With 15 friends.
Twelve hairy chaps with four feet each.
And three not-so-hairy fellows who were . . . more like Dad.
Intrigued? Stay with me . . .
During the 50s, the government had programs encouraging people to raise bigger and better cattle. They even sponsored ranchers who were interested in hauling a few of their best cattle to agricultural shows around the country. They reasoned that said ranchers, eager for some first-place ribbons, would selectively breed bigger and better animals.
Ranchers arrived at shows with trailer loads of their very best animals, hoping for a trophy or two and some recognition.
And that was what had brought Dad to Toronto. He and young friends Mike, Leroy and Patrick had driven from Alberta, carting a ‘carload’ (twelve steers) halfway across the country to the agricultural show there.
They learned a few things.
Some of which were unexpected.
Maybe I should explain . . .
The four friends arrived with several days to spare.
After unloading and settling their stock, they found they had time for some sight-seeing.
And the great Niagara was where they wanted to do it.
Renting a car, the four of them set out, touring, first the Canadian side of the falls, then crossing over the border to the American.
After several hours of ‘tourist-ing’, they decided that the next item on the agenda should probably include some sort of sustenance.
They began to scout around for a likely place.
And discovered that the restaurants nestled close around the falls were of the ‘posh’ variety.
Now these boys were all from the ranches of Southern Alberta. They were good boys. Polite. Respectful.
They just hadn’t been out and about much.
And never had any of them eaten at such high-class establishments.
They wandered around a bit, looking for a place where four young men – clean, but with calloused hands and traces of real manure on their boots - wouldn’t feel quite so out of place.
Finally, they picked a likely-looking prospect and walked in.
And discovered that the quiet exterior was slightly misleading.
This restaurant was definitely of the five-star variety.
Taking a collective deep breath, they hailed the Maitre’D and secured a table. Then further hiding their discomfort, proceeded to order, trying to sound as blasé about their surroundings at the other patrons appeared to be.
They did well.
Until Patrick was asked how he’d like his potatoes prepared.
“Smashed,” he said clearly.
The waiter stared at him. Finally, “Smashed?” he said.
“Smashed,” Patrick repeated.
The waiter nodded and, making a careful note on his pad, collected the menus and disappeared into the kitchen.
Leroy punched Patrick in the arm. “Smashed?” he said.
Patrick started to giggle.
Leroy joined him.
All of their pent-up nervousness and discomfort burst out of the three of them in a joyous bubble of sound.
That they vainly tried to suppress.
This went on for some time. One of them would nearly gain control. Then look at the others and start again.
Ever try not to laugh? Seriously. In church or school or somewhere people aren’t supposed to laugh?
Yeah. It’s impossible.
Certainly it was for them.
Before long, the four friends were the cynosure (real word) of all eyes. And that just made them more nervous.
And less able to control their laughter.
They managed to make it through their painful meal.
Paid and finally escaped.
Oddly enough, none of them can remember what they ate. Apart from the smashed potatoes, of course.
But each of them learned a few things.
1. When in ‘Rome’, act as the Romans do.
2. When in ‘Rome’, speak as the Romans do.
3. Avoid potatoes in public.
And, most importantly . . .
4. Don’t laugh.
Make a note in your guidebook.