A car, a wedding and a trip to Idaho

Sep 6, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

My older brother Chris Peck's marriage to Kathleen Duignan 40 years ago this week in Sun Valley, Idaho, on a perfect September Saturday, was a landmark family event that pulled us outside our comfortable zones of familiarity in ways we loved.

For the wedding day, my mother bought a new dress, long, satiny, pale orange/yellow. Not to be outdone by by a clothing purchase, my father bought a new car, a gold Buick Electra with a beige vinyl top. The car and the dress were, essentially, the same color

They went to Idaho from Wyoming three days before the wedding, accompanied by my grandmother and our white dog named Ozone (originally Chris's dog). They sat in the back seat together, my grandmother smoking cigarettes, Ozone pressing his nose to the back window, open just a crack.

I was a sophomore at Riverton High School and was allowed to stay home alone on a Wednesday night. After school the next day, I got into my 1977 Ford Pinto - brown - and drove with my cousin David Peck, an RHS junior, from Riverton to Jackson, where we spent the night at the Snow King Inn. We rode the alpine slide and swam in the pool, had a steak dinner in the restaurant, and stayed in the hotel room by ourselves. Highly exotic.

The next day we drove on to Sun Valley. It was the first time I had ever driven my own car more than 30 miles from home. I had just received my driver's license five months earlier. We felt we were on a great, adventuresome pilgrimmage.

The Ford Pinto had an 8-track tape player, and we had a great time pulling in to an Idaho Falls drive-in for lunch with the windows rolled down, Herbie Hancock's recording of "Watermelon Man" blasting from the car.

Those who have heard the recording will know how ridiculous this was (it's easy to find online). We knew it, too, but that didn't stop us from doing it. High school kids.

My mother had planned the menu for the rehearsal dinner meticulously, including a half dozen different kinds of alcohol. I had never had a drink before in my life. That night I remember sipping dry sack sherry while sitting next to my future sister-in-law Kate's glamorous younger sister, Patricia Rose Duignan.

"Isn't Chris wonderful?" she asked me more than twice. (Next time you see the original "Star Wars" from 1977, watch the closing credits. You'll see Rose's name there under "Production Assistant."

David and I had brought our band instruments along. We both had made all-state band the previous winter and were told there was going to be a concert and jam session of shorts. My recollection is that there was a trailer set up in the darkness, with just a few lights and a big crowd of people listening and dancing on the grass. Just like Woodstock, I thought.

My cousin wowed the crowd with some glissando runs on his trumpet, but I was so petrified and teen-age self-conscious that I could barely squeak out a note on the trombone. My mother told me it was wonderful.

The next day I was in the wedding party with, I think, my brother George, the bride's brother Pete Duignan, and a guy named John Rice, one of the several Stanford friends who grew large in our lives when they made loud, flamboyant visits to Wyoming with Chris, their long hair and facial hair both dazzling and worrying us -- as intended.

The wedding party males were issued white straw hats, billowing linen pants and blue peasant frocks. I still have the hat, but my mother gave the pants and the top to the Central Wyoming College theater department costume shop not long after the wedding.

Many years later, both garments were used in a local production of "Fiddler on the Roof." I recognized them instantly from the audience and pointed them out excitedly to my wife.

Sun Valley was beautiful on the wedding day. Kate's wedding march was "Satin Doll," without the lyrics, so the words "switch-a-rooney" were not heard during the wedding.

Chris and Kate had written some of their own vows, and I remember Chris promising to "roar and revel" with Kate during the years to come. He wore a white suit and had a full beard.

In the family album is a photograph from behind the scenes when Kate, moments before making her entrance, paused with her mother. Frances Duignan has her hand on Kate's cheek.

At the reception, I ate what I recall as carrot cake for the first time in my life. Wedding cake was pure white with white frosting in my experience. This was spicy and delicious.

Ozone the dog, always calm and friendly, white as Chris's suit, slipped among and around the wedding guests, scoring slurps of ice cream from abandoned plates.

I remember my cousin Risty, always devoted deeply to Chris through the years, dancing with great abandon to the live band. My grandmother, Ina Smith from Crowheart, got a fair number of dances herself. She was 82.

Long, long afterward, my dad took Chris and Kate's daughter, Sarah out to the Gas Hills Road in Wyoming and taught her the beginnings of driving a car. On an isolated strip of pavement cutting through the sagebrush prairie, Sarah gripped the wheel of that same gold Buick, bought many years before to carry the family from Wyoming to the great day in Idaho.

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