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By Staff | Jul 24, 2009

The details of the event are lost in the mists of time, but it probably happened something like this:

A cave guy is sitting around his cave one day and is bored out of his skull, mainly because he doesn’t get ESPN.

He idly picks up a stick and whacks a hollow log. This produces a very pleasing “thock.”

The cave guy repeats this thumping and thus invents this thing we call rhythm.

Other cave guys soon gather around him and begin to chant in time, inventing the very first word uttered by mankind: “Par-tee. Par-tee. Par-tee.”

This primal urge to gather and share music has been passed down across innumerable generations.

For example, my great-uncle Stanley told me how folks used to have house parties “back in the day.” He said that these gatherings would take place at farm homes and would commonly involve a thing called potluck. He didn’t say so, but I surmise that liquid refreshments were also part of the picture.

At some point in the evening all the furniture would be cleared from the house’s largest room. Somebody would produce a fiddle and maybe someone else would pull out a harmonica.

Perhaps even an accordion – the most salacious of all musical instruments because of its nickname “squeeze box” – would be trotted out.

Stanley said that the entire farmhouse would soon throb with music and laughter and dancing. Maybe this is why old farmhouses tend to look so worn and saggy.

The art of the house party has fallen out of favor as of late. Thanks to TV and the Internet, we have become both more connected and more isolated. We can spend days and days observing people yet never actually interact with anyone. A virtual connection can never compare with a real one.

But there are those who are working to bring back the grassroots gatherings known as house parties. Rich and Patty, a couple of friends of ours, are two such people.

For the past 10 years Patty and Rich have, on an irregular basis, hosted a gathering called Hoohah at Cottonwood Grove, their aptly-named rural home.

Hoohah is an outdoor affair put on in late July or early August. It’s simply a celebration of the fact that it’s summertime, glorious summertime, and we are alive. And also that we have all these yummy vittles to share with all these friends.

The main highlight of Hoohah is the performance of the infamous Wild Women. And by performance I mean lip-sync and dance to old rock tunes while dressed in silly get-ups.

This year’s performance included a song which required that the Wild Women appear in sleepwear. Most of the young ladies – and by young ladies I mean none are under the age of 50 – wore flowing nightgowns, although one Wild Woman was decked out in her heavy winter long johns.

The next song, “These Boots Are Made For Walking”, clearly called for go-go boots. Most of the Wild Women indeed wore such footwear, although one had donned some very colorful rain boots. But they were still technically boots, so I guess it’s the thought that counts.

A local group called Highway Call has supplied the music for Hoohah for the past several years. Highway Call has a fluid cast of players that this year included Jim Juntunen and his son, Jason.

Highway Call did a booming job of booming out old rock tunes for us aging Boomers. A harmonica was sometimes brought into play and also a saxophone, but no accordion. Which just goes to show that Highway Call is a pretty high-class group.

A hog was roasted in a repurposed fuel tank, which was an excellent idea on several levels. Not only did it yield delicious roast pork, it gave the guys a spectacle of fire and steel to gather around, a place where the metaphorical fat could be chewed while actual fat slowly roasted to a succulent golden brown.

As we departed the Hoohah, my wife and I thanked and bid adieu to our host and hostess.

“This is gravy to me,” beamed Rich as he contemplated a knot of people dancing on his lawn. ‘I just love it.”

“We really enjoy putting this on,” said Patty. “It’s a lot of work, but we both think it’s definitely worth all the effort!”

Strolling back toward our car, I couldn’t help but notice the blue 1949 Plymouth that Rich and Patty inherited from her family. Its split windshield looked like a pair of eyes; its grill, a toothy chrome grin spreading across its enormous face.

The old Plymouth was born before there was Internet or TV. I think it was simply glad to see people once again gather for an old-fashioned potluck house party.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com

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