Life, liberty and the pursuit of a ringer

As usual, my family and I spent the Fourth of July holiday at my brother’s house in Forest Lake, where we deep-fried turkeys, celebrated America’s birthday and watched the annual horse shoe tournament become a heated battle between the old guys, my brothers Chris and Pat, and the younger generation, my son Matt and my niece Kiki.

In this case, age and experience prevailed.

The horse shoe tournament is all about fun, but the competition is fierce and there is a traveling trophy involved.

Celebrating Independence Day with a huge party is a time-honored tradition in my family. My mom said she remembers going with my dad to the annual event when they were still dating. I remember it being at first a great-uncle’s house, then my grandparents’ house when I was a kid.

My oldest brother Chris began offering up his place in Forest Lake as the site of the party quite a while ago. The problem is that we can’t remember when. His wife Lara and I had a chat about it Saturday and think maybe next year will be year 15.

Friday night I was standing in Chris’ garage unwrapping turkeys and preparing them for the deep fryer. We learned years ago it is easier to do this the night before the party instead of the day of, and now have a great system.

So I was covered in turkey goo and sucking marinade into an injector when my cell phone rang. It was Daily Globe editor Ryan McGaughey, wondering where I had filed something.

“Sorry to bug you,” he said.

“No problem, I’m just injecting turkeys,” I replied.

There was a small stretch of silence, then he rapidly changed the subject.

See, I forget that not everyone does the odd things my family does and considers it normal.

Like last year, when kids in the goofy golf tournament got a set of the golf balls stuck in a tree. I’m not sure how normal people handle that, but in my world, seeing a guy pull out a shotgun and shoot at the branch made perfect sense. Later, when the tree ate another set of golf balls, three gymnasts climbed on each other to form a pyramid and the top one plucked the balls from the tree.

Yep, at our party we keep shotguns and gymnasts close by in case we need them.

This year my brother made sure to trim back the trees. Not that it worked – a set still got stuck in a branch – but half the fun is watching the problem solving skills of the younger generation develop.

Over at the horse shoe tournament, Matt and Kiki were cleaning up. By the time they hit the third round, a few experienced teams had been pushed off the brackets. Including Eric – my husband and Matt’s dad.

“I’m kind of stuck between being bummed and having a proud father moment,” he said.

My brother Paul, Eric’s traditional horse shoe partner, wasn’t quite as torn, and playfully picked on both his niece and his nephew for the rest of the tournament.

I played my usual one game. Unlike my brothers and husband, who have a standard partner and never divert from that, my sisters-in-law and a few friends and I switch up partnership each year. This year Pam, a family friend, had the same thoughts as I did.

“Play one round to participate, lose gracefully.”

She and I partnered up, and ended up playing against Chris and Pat, who have been the champs more than once. We got creamed.

I managed to score four points in our total of seven. It would have been five, but Chris topped one of mine, even after I told him not to. Brothers are bothers. They never listen.

All in all, it was a great party. Friday night cooking was fun, Saturday’s main event was great, I got to see cousins and uncles and aunts and nieces and my nephew. I watched my great-niece do a Baby Gaga routine, had the opportunity to hug my daughter a few times, ate wonderful food and smacked my brother on the arm without getting busted by my mom.

I’m already looking forward to next year.