The free beef-on-a-bun is like being invited to a giant family dinner. My family lines up early, as we do every year. We manage to be near the front of the quickly growing line, but soon notice something different from previous years. The smell of mouth-watering beef is absent. The news spreads with lightning speed. Our beef has been ordered from a neighboring town, but somehow the order has been messed up and the beef isn’t there. We are assured that it’s on its way, and, if we wait patiently, we will be fed. Hundreds of people are stunned into silence at the thought of waiting any longer for dinner.
Then the rumors start flying. “I hear that the meat shop did this on purpose.” (We have a long-standing, friendly rivalry with the neighboring town.) “They are going to feed the town council first and we will get some if there is any left.” “Well, I heard that they are getting the meat from the deer my car hit last night.”
Ten . . . twenty . . . thirty minutes. We keep waiting for people to start scattering to their own homes for real food instead of relying on the promise that dinner will arrive soon. The children quickly desert the line, choosing to wait on the playground. Adults mingle, renewing old acquaintances. Forty . . . fifty minutes. Still the rumors fly and the line grows. We have been promised a meal and we aren’t leaving without one.
The amazing thing is that there’s not a mean word spoken. Nobody blames the mayor for the problem. Instead, there is much laughter, joking, and visiting. And then the meat arrives. The half-expected cheer never comes, just quiet smiles of gratitude. This is a town that is too used to unexpected things life throws at them everyday to be upset about missing beef. As we go through the line and the mayor serves us, friendly ribbing is heard, and folks congratulate him for finally getting the meat there. I feel an enormous amount of pride to belong to a town that has learned to accept these sorts of things with grace and humor.
That is what draws us all to Magrath, the family feeling that can still be found after years of absence. Some choose to head to the big lights of the city, looking for more opportunity or more excitement. Others just want to move away from family to prove that they can do it on their own. Many return permanently to raise their own children in this safe and friendly community. But we all feel that pull once a year to celebrate the birth of the town that raised us. It is the weekend that my family grows from eight to eighteen hundred. It is my favourite weekend of the year.