How to Turn 40
Now those of you who know me realize that I learned how to turn 40 quite a few years back, but I'm writing this because of a friend who just turned 40 and threw himself the best birthday party I've ever seen (well, apart from my friend Chris who had Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys come to her house and play for her 40th birthday). They had it 10 miles up the hill from where I stay at the Ox last Saturday night. When I walked in the door around 9:30 pm the rugby game was just ending (Wales vs. somebody-or-other) and there were hoots and hollers you could hear clear down the road where I had to park because there were so many folks already jammed in the Ox. The flagstone floors were heaving with happy partyers.
Happy Birthday, Jeff!
Now this 40 year old's name is Jeff and he and his wife and two kids were right in the middle of the action already having a real good time. I'd been asked to bring along my hunt photos so I set up my laptop computer in a corner in the back room, at the far end of the buffet table that was laden with roast beef, roast pork, applesauce and big (bap) rolls and the appropriate condiments to make sandwiches. On the other side of the room was a table of sinful desserts and everyone seemed to have two big drinks in each hand. I was well behind and I stayed that way until I finally crawled out of that place later than I care to admit!
The reason I say Jeff knows how to turn 40...he invited all his relatives to this shindig. And all the folks he rides to hounds with. And several of his buddies from work. And friends from halfway around the country. And some of the local farmers and characters. It seems like all the folks I know up that way were in the Ox that night helping Jeff to celebrate his birthday.
Now Jeff is a large man with a large heart so it ain't surprising that he turns 40 in a large way as well. A man set up what they call a disco here but basically it's a powerful sound system with canned music of various genres and this man had not one, not two, but three (at least 3!!!) microphones there at the front of his table and it wasn't long after I arrived that he fired up the system and they got right into it. There were ladies there in their late 60s/early 70s all decked out in dresses and heels and the appropriate costume jewelry and by the end of the night some of them were, well as best I can describe it, dirty dancing, sort of, as only women of that age can do. But most of us were just in our casual jeans and sweaters. Jeff was already lit up like a Christmas tree and let me tell you he has a great smile. Even though I took both a still camera and a video camera with me, I left them out in the truck since I figure I point cameras at all these folks enough as it is. So I didn't make any photos of the Birthday Boy that night, but the images are etched in my mind nonetheless.
So the karaoke begins. Now Jeff loves to sing and he especially loves country music, at least the music that's referred to as country - his favorite is Garth Brooks. So Jeff and the merry crew out in the other room gather around and jump both feet into singing along with this loud music. They don't hold back, they sing with vigour and gusto. It's quite a sound to behold. Jeff has a good voice and an overabundance of confidence and he starts right off belting it out and doesn't look back. Before long he's got Nathan from Merthyr and Liz the Master up there singing to and those microphones are ringing with music. Like all karaoke experiences, some people are better off smiling with their mouths shut, but the fun comes when folks who can't sing grab a mic and give it the ole heave ho anyway. Everyone was having a wicked good time.
Well, various friends and relatives got up and sang, for better or worse, and it wasn't long before folks were dancing and I mean really cuttin' a RUG kind of dancing. Made me smile. I had a crowd over in the corner looking at the season's photographs, a few thousand of them, and there were other groups of people clustered in the area of the bar drinking pints of cider and lager and bitter and all sorts of things. The wine glasses in the Ox are big as your head, size 8, and it looked like there must be dozens of them in use around the room as well. As the night went on it got louder and LOUDER AND LOUDER till it was nearly deafening and I was finding it painful to even be in the Ox, much as I loved the company there. I broke from my corner and crowd of onlookers and headed for the far end of the pub for some (relative) quiet. Not. Down there a bunch of folks from the local hunt were gathered at a big pub table and one of the guys decided it was time to test my mettle. As I walked down there I was ambushed and encircled and I didn't know what was happening but all the noise was making me feel real wierd and dizzy and next thing I know my face was shoved in a mass of tall grasses over in a corner and there was a madman clawing at me, LOL, all in good fun, but somehow I got totally embarrassed with everyone looking on and just sort of balled up in the corner until they went away. They had a good laugh and it was all a bit of fun; that's what this bunch is about.
I headed back to check the crowd looking at photos and along the way I saw I sight I shall not soon forget! About 6 or 8 guys, many of whom I knew, had grabbed Jeff (this after we'd sung Happy Birthday at least 2 or 3 times as a pub) and forced him to lie prone then they hoisted him with such vigour up toward the beamed ceiling that I feared he would fly through it...as they did so they shouted as a mass "ONE" with all the other folks in the pub joining in. Then of course they tossed him again, this time a little higher and shouted "two" and so on......now Jeff is NOT a small guy - they were throwing around a guy who probably weighs at least 200 pounds...as if he were a feather. The level of merriment at all this was spectacular. And where was my video camera? Yep, in the truck. I could have killed myself but I had to be content with just watching and laughing with the rest. I'll have to remember this one thing because it ain't going to be documented like most everything else I'm a part of.
So the Jeff throwing finally ended after they finished the 40 tosses and then everyone settled down to roaring (trying to talk at all over the music, even at the "far" end of the bar, was fairly futile and the only possible way to be heard was to SHOUT in someone's ear). Everyone was probably drinking too much and definitely having a grand time. And the look on Jeff's face...why, all I can say is he had a truly memorable 40th birthday and shared it in a large way with a whole lot of us.
Next time I'll bring along some earplugs to make the noise level reasonable but I really did have a great time. And I'm glad that nobody around here thought of throwing me up to the ceiling 50 times the night I turned 50; maybe they knew they'd knacker themselves if they did!
Labels: turning 40