Teri Vance: Celebrating Independence Day

We celebrated a perfectly lovely Fourth of July this week. I took my mom and a niece and nephew with me to meet my stepchildren in Virginia City to listen to my husband play guitar and sing at the Canvas Cafe.

We ate a wonderful lunch — seriously, if you haven’t been there, you have to try the food — then just relaxed and enjoyed the music.

StinkE stopped by with his donkey Bernadine, and I wondered what visitors must think of this spectacle.

We drove down the hill to spend some time at a friend’s barbecue, then back up for a spectacular fireworks show.

As we spent the day visiting, talk turned to how we spent the holiday growing up.

It got me thinking a little bit.

Of course, as with everything else in my growing up years, my Independence Day celebrations were somewhat unorthodox.

While I have a couple of memories of my dad taking us into Elko to see the fireworks, for the most part we stayed closer to home.

The ranching community of Ruby Valley, where I spent much of my youth, had a Fourth of July tradition of meeting in Pole Canyon in north Ruby for a potluck.

Most everyone would come, dressed in creased Wranglers, starched white shirts, polished boots and cowboy hats.

What stands out to me in looking back, is how unremarkable that day was in terms of patriotism.

It wasn’t out of the ordinary to see people were waving flags, referencing the U.S. Constitution or heatedly discussing politics.

Those things happened at every gathering. You could toss a pebble and easily hit a man with a miniature copy of the constitution in his pocket.

As the sun started to sink, the gathering would move from the grassy, aspen-dotted meadow down the dirt road to the one-room Woodpecker Hall. (As with the Community Hall — the two meeting places in the valley — there were no bathrooms or running water at all.)

There, we would have the annual dance, a fundraiser for the Volunteer Fire Department.

Like the picnic, it wasn’t something only kids or only adults attended. We all went as families.

My parents were great dancers, showstoppers really. My dad especially loved to dance. I don’t think he sat out a single song.

He’d rotate dancing between my mom and his four daughters, and would take other women — mostly widows — for a twirl as well.

So when I think of the Fourth of July and celebrating freedom, my memories aren’t tied to fireworks.

My celebration of freedom is intrinsically tied to family and friends — and I know I’m lucky to have lived this experience. It’s what I hope for all of America.


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