourines ... and later, John, son of Gary and Sarah Heilman joined them and did a terrific job on drums, finishing with a fast riff that drew a round of applause.
During the day, the backgammon tournament continued and the kids played volleyball in the background. At night, with alcohol finally seeping into their brains, revelers got out onto the grassy area in front of the band and began to dance.
Finally, the four "old guys" were saluted with cheers, jeers and some fun gifts.
Afterward, Russ defeated his sister Sarah for the backgammon title and became Larch Master for 2007. Next year, up north!
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