Grab and Dash in Oakville
Town Celebrates State’s Last Horseback Bank Robbery
Posted: Tuesday, July 6, 2010 10:46 am
By Kimberly Mason / For The Chronicle
OAKVILLE — Oakville knows how to throw a parade
and Oakville knows how to throw a bank robbery; they’ve been
doing it for years.
But, in fact, as the town shut down Saturday for its 12th annual reenactment
of Washington’s last horseback bank robbery, the specifics of the case — any facts
other than the horse, the bank and the robbery — are scarce; they just make them
up as they go along.
And since the who, what, when, and why are mysteries and only the
how is known, the hold-up gangs are given a lot of leeway in the re-telling of
this local legend.
But there is a tradition, and as tradition has it, after the Oakville
Independence Day parade, the crowd forms a half-circle around the false-front
Oakville State Bank. Then one by one, hold-up gangs on horseback rob the bank.
Over and over and over and over again, each gang competing for top honors — or
at least a good laugh from the audience.
From high atop a ladder, microphone in hand, Randy Caverly of the
Oakville Chamber of Commerce set the scene.
“Think back to a simpler, happier time, when Oakville
had more residents than live here today. When every home, including the bank,
still had an outhouse,” said Caverly.
As each gang sauntered up the street on horseback, Caverly gave a
running commentary on the outlaws and their deeds.
The Black Hills Wranglers had an elaborate robbery plan
cooked up. When asked how they got their start in a life of crime, Megan Delk,
16, Oakville, said, “As we were saddling up for an Oakville play day one day,
I said, ‘Hey, wanna come rob a bank with me?’”
“Sure!” chimed in the rest of the gang, Tasha Ray, 17, and Kasi Froberg,
18, both from Rochester, and Trisha Moore, 15, of Oakville.
The Black Hills Gold 4-H Club sprayed cans of
silly string at the crowd as they strode into town. One mounted posse shot water
pistols at the retreating gang. And another held up the bank with a stick.
The American Maid Mounted Drill Team won the crowds vote for best
reenactment and the Happy Appy Gang took home the prize for Most Entertaining.
Oakville, the self-proclaimed “Friendliest One-Hundred
and Four Year-Old Town in Washington” lived up to its name Saturday
Though they did caution the crowds, saying that while this is the
one day a year that a bank robbery makes for fine entertainment, “We ask that
you remember not to joke about robbery when you do business with the great folks
who run this branch of the Sterling Savings Bank during the year. We thank them
for letting us rob them ... over and over and over and over again.”
The robbery reenactment was part of a day of festivities that saw
U.S. Highway 12 shut down for almost two hours Saturday afternoon.
The parade, bank robbery and other Independence Day events are about
as small-town America as you can get on the Fourth of July.
The American Legion band blows, drums and marches through the center
of town, just behind the fire department and the color guard. Horses trail behind
the music and the sirens, decked out in sparkling, splendid red, white and blue,
riders carrying large flags.
Children line the streets with shopping bags in hand, waving and hopeful.
“Throw some this way,” they yell. Then scramble to nab a piece of candy as it
skitters across the pavement.
Glittering princesses on horseback, handsomely rugged cowboys, and
old timers in old-time cars.
A pony cart with a sad-faced basset hound hitching a ride. Three (count
‘em), three wheelbarrow-pushing or four-wheeler and cart driving clean-up crews
chasing the clip-clop of a hundred hooves.
Logging trucks, over-sized pick-up trucks, a Swede Queen in the back
of a jeep, clowns and politicians.
It’s America, and it’s beautiful.
Kimberly Mason is a freelance writer based in Cinebar. She can
be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.