BY JEFF BRADY
This year’s big Yuletide weekend was something else. The Santa Train set a new record with standing room only crowds on almost every car, and the Yuletide Ball was a rollicking Roaring 20s affair. Men sported gangster suits with wide ties and suspenders, the women were beautiful in their frilly dresses, heels and flapper hats with feathers, and the kids were being kids, dancing and roaming.
The ball is always an enjoyable spectator affair for us. After filling up on food and getting in a couple of dances, we headed home in the clear night, and the show continued. Turning down Main Street, we noticed a figure in the middle of the road, wobbling his merry way home. He had the same profile as a rather round fellow in red on the Santa Train earlier that day, and appeared to be singing to himself, happy as he could be. With a light honk and a wave, we passed him slowly and he kept singing.
I got to thinking about appetites – as I’m apt to do during the Christmas season before every spread of cookies and treats and libations – and what satisfies our appetites as we stumble happily through these festive days at the end of the year.
And what we like to sink our teeth into…
Earlier this winter I heard one of those Skagway stories. You know the kind, the ones that don’t always make the paper – not even the police blotter – stories that people remember and are told a slightly different way each time.
There was this man who was drinking at Moe’s Frontier Bar. He had had a few too many. Picture Moe’s during the holidays. Even though this story probably occurred at a different time, I want this man there when Moe’s was all lit up for the holidays, just like him. Maybe he’s singing along with Johnny Horton, or a catchy Christmas tune by Dolly or Loretta.
Anyway, so he stumbles home from Moe’s, still singing, passing by lit-up buildings and the colorful town Christmas tree. That’s where his memory leaves him, in that happy walk home. But after he gets home and wakes up the next morning next to his wife, something is missing. He has no teeth, and he can’t find them anywhere in the house. His wife scolds him and asks him what route he took home. He vaguely remembers falling into a hole somewhere. Maybe his false teeth fell out then?
A new library was being built that year, and a very big hole had been dug for the foundation (in my version of the story, it was a warm winter). So the wife went to the construction site first. To her further dismay, she discovered the cement had just been poured that morning. If her husband indeed fell in that hole, then his teeth were probably stuck in the cement of that new foundation.
She went home, told her husband that his teeth were gone, and he would have to order some new teeth right away, and who knows how much that would cost. You can imagine the fury.
And you would think the story ends there, the false teeth permanently entombed in its own time capsule at the library, never to be seen again, and the man never telling anyone why he had to get new teeth.
But this is Skagway, where the kids roam the streets at all hours of the day. It’s a safe community, and kids sometimes discover things on their ramblings. As it happened, some boys were wandering by the library pit. It must be assumed it was some time after the stumbling patron fell in, got up, and made his way home. The boys, all brothers, did not see the dramatic incident in question, but they did see a set of teeth in the hole.
What would a child of Skagway do with such a discovery? He would pick up the teeth and try them on. As did his brothers. They did not fit.
Not knowing whom the teeth belonged to, they set about going around town getting other folks to try them on. But the one mouth they did not reach was the one belonging to the old man who had just given himself a new set of teeth.
As we celebrate Christmas and close out another year on the calendar, may you sink your teeth into your own stories and memories and satisfy all the appetites you think you deserve. Peace y’all.