Mike Fitzgerald

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the leprechauns of Pinedale, Wyoming, just a short donkey ride up Highway 191 from you wee folks in Moab.

You wouldn’t think much would be going on to celebrate the Wearing of the Green in O’Wyo, but it’s no blarney.

The World Famous O’Corral Bar got off to an early celebration last Saturday night with a 24-hour party. It was quite a sight if I say so me self. The large, bushy-bearded lads were twirling their big-boned lasses, sporting much smaller beards, to the tunes of the classic Irish band “Fist of Funk.”

The green beer and Irish car bombs were flowing and the dancers jigged their way into the firewood pile, crashed onto the shuffle-board table and a few even landed on the emerald green felt of the pool table.

I heard the same shenanigans were happening at the nearby O’Cowboy and O’Stockman’s bars, which comprise Pinedale’s “Barmuda Triangle.”

Being an old o’geezer, I left before midnight, taking off my shamrock-decorated hardhat and putting the o’six-shooter safely back in the drawer.

Today brings back many St. Paddy’s Day memories from my hometown of Chicago. The big parade downtown used to be held on the actual date of the holiday, not the previous Saturday, which gave every worker the day off, along with permission to start guzzling booze at 8 a.m.

The old Mayor Daley would lead the hundreds of marchers, which just happened to represent all of the union trades of the town. The bagpipers would be blaring in all their squeaky glory and the Chicago River was dyed green – well, a brighter shade of green than its normal year-round color. With any luck of the Irish, no dead bodies would pop up or wash ashore while the live TV cameras were rolling.

The parade would end at the Tipperary Inn at the Pick-Congress Hotel and all hell would break loose there, many unwanted pinches and punches, although no one seemed to notice or mind.

It seems like only yesterday when a college-age friend of mine drank too much and stole an idling U.S. Mail truck that was sitting empty in front of the jam-packed bar and sidewalk. He did a U-turn and roared the wrong way down the street as the crowd cheered him on.

Only a four-leaf clover he was wearing stopped him from mowing anyone down before he crashed into a light pole. The cops were forced to arrest him and I think he got off easy since it was St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago, and his uncle was a judge. A $25 fine and a promise to never steal a mail truck again, I recall.

I was actually arrested one time in downtown Chicago (true story) on St. Patrick’s Day, just out of my seven years in college and in my first job as a newspaper reporter at the Daily Southtown. A Chicago cop yelled at me to throw the rest of my beer away in a nearby garbage can and I of course thought he was kidding so I continued chugging down the crowded street.

Saints above! Next thing I knew he was tossing me into the back of a paddy wagon, yes a paddy wagon. And on the copper’s nametag, he was actually wearing it, was a long Polish moniker. The charges were quickly dropped before a Windy City courtroom could erupt in laughter and it even resulted in my first of over a thousand career newspaper columns.

On a more somber note, my late Dad and Grandma Fitz would dance the Irish Jig to our family’s delight on St. Pat’s and the best corned beef, cabbage and small potatoes would fill our bellies. Then we all joined in to the rousing and tear-jerking songs of the Clancy Brothers in the front room.

My Dad loved being an Irish-American as much as anyone and was always dressed from head to toe in green. I sure miss him, especially today.

And remember this, fine lads and lasses of Moab: “May you be in heaven an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”

And the final words of my favorite Irish song:

“So fill to me the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you.”

Mike Fitzgerald is a former Moab resident and lives in Pinedale. He can be reached at revfitz22@aol.com.