The big Round Up at the Cactus Corral was last weekend, and I did not miss it. Invitations had been sent at the first of the year, inviting about 80 people to embark upon a modern version of manifest destiny eight and a half months from then with whatever they could carry, and begin circling the wagons (cars and tents) on Friday, Sept. 13, for the weekend, as long as they were gone by sundown on Sunday.
The infamous Cactus Corral is a private home at a location I am not authorized to divulge. The “Round Up” was a multiple birthday party thrown for those born in 1953, consisting mostly of a large group of guys and girls who grew up together in San Mateo, Calif., and who all turn 60 this year. Nor am I at liberty to explain how I came to be involved with the group. My counsel has strongly advised me to plead the fifth.
It was the most interesting array of friends, cousins, step relatives, divorcees, ex-Catholics, alcoholics, pot heads, yuppies, retirees, wannabe retirees, sailors, scrappers, strangers, trendies (it’s a word now) of every trend, yes gangster rap too, middle class wannabes and sub-middle class hopefuls you will ever see.
The nice thing about being with that kind of a group is that it was guaranteed that no limousine liberals or snobby rich people would be there.
There is no hoosegow (that’s jail for those of you in Farad) on the big, secluded property of the Cactus Corral, and no cows to round up either. But there was a near perfectly level regulation horse shoe pit with red, white and blue (two each) two pound horse shoes, a golf chipping tee and golf ball target, lawn darts, a concrete dance floor, a variety of music spanning all genres, from Dean Martin to Willie Nelson, tents, guitars, mandolins, harmonicas, and a colorful assortment of cowboy boot bottle holders and free potted cactus plants lining the driveway for everyone to take home.
I was the only one to hit the target on the one-hole golf course. It was a par 1, and it took me at least 20 shots to make it with an ugly grounder. I won $5.
Brian, the trail boss, and his girlfriend, Diane, put out quite a spread with the help of Brian’s brother Mark, who brought a rack of lamb and 20 lbs. of ribs, even though Brian had made it perfectly clear that everyone was on their own for dinner the first night. But, when Mark does something on his own, he does it big, just like his brother.
Cattle barons don’t take too kindly to sheep, and don’t particularly care for being out-done as provider and master of ceremonies, but, in spite of that, brotherly love prevailed among all, whether by blood or sincere goodwill, music, laughter and games, and the Round Up began with a huge feast, kicking off a hot second summer.
When my cousin Mike and I arrived a day early Thursday afternoon there was a bed in the middle of the driveway and serious manual labor in progress, which, much to our satisfaction, did not require anything of us.
Mike, a birthday group VIP, was expecting a private room in the main house, but, instead, Brian had pitched a three room tent for him under some trees and bushes about half way back down the long, gravel driveway. Mike had to leave early on Sunday, his 60th birthday, and fly to Orlando for work with some nasty abrasions on the left side of his face, from the top of his forehead down to his jaw, thanks to his thirst, the free bar, a successful three day Round Up, lack of balance and the gravel driveway.
Mike got another ride to the Sacramento airport so I was spared driving several hours out of my way and having to counsel him on how to survive his meeting Monday morning. I told him to tell all those other suits at the meeting that he was playing ultimate Frisbee, dove for it, hit the dirt face first, and made the catch. He agreed it was the perfect lie.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 30 years.