STORY — Without it, there would be a little less sewing and a little less sharing of flower seeds and stories of green thumb success.
The Girl Scouts would have to scout out another place to meet, and all those people turning another year older or tying the knot would have to celebrate somewhere else.
Without the Story Woman’s Club, Story would be different.
And without the Story Woman’s Club Annual Turkey Dinner — held on the first Sunday after the October club meeting for 38 years now — nearly 400 people from Story, Sheridan, Big Horn, Buffalo, Kaycee and even Casper would miss out on one of their favorite yearly traditions.
“We’ve put away a lot of turkeys over the years,” Roger Maertens said.
He and his wife, Marcia, have attended the turkey dinner “forever,” he said, but really, it has been 38 years. They were there for the first one because a hot turkey dinner sounded yummy and soon found they attended as much for the social interaction as for the food.
“We don’t go to Walmart, so we go to places like this to see people,” Maertens said. “Everybody likes to get out on a fall day and say hello to folks you don’t see all the time.”
The annual turkey dinner is the primary fundraiser for the Story Woman’s Club. The club owns the building and must pay for propane, insurance, cleaning, lawn care and snow removal. The club is used almost daily for meetings and gatherings throughout the year.
“It’s one way we can keep the doors open,” club President Joan Griffin said.
This year, club members will use the funds to finish the picnic area that was graveled last year and to paint, elevate and finish a stage that was built over the last few years to be used for outdoor performances.
Griffin said the club’s goal for this year’s turkey dinner was 400 hungry people to feed and $4,000 raised for club upkeep and projects.
With a line forming before noon and beginning to wind down the street by 12:30 p.m., it looked promising.
The 20 20-pound turkeys (that’s 400 pounds of turkey) were consumed. The 70 pounds of carrots, seven large cans of cranberry sauce and nearly 100 homemade pies were also dished out and enjoyed.
All 71 members of the Story Woman’s Club help put on the annual dinner, with at least 20 working at any given time during the meal.
Oven doors open and close, producing steaming pans of turkey and dressing, bowls of green beans and cranberry sauce pass hand-to-hand to the serving line, and crockpots of mashed potatoes and gravy leave the kitchen full and return empty with graceful precision.
Watching the cooks, servers and waitresses dance through the kitchen and around the tables is like watching a ballet.
“We have a really good crew, and we all work together,” club member Karylyn Petrie said. “We all have our job, and everyone knows what to do.”
Petrie, herself, has been making mashed potatoes for 18 years. She joined the club when she was still a working woman and could only make meetings sporadically. She just happened to make the meeting when job assignments for the turkey dinner were being assigned. She volunteered to help wherever she could and has been making the potatoes every year since.
“It was a little intimidating that first year. I was an office kind of gal. I never really cooked at home,” Petrie said.
But over the years, she developed a system and got used to the hustle and bustle of a dozen cooks in one moderately sized kitchen.
Over in the corner by the two stoves, club member Susie Lunbeck — who has four “I Heart Story” pins fastened to her red apron — busies herself over two stock pots of true-blue turkey-dripping gravy, spicing and thickening until it’s just right. A third crockpot of gravy sits on the counter behind her, ready to be taken to the serving line. Lunbeck, too, has been making the gravy for 18 years. She also makes 12 dozen frosted sugar cookies each year.
This year, Lunbeck and others made extra pie crusts to cover for club members who lost power in Friday’s snow storm and were unable to use their ovens. Turkeys were shuffled around to those who had power, and the annual turkey dinner went on as it has for 38 years and will continue to do. After all, Story would be a much different place without the Story Woman’s Club and its annual turkey dinner.