Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Square Peg - Oktoberfest or Bingo Bob and the Beer Hall Push

The Square Peg - Oktoberfest or Bingo Bob and the Beer Hall Push
© S. Bradley Stoner

Well it’s that time of year again. Oktoberfest. Yep, Texans are joining in the proud traditions of their German heritage. Those hardy pioneers who settled places like New Braunfels, Fredricksburg, Bergheim, Boerne, and even San Antonio (which at one time was a third German by population) flooded into the state in the 1850s. These were not the Volgadeutsch who were expelled from Russia and settled in the Midwest and Colorado, but Germans from the Fatherland. They were good, substantial middle class families looking to expand their holdings with the cash to do it. Central Texas became their destination of choice. So Oktoberfest is a big deal in Central Texas... not that Texans need much of an excuse to consume quantities of beer.

Bingo Bob was in fine fettle this morning. Matter of fact, he’d been in fine fettle since the next to last week in September when Oktoberfest celebrations had begun. As everyone knows, everything in Texas is bigger, especially the month of Oktoberfest which runs from around the 25th of September to mid-November when the biggest and bestest Oktoberfest of them all, the Wurstfest, occurs in New Braunfels. But today was Fredricksburg’s turn. I saw Bob out by his car. He was dressed in his best Bavarian costume... lederhosen, white shirt, long white socks, good Bavarian shoes, and one of those Tyrolean hats with a corded band and decorative brush... and a large beer stein in his right hand.

Bob saw me and came trotting over, still holding that fancy stein... one of those ceramic ones with a German street scene and a silver flip open top... to keep the beer in the stein while you navigated the crowds, I suppose. Breathlessly he bubbled, “I’m headed for the Fredricksburg Oktoberfest... will you be there?”

“I think I’ll skip it this year,” I said. “Parking is going to suck and driving home will be dangerous what with all the beered-up celebrants.”

“But you can’t miss Oktoberfest! It’s... it’s...” Bob fumbled for the right word, “un-Texan!”

“Un-Texan, Bob?”

“Yep. Un-Texan.”

Now, I find that just a little offensive, not to mention a whole lot silly. I know there’s a lot of German heritage around San Antonio and in the Hill Country... Heck, even LBJ claimed German heritage, but the closest he got to that was having Scotch-Irish ancestors that lived in Fredricksburg and the three German homesteaders’ homes that are on his ranch on the Pendernales River near Stonewall, Texas. I also know that Texas is home to pioneering cattlemen like Charles Goodnight, Oliver Loving, and John Chisholm, and since I’ve done my share of ranching, I tend to identify with those folks a little more. I’ve got the boots, spurs and hat to attest to that... and I so informed Mr. Bingo Bob.

“Geez... you don’t have to get all huffy,” Bob said, backing down quickly. “I just meant... oh never mind. I just thought you would enjoy going, is all.”

“I’ve been to a few Oktoberfests, Bob, but now I don’t really care for the crowds, or the crush. Last time I went, I came home smelling like I fell into a brew vat... I got more of other people’s beer on me than I got of my beer in me.”

“Well, it’s plain to see that you haven’t managed the beer hall push,” Bob returned, waving his stein in the air. “I’m an expert.”

I scratched my head, wondering where he got that from. I made the mistake of asking.

“Well heck, everybody knows that one,” Bob declared, obviously delighted that he knew something I didn’t, and he expounded at length. “It was back in the 1920s, I think... in Munich. That’s in Bavaria, you know. Anyway, there was this one group of elites that was kind of holding down the bar... you know, not letting the common guys get to the beer... so anyway, the common guys decided they weren’t going to take it anymore... so they all decided to push their way up to the bar, shoving the others aside... so they could get to those pretty girls serving up the brewskis. Anyway, they really got into it with the snobs and finally got their beer, but the snobs called the cops and had those common working guys thrown in the hoosegow. That was the beginning of the beer hall push. I’ve got it mastered... no problem getting my brews!”

I just stood there and shook my head. “Were you drinking beer during history class, Bob?”

“Huh? Well,” he grinned self-consciously, “it was high school and there might have been some beer involved. Why do you ask?”

I thought about straightening him out on the Beer Hall Putsch of 1928 when Hitler tried to take over the first time, but figured what’s the point? As fellow Texan Ron White says, “That’s just stupid... and you can’t fix stupid.” So instead I wished Bob a happy Oktoberfest and cautioned him to take a designated driver with him. Bob on a beer high is positively hilarious to watch... and who’d want to miss that?

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