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As the Village Turns

Just like the olden days


Except for the 50-something shirtless guy with the overhanging stomach and long, stringy, bleached hair who was conducting a scientific experiment to determine precisely how much beer a human being can consume, an experiment that ended, by the way, at 2:54 p.m. on Saturday when Mr. Science stumbled sideways, lurched over the curb and played the festive party game known as Slam Your Own Nose Into The Street Light Pole, we've survived yet another frolicking three-day weekend known as Territory Days.

Territory Days, as you know, is a nostalgic celebration of the way life was in our village in the 1860s, back in the days of pioneer Jebediah "Fastest Hands in the West" Bensberg. Legend has it that Jebediah Bensberg used to protect himself during gunfights by wrapping his body in layers of stolen newspapers that he did not take, except for the ones he was giving to his lawyer and his other lawyer and his, uh, cousin.

Anyway, I spent six hours Saturday at the 28th Territory Days, arriving early and waiting impatiently as the clock ticked away to that magic moment, at 10 a.m., when the beer garden opened and the announcer shouted: "Gentlemen, start your livers!" Although, it's possible I'm confusing Territory Days with the Indianapolis 500, which was also held last weekend. (Second eerie similarity: At both the Indy 500 and the Navajo Taco food stand, lots of men were producing great clouds of exhaust and, in a few cases, backfiring.)

A jar of pickles

I was with my wife, Susie, and friends Rick ("Don't call me Mork!") and Mindy. The women set a personal Territory Days record by stopping at 5,822 jewelry stands, with Susie eventually purchasing a $10 pair of earrings that look like -- and believe me, I don't throw compliments around very easily -- a pair of earrings that easily could have cost $10.50, or even $10.75.

Basically, the day consisted of Rick and I lurching through the massive crowds, both of us mesmerized by the haunting, plaintive tones of the Peruvian wooden flute music that filled the air and also by a guy walking in front of us -- I'm not kidding -- with a UPC-scan bar code tattooed on the back of his neck. He was wearing a green sleeveless T-shirt and, with the bar code, looked just like a jar of pickles.

You know, if a jar of pickles could turn to its girlfriend and shout "I need another $%^&*$ beer!" every 10 minutes.

So Rick and I walked Colorado Avenue with our wives trailing behind us. Then they'd disappear into yet another jewelry stand and we couldn't find them and we'd look around with that bewildered look married guys often have, the same bewildered look we get when the batteries wear down in the remote control and no amount of whacking it against the coffee table seems to help.

On the few rare occasions when the four of us were actually together, we discovered all kinds of fantastic things. Take, for example, the booth near 25th Street with the banner proclaiming "Hooked on Olives," which was a stand selling jars of olives. As a footnote, "Hooked on Olives" would also be a good title for a biography, with the subtitle: "The Joan and Ted Kennedy Story." We only stopped there for a few seconds, until Susie and Mindy realized the jars did not contain jewelry.

Also not selling jewelry was the Lotsa Bubbles stand, where the gentleman selling giant soap bubble wands explained that the bubbles weren't very good that day because -- again, I am not kidding -- of an approaching low-pressure system. This scientific relationship between giant soap bubbles and barometric readings, and how the use of the soap bubbles can predict coming storms, explains why local TV weatherman Mike Madson often appears on the 10 o'clock news with foam around his lips.

Head in the sand

Another fascinating stop at Territory Days was the Hawk Quest environmental education booth, which featured a peregrine falcon, a bald eagle and another magnificent bird called a South American spectacled owl.

The spectacled owl is nearly extinct, due somewhat to the rampant destruction of the rain forests but mostly because of the popularity of corrective laser eye surgery. (The man holding the owl said it was an immature bird, which became apparent a few moments later when it jumped off the man's arm and put a thumbtack on the chair just as the eagle was about to sit down.)

Next to the bird booth was the Gazette booth, where a guy was handing out copies of the daily newspaper (brand new motto: "If No News Is Good News, Then We've Got Some Terrific News for You").

And then there was Food Row, a seemingly non-ending collection of booths selling sweet corn, turkey legs, bratwurst, fried catfish and my personal favorite, ostrich jerky. I ate two strips and spent the rest of the day with my head buried in the sand -- right next to the entire "Doug Bruce For County Commissioner" campaign staff.

But the biggest thrill was seeing two Colorado Mounted Rangers, an actual state law enforcement group that I think we can all agree we have never heard of. These two middle-aged Mounted Rangers wore green uniforms and had badges on their shirts and guns on their hips. Oh, and they were walking.

They're still investigating, but it seems their horses mysteriously disappeared near the BBQ Ribs On A Stick booth.

Rich Tosches, , can be heard on the Eagle, 103.9 AM, on Thursday mornings at 7:30 a.m.

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