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Super Bowl politics

—TY BELKNAP
This time last year my wife and I, along with some friends, had just completed our annual stress test—a four-day cross-country ski trip to a yurt in the Cumbres Pass of Colorado near Chama. Packing forty to fifty pounds uphill in the snow at eleven thousand feet gets a little harder every year. Suffice it to say, we survived and had a great time in spite of the few and far-between well-hidden trail markers.

Skiing back to the car from the yurt was downhill and should have been easier, except for the eighteen-to-twenty-four inches of fresh powder that was still falling. We got lost for a while but weren’t too worried because I had practiced building a snow cave with my new avalanche shovel the day before.

However dire the situation was, I was preoccupied with thoughts of the upcoming Super Bowl weekend to be spent with the legendary Endelman clan in Phoenix at a reunion with a bunch of childhood friends and my older brother, all now outspoken Republicans. (Funny how that never seemed to matter until about six years ago.) The last time I met with some of them was right after the invasion of Iraq and we had a drunken argument that left everybody thinking that everyone else was stupid. Being lost in the mountains seemed preferable to engaging in that kind of banter.

The cab driver in Phoenix had a good laugh when he dropped me (after circling the area long enough to double the fare) at my friend’s driveway full of pickup trucks, coolers, lawn chairs, and a bunch of grey-haired guys drinking beer. The laughs continued for two days. Nobody seemed too worried about what the Bush Administration was doing to the environment, civil liberties, or Iraq. But then again, we didn’t really discuss it. One Endelman said, “What’s there to argue about? Bush won.”

Actually, the only arguments concerned conflicting recollections of shared history. “Who forgot to fill the gas tank the time we ran out of gas in the desert?” “Did we really wreck that sailboat and nearly die the time we capsized in a line squall?” “Who did the cheerleader really like best?” That kind of stuff. Funny how the same event can be perceived in so many different ways. The driveway swelled with several generations as temperatures plummeted into the fifties and darkness fell. No blood was spilled.

On Super Bowl Sunday, we loaded up the Endelmans’ guns, piled into several vehicles, and drove about an hour north of Phoenix into the national forest. We set up the firing line on a ridge surrounded by a spectacular 360-degree mountain view. The ground was lush green desert full of saguaro-cactus-dominated vegetation. We blasted away with shotguns at clay pigeons slung from the pickup bed until our shoulders were aching. Then we helped ourselves to a table full of handguns—giant revolvers just like Dirty Harry’s, forty-five-caliber semiautomatics, twenty-two-caliber target pistols, and one “hogleg” with a huge cartridge and a recoil that took the skin off several knuckles. Then we shot some more clay pigeons, filling a five-gallon bucket with cartridges that we later conscientiously cleaned up from the desert floor. Hard to believe that that much fun could be legal.

Back in Phoenix, our host took us over to the Elks Lodge to watch the Super Bowl. It was just as interesting to watch the diverse group of Elks at play. The only thing this unpretentious herd seemed to have in common, besides football and euchre, was that they had all left various slices of Americana behind to drink with a bunch of normal people in America’s sixth-largest city. When the game was over, we went back to the driveway and lit the chimenea.

So the reunion was not so scary after all. Friendship and politics don’t have to mix, but I haven’t heard much from those guys over the past year. Politics have gotten even weirder and more polarized. This Super Bowl weekend, we’re staying back at the yurt.



 

 

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