Last night we had the pleasure of attending the Kaw River Ducks Unlimited Banquet. Van’s best friend Sam had extra tickets, courtesy of his father, a lifetime sponsor of Ducks Unlimited. We knew little about the event other than it was a casual dress fundraiser in a popular venue outside of Saint George, Kansas. I didn’t know what to expect, but this is almost always the case with Sam’s family. The rule of thumb when spending time with them is to come prepared for nearly any contingency, including small road trips, Roman candle tag (don’t ask) and all other forms of chaotic fun. We were in the mood for some spontaneity anyway, and looking forward to a night out. When we arrived, the fundraiser atmosphere was down to earth and exuberant; I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many burly bearded men dressed in different kinds of plaid, camouflage, or K State insignia, sometimes all at once. Nearly everyone had a Solo cup of frothy beer, and everyone looked very happy.
Our table, reserved for Sam’s father and family members, was closest to the auctioneer’s stage, perfect for watching the action unfold. As soon as I saw people pass me, carrying plates of food, I realized that I should have brought snacks. Having been on a gluten and dairy free diet for almost a year, I should know by now that not every public venue is going to accommodate special diets. To combat food disasters when dining out, I typically have a large snack/small meal at home prior to leaving, or stash “survival” treats in my purse so I’m not miserable and crabby during the events. A tote bag full of snacks was thoughtfully packed, but when it came time to hop into Sam’s truck and head to the banquet, I forgot to pull out a few items and slip them into my purse. So here I was, snack-less at a gluten laden buffet.
Half of the (grand total of four, excluding condiments) items on the buffet line contained gluten and dairy, so I ended up with a plate of watery canned green beans and greasy pulled pork. After I finished eating, I was still famished and began contemplating devouring the contents of my purse: leftover vitamins, extra migraine medicine, and a giant tube of lip balm flavored like gummy bears. I also considered whether or not eating my spare change (about $4.00 in quarters and dimes) would make me feel full. Then I wondered if I was being weird. Van bought me a Coke, which was watered down like the green beans, but it filled my stomach and kept me satisfied while we bid on silent auction items. Van tried to win me a Bulova watch. We spent a Kansas sized utility bill on tickets for a camo print Mossberg shotgun. Van also wanted to win hunting dog gear for Ross the Dog, but I also put a ticket into the bucket for goose decoys. Van could use them.
Van and Sam kept tabs on the items being auctioned while Sam’s wife and I entertained ourselves with the surroundings — mostly a drunk guy who kept standing in front of our bench and then leaning over to talk to someone, thus pushing his butt into our faces for minutes on end. Let me specify. We weren’t admiring the view, we were being assaulted. After a while, we got the giggles pretty bad; luckily with all the screaming auction winners and loud beer swilling rowdies, we blended in. Van and Sam had a scheme to win a hunting trip at a game preserve, but the bids became too high so they contented themselves with adding up the auction totals. As with many things between the boys, it got a little competitive, and Sam gave Van an F- for his addition because it didn’t match Sam’s. By the end of the evening, we had spent some money, but for a good cause — the ducks! And we didn’t go home empty handed. Van won the geese that he didn’t want, and the Bulova watch was mine. Only when we went to settle up with the cashiers, we discovered that someone had stolen the watch from the display table. So we left with the geese, a receipt, and the promise that a new watch would be sent to us.
This morning I woke up too early, having gone to bed too late. We had stayed the night with Sam and his wife. Van had a hangover from too much beer and too much fun, but he had one more surprise (maybe to make up for the watch debacle). While I was sipping my coffee he laid a small handgun case in front of me and said, “There is one more thing. Sam won this last night, and I bought it off of him.” It was the handgun that Van had been wanting to give to me for a long time, a compact beauty of shiny black and gray metal.
“What an amazing surprise! You are so sweet!” I kissed him on the cheek.
“Aww, crap! I should have saved this for Mother’s Day,” Van mumbled.
Yes, I do believe I was a big winner last night.