Go check the fence with Bob Wire and the Fencemenders Saturday at the Union Club

As anyone who's ever seen them on a Saturday night at the Union Club can tell you, fun is what usually happens. Bob Wire and the Fencemenders play the kind of honky-tonk that makes you want to dance on the bar. Shoot out the lights. Drink cheap tequila and wake up with women named after cities in Texas. With his two-tone creepers, custom-flamed guitar and untoppable between-song banter, Therriault pretty much commands your attention on-stage.

"Saturday's really my only night out," he explains, mentioning that a young family and a graphic design job keep him busy between outbreaks of acute honky-tonkitis. "I've got a lot of steam to blow off, which is partly why the shows get so wild."

Therriault and drummer Garth Whitson, who share vocal duties, put the band together in spring of 1995, establishing the Union Club as home base early on. Recent lineup shuffles have resolved themselves into the strongest Fencemenders lineup to date: Therriault, Whitson, bassist Jeff Kirschenmann and guitarist Josh May. May, who also plays in Thee Hedons and the Everyday Sinners, made his debut with the Fencemenders at the Forester's Ball without benefit of a single practice prior to the event. "We asked him to come sit in," says Whitson, "I saw Thee Hedons open for Deke Dickerson and I immediately knew that I wanted Josh in the band. I was sure he would fit right in, and he did."

The simultaneous departures of former bassist John Walden and harpist Vic Stampley were a major setback, Therriault explains, but persistence has paid off. "We're rebuilding the band from the ground up," he says, noting that the process of relearning their repertoire with Josh has had some unexpected side-effects. "At practice, we always go 'hey, we need to work on the stuff we already know,' but then we end up doing eight new songs."

The Fencemenders have recently compiled a souvenir tape featuring live cuts recorded at the Union Club and gut-busting snippets of Therriault's inimitable banter. And a few surprises, such as a slide-whistle solo and twins Cheryl and Christina Kindwall taking the stage to duet "The Race Is On." The tape will be on sale when the Fencemenders return to the Union Club this Saturday.

Bob Wire and the Fencemenders will play the Union Club on Saturday, April 10. FREE.

Little bones and big bucks make up the tribal tradition of stickgames


Sports-loving fools like myself know that a few weeks every year during March are perhaps the most heated and exciting for those who wager money on the outcome of athletic events. I'm talking about the NCAA playoffs, where the best 64 Division I college basketball teams are invited to compete in a single elimination tournament where it can literally be anyone's game.

Louie Caye Jr., an organizer of this weekend's Stickgame Tournament in Elmo on the Flathead Reservation, says his event has a similar structure.

"There are brackets just like in basketball," he says. "The winners go one way and the losers go another."

It's hard to describe a stickgame, a long tradition at powwows, if you haven't seen one, Caye says. And he points out a regular stickgame is different from a tournament stickgame, but each form has common elements.

Two teams of two to five players compete against each other. A stick set contains 11 sticks and four bones, two white and two "black," so named because they're striped.

The object is to guess which of your opponent's hands the white bone is in. The price for guessing incorrectly is two sticks, which are handed over to the winning team. Caye says the sticks are considered alive until this happens. If a team loses their entire five-stick supply, the victorious team gives them theirs. A game is finished when all 11 sticks are dead and in the possession of one team.

]Caye says the good players have usually been at it a long time, and have special individual hand movements they use to outfox opponents.

"People have their own ways. Just like you see magicians do little tricks, there is always a secret and always an answer," he says.

In this weekend's tournament, where it's hoped 43 teams will play, the competition is for payouts of $3,000 for first place, $2,000 for second place and $1,000 for third. A consolation round for $500, involving the first eight losing teams, takes place late Sunday afternoon. Caye says play is expected to last from 6 p.m. Saturday until Sunday afternoon.

Caye explains spectators bet between $5 and $1,000 on their team of choice in nontournament play. In that case, when $4,000 is collected from each team's side, the game begins.

Caye says the time it takes to gather the necessary cash can vary, recalling a time when it took seven hours to collect the bets and another seven hours to play. Stickgames are a good time, he adds, for friends from all over the Northwest to hang out and gamble.

"At any celebration, like a powwow, we're playing stickgame. A long time ago, before there was money, we bet for horses, wagons, guns or tobacco. Everybody likes to play it."

During the games songs are sung, which Caye describes as often sounding like a chant not unlike the spirit-boosting fight songs belted out at high school football games.

"It'll be loud, with singing, pounding drums and visiting," he says. "It's just a good time."

The Standing Arrow Casino in Elmo sponsors a stickgame tournament Saturday, April 10 and Sunday, April 11. Play is expected to span Saturday night and all day Sunday.

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