The Sunday before Thanksgiving, I headed up I-25 to Fort Collins and then turned east for Severance, the town "where the geese fly and the bulls cry," to give thanks for a tradition restored.
Bruce's Bar has been serving Rocky Mountain oysters since the mid-'50s, almost without interruption — unlike the animals that give up their gonads to create Colorado's unofficial state dish. But in 2006, Bruce Ruth, the founder of Bruce's, died after a long illness, and in early 2007, town officials refused to transfer the bar's liquor license to longtime employees who were going to run the place for Ruth's son, citing numerous code violations. And just like that, Bruce's was cut off.
A year later, Jairo Landeros bought the bar and brought in his friend, Bruce Carron, to do the necessary remodeling work and run the place. The two knew all about challenges: Their sons are the Berthoud High wrestlers who both lost their legs after they were struck by a car on an icy winter night.
Carron added windows to the bunker-like building (taking care to preserve the murals of the embarrassed bulls), gutted the kitchen, polished the floor where regulars danced back when Severance was still a tiny ranch town. As a result of his efforts, Bruce's got its liquor license back in July, and several longtime employees were back on the payroll in time for the October 4 reopening, including cook Dennis Guffy, who started working at Bruce's when he was fourteen — close to forty years ago.
And with Guffy in the kitchen, the Rocky Mountain oysters are back, too, in both bull (chewy) and bison (more tender) form. The testicles are skinned and sliced on the premises (they're separated from their owners elsewhere), then breaded and fried, and served in baskets (you can also buy bags of frozen, pre-breaded Rocky Mountain oysters). On Sunday, Bruce's even features all-you-can-eat Rocky Mountain oyster deals.
But really, one basket was more than enough to reconnect with a taste of Colorado history. Let us give thanks.