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Bruce Ruth, 73; Special `Oysters' Drew the Curious to His Saloon

September 01, 2006|Claire Noland | Times Staff Writer

Bruce Ruth, whose northern Colorado saloon became a magnet for motorcyclists and other curious travelers willing to take a chance on Rocky Mountain oysters, has died. He was 73.

Ruth died Aug. 23 at his home in Severance, Colo., after suffering a stroke, longtime employee Dennis Guffy said.

Rocky Mountain oysters, the deep-fried, breaded, sliced-up strips of meat served with dipping sauce, have nothing to do with saltwater mollusks. Not for the squeamish, they're the testicles of calves, which are castrated to enhance their beef development.

The decidedly Western fare has been a popular menu item for decades at Bruce's Bar in Severance.

"That's our calling card at the restaurant," Guffy, who had worked for Ruth as a cook and bartender since 1974, told The Times. "He's the one who really got the town of Severance on the map because of the Rocky Mountain oysters."

Inspired by a veterinarian friend who served "turkey oysters" at a party, Ruth started offering his variation as appetizers in the late 1950s.

"We used to put them out on Friday afternoon for free," he recalled several years ago. "That went over real well. So I started to put them out all day Friday. Then all weekend. Then any day you walked in the door, they were on the menu."

At first he trolled local meatpacking plants for the spare parts, but after they caught on he lined up a steady supply from cattle ranchers in New Zealand and Costa Rica.

Ruth's regular clientele of farmhands, cowboys, hunters and motorcyclists feasted on up to 4,000 pounds of the down-home delicacy per month at the honky-tonk bar. He trademarked his version, branding them "Bruce's World Famous Rocky Mountain Oysters." People magazine, as well as TV, radio and newspaper reporters from around the world, came calling.

A native of nearby Evans, Colo., Ruth served on the Severance town council and with hunting buddies from the Ducks Unlimited organization helped restore wetlands that attracted migratory Canada geese.

Survivors include a son, Steven Ruth of Surrey, England; two grandchildren, two sisters and a brother.

In a few weeks there will be a dedication to Bruce Ruth at the annual motorcycle rally that for 25 years has drawn thousands of bikers to Severance, as the motto goes, "Where the geese fly and the bulls cry."

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