Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sibling Assignment #183: The Kopper Keg and Who I've Never Been and Who I Am Today

About a week ago, I thought up this assignment for me and my sisters.  Here it is:

Last night I was in Best Shots. I admired how it looks now and remembered what it looked like over forty years ago. It triggered memories and stories about the Kopper Keg back in my college days. Write about a place you have been to recently in Kellogg, Cd'A, Moscow, or anywhere else, that is different now than it was in your late teens or early twenties. Write about the physical place then and now and the memories and stories the place triggers. 
Christy revisits and remembers the old Sunnyside Elementary School building, here.  Carol's post is still to come. 

The Best Shots Sports Bar looks way different than the good old Kopper Keg did.  The air hockey table is gone. Gone are the pool tables. If the walls were decorated back in the old Kopper Keg, I suppose it would have been with beer signs and plaques advertising Lucky Lager beer. Now, the walls boast life-like pictures of Gonzaga men's baskeball players and coaches along with tributes to other sports and images from the events of 09/11/01. 

Both times that I've been to Best Shots in the last couple of weeks, the place started filling up with ghosts of my nights in there back in 1973, soon after I reached Idaho's drinking age of 19, through the next few years. 

Many of these memories came back last night when I was sitting around a bonfire up the North Fork with friends I graduated from high school with.  Stories surfaced.  Goose and Lars put in at Silverton with plans to float the Lead Creek from there to the Kopper Keg. A fight broke out one night when Wayne Sharp knocked over my friends' five dollar pitcher of Bloody Marys.  I remembered stories of my friends closing down the Kopper Keg and going on road trips in the middle of the night to British Columbia or western Montana or to other places in North Idaho.  I remember hearing about picking up girls with the help of CB radios.  I remember hearing about shooting guns at Montana cattle or scaring guys fishing the Clark Fork River. 

These stories make me laugh.

They also remind me how tame I was in my late teens and early twenties and how I am, in so many ways, not what is usually thought of as a North Idaho guy.

Except for the fact that I worked at the Bunker, I don't have much North Idaho "street cred". 

I never went on a not-long-after-midnight road trip.

I never played illegal black jack or any other card game in the Kopper Keg's back room. Or anywhere else.

It's made me think of all the other things my friends from high school talk about that I never did.

I never owned a gun.

I haven't shot a firearm since I took NRA safety training in junior high.

I've never gone hunting.

I've operated a four-wheeler once. 

I have never skied.

I never visited a whore house in Wallace. 

I fished a couple of times off a dock at Rose Lake before I was a teen -- and never fished again.

Until our senior party in late May, 1972, I never went to a keg party in high school.  I didn't really start drinking beer until my first year of college.

I water skied once.

I've never operated a motorcycle.

Until I joined high school friends in July, 2007 for my first shot at it, I had never floated the North Fork in an inner tube, on a raft, or in any other way.

I never dove or jumped off the Black Bridge or the Silver Bridge. Or any other bridge anywhere.  In fact, I rarely jumped off the high dive at the Kellogg City Pool.

When my friends get together, and the stories start to roll out, I don't have any to tell.  All I can ever say is, "Wasn't there a time you guys rented an RV for a Schweitzer Basin blow out? Wasn't there a time you did something like push someone's car over the U.S./Canada border because it had a flat tire or something? Didn't someone push Hog's car into the North Fork?"  

I w
asn't there for any of this stuff and I'm not even sure I have the facts right when I bring them up.

All the same, even though I don't have any great stories to tell, I love remembering afternoons and nights at the Kopper Keg. 

What did I enjoy so much? 

Well, the thing I enjoyed the most was nights when I strolled in and drank beer and shot the breeze with friends. 

I was going to school at North Idaho College and other friends were working in Kellogg, others joined the military, and others went to college in Moscow or Pocatello or Spokane or Walla Walla -- and maybe other places, too.

I'd go a while without seeing friends and either by design or by accident, we'd all pop into the Keg.

I remember one night, maybe it was my sophomore year, I'm not sure, Terry Turner and some friends decided on the spur of the moment to take a road trip from Pocatello to Kellogg and so, on this night, I was sitting in the Keg over a schooner of Lucky Lager, and, suddenly, a cry went up from near the door:  "TURNER!"

Suddenly a relaxing evening turned into an adrenaline rush and we bought pitchers of beer and the stories and laughs started to cascade and I was in my element, one of my best friends was back home with friends from his school and we got to help them enjoy life at the Kopper Keg.

I really haven't changed much over the last forty years or so when it comes to drinking beer.

The closest I ever came to doing anything wild was at our KHS ten year reunion when Don K. and I sat on the rack on Turner's car trunk, going from Dirty Ernie's to the Kopper Keg, holding a bottle of beer in one hand, and waving to the imaginary crowds lining McKinley Avenue for the Elks parade with the other.  When we saw Officer Dan Schierman pass us going the other way, we threw our beer bottles against the wall beneath John George's house, and, when we got pulled over in the parking lot across the street from the Keg, we told the officer we would clean up the beer bottle glass and go home, and then immediately disobeyed him by not cleaning up the glass and going back to Dirty Ernie's where we drank deep into the morning, long after the joint should have closed.

To this day, just like at the Kopper Keg, I love getting together with friends, whether friends from my Kellogg days or friends from Eugene, drinking some beer, and shooting the breeze.

These sessions today, just like my sessions at the Kopper Keg, don't leave me with great stories to tell, but they make me very happy.

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