Hominy & Hash
STEELER BAR SUNDAY IN A THIRSTY DESERT
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
Cave Creek, Ariz.
CAVE CREEK, Ariz. -- Our destination was not Cave Creek, Ariz.,when we left home on the 20th of December. We cancelled flight plans toPhoenix, opting to drive rather than stand barefoot, shoes in hand,suitcases open exposing gifts to be unwrapped. Well, it's thedrill during times of high alert.
Driving west meant we could stop in New Mexico at Santa Fe beforegoing on to enjoy a family Christmas in the desert where it's sunny over 300 days a year. Expectations were high, roads were clear, cities between home and there were decked out for the holidays with more red, white and blue than you'd see on the Fourth of July.
I expected to fully embrace Santa Fe, write about it, consider spending time there at a later date, perhaps even the rest of my life. I romanticized that I could be like Georgia O'Keeffe leaning against a boulder in a rock-strewn desert, buy a house as Carol Burnett once did, find relaxation living there as Brian Dennehy, Shirley McLaine, Demi Moore, and so many artists and writers (including AR's Joe Shea) have. Yes, I thought I could live there.
A question nagging me for years is how writer D.H. Lawrence could have spent his first night in America at an inn and writer's lair in Santa Fe. I found the Inn. I asked the question. Now that I know, I'm embarrassed to repeat the answer.
"It was his first night -- after he got off the train from New York," the concierge said.
But, our true destination was Phoenix and when we pulled into thedriveway, we were jumped by a gaggle of grandkids ready to swing around our shoulders, then hugged by the family we drove so far to be with for the holidays.
But where was the West? Except for the cactus lining the highways, the occasional herd of cows far off in a field, oil derricks through Texas, and an obvious tourist in a cowboy hat, this could be any suburb in America. "Drink a lot of water," Nancy said. "You're in the desert."
"Desert? This is a desert?" I asked, nonplussed.
"Of course it's the desert. This is Arizona. You don't get much more desert than this," John confirmed.
"I thought it would be sand dunes, and an occasional oasis to fill our tanks," I quipped.
I wasn't disappointed, just surprised. The west as I perceived itjust isn't there anymore. It was like any other place in America: Lots of Wal-marts, lots of Kmarts, Applebee's and McDonald's, malls, Texaco stations and all the other places catering to our families wherever we live. Christmas came and was the same as ever: love, joy, an air ofspirituality, kindness, laughter, reminiscence, and more than a little red,white and blue. There were gifts from the heart and gifts hand made, and Inoticed a little more gratitude this year, 2001, the year Americans changed forever.
Wait a minute here. My by line says Cave Creek, Ariz., not Santa Fe, not Phoenix. What's that all about? That, is all about finding thewest and falling into a 1975 time warp on the Sunday morning afterChristmas. What's Sunday without football and what's hometown football ifit's not televised? The Pittsburgh Steelers, our hometown team when thechildren were growing up, was playing the Cincinnati Bengal -- long timerivals, and there was a Steeler bar in Cave Creek.
I won't pretend to be a football fan but togetherness for all thehours we had over the holidays meant a lot. So, that, and the idea of hamand eggs at the bar at 11:00 a.m. Mountain Time was the draw. We approached the town of Cave Creek, driving side-by-side Harley-Davidsons and SUVs.
There was neither a cave nor a creek on Cave Creek Road, at least none we could see as we passed true remnants of the old west. The road was paved but off sides were not. Harleys replaced horses at the remembered hitching posts outside bars like The Horney Toad and, further down the road, The Satisfied Frog. The largest store in the world was called The Town Dump. We were an hour early to get a table but discovered the wait was an hour and a half.
"The game will be over," they all shouted. "Can I get eggs at the bar?" I asked.
Once inside, adjusting to the darkness after the bright morning sunshine, Kerry saw a friend she worked with in Pittsburgh, we ran into people who graduated with Wendy, everyone dressed in black and gold, easily 300 Steeler fans turned into kids in the 70's. They wore their old Steeler jerseys, hats, waved "terrible towels" to hold back the enemy and conjure up some saving grace for their team.
The loud, wonderful and raucous band played the Pittsburgh Steelers polka whenever they had a touchdown and we didn't have to wait long. Wedanced around tables in Harold's Cave Creek Corral, where the wooden floorhas imbedded horseshoes and waitresses speed around the crowds without sloshing the beer.
There was impromptu dancing on the bar. We were having a ball and having it all ... until, alas, the score was tied in the last fewseconds. We held our breath and watched the slow ascent of the Bengal'sfield goal. It went over the posts and dropped to the ground taking our hearts with it. But, unlike Casey's game in Mudville, the Steeler fans' joy kept going. The excitement of the day carried over until serious plans were made to return to Harold's for Super Bowl Sunday, assuming the Steelers will be playing. And, why would they not?
These Pittsburgh fans of ours look at the Steelers of the 70's the way John and I look at the New York Yankees of the '40s. They had their Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris; we cheered for Joe DiMaggio and Phil Rizzuto. You can always relive the moments and cheer again.
Let's hear it for the home team!