Thursday, December 3, 2009

A Gulf Hammock Thanksgiving

I've been fighting a cold and congestion for the past few weeks, and it just hasn't seemed to want to shake, so as Thanksgiving week was nearing, I began to wonder if I'd be going down to the woods a few days beforehand as we always have. Well, I went...and I mentioned something on my Facebook the other day about being down there and a former classmate of mine, Scott, reacted as though he was shocked about having Internet service down in Gulf Hammock as he too remembered the days of growing up and going to the woods at Thanksgiving, and the living conditions down there. For one thing...the Internet service was coming from my phone and not DSL.

As a child and going to the camp (and we aren't talking a bunch of tents), most of the time we usually stayed during Thanksgiving week at our old cabin (and I do mean old) because on Thanksgiving day, there was a time of fellowship in which what seemed like half of our small community of Williston would gather to enjoy a feast set up down at Fugate Camp, in which everyone brought a covered dish of some kind, and the meat would be any or everything from turkey to...bear? I say that because someone told me one year that I had put a piece of bear meat on my plate while going through the food line...? I have no clue if they were telling the truth or not, all I recall about it was that it was dark meat and slightly on the tough side. We had to take our clean water in igloo containers and drink the water out of a "community" tin cup because you didn't want to drink the water from the creek due to it being brackish water, and stunk to the high heavens. It looks like extremely dark tea. Bathrooms or port-a-potties did not exist, unless you call the outhouse your bathroom (forget tubs and showers at our place either). It was a chore to get up during the night to go to the'd literally have to grab a flashlight, a roll of toilet paper, socks, shoes, and a warm jacket. For years our outhouse was out in the middle of our camp, had a hole cut in a bench, and as time went on someone placed a toilet seat on top of the hole which really "modernized" it. A few years later, they did move the outhouse a little further back into the woods....then we were scared the varmints would "get us"....but as the commercial says it best, when the "gotta go, gotta go" strikes...then you gotta go.

When the family continued to grow and after I had my accident in 1981, rolling around from one camp to the other in a wheelchair made things very difficult...mud, holes, tree roots and rocks big enough to flip my chair if I wasn't going extremely slow and watched where I was going. Thus another camp location was erected (still at Camp C) when Daddy and his brother, Okra, purchased some land from the Whitehurst family and a couple cabins were built, one for Okra's and one for our (Wesley's) family....incidentally this was where a gator hole was once upon a time, then they brought in fill dirt and built up the land. We modernized things a bit more and we now have running water (still too nasty to drink for me), but charcoal filters were put in so that we could at least wash dishes and shower in the water. After a week of using this water, your fingernails are nasty-looking and one can't wait to get home to take a shower from all the showers you've had to take down there. And, your hair smells like smoke from sitting out at the campfire each day/evening. But hey, this is a female giving the can live like beasts and it not bother them. That's my version of modern-day camping. Daddy's cabin was built by Buddy and Hugo (and whoever else they got to help them), and a ramp and walkway was built around the entire front and north side of the cabin, which leads down to the creek...making it much more convenient for me.

Originally there were 4 bedrooms built, but in later years, they closed the front screened porch in and made 2 more bedrooms out of it. We've slept as many as 20-25 people in there at a time. Our cabin has always had a "damp" feel to it due to the fact it sits over some of the creek, especially at high tide.

The Monday before Thanksgiving arrives, and I'd already made up my mind I didn't feel like going to the camp on the next day because I was still not feeling well, and sitting out in the night air around the fire at night might worsen a cold and the congestion I had. On Tuesday I still didn't feel up to a Wednesday trip, so my plans were to take mama in on Thanksgiving being she hasn't felt too much like staying during Thanksgiving week ever since Daddy had passed away a couple years earlier. He was so much a part of her's (and our) trips down's still a little hard on her. Wednesday morning I got up with the same game plan, but mama "thought" I needed to go down there....I didn't know if she was planning a party or what, I just knew she wanted me to go down there. The rain came down in buckets the day before and that morning and it didn't look like it was ever going to quit. Getting around and in and out of the rain with a wheelchair is not my idea of a good time. Everything in the world seemed to happen to make things harder to get my stuff together, but I picked up my niece (her husband & 2 boys were already down there), and off we went. We were told some good soul had grated the road going in a few days earlier, making it a little better (haha), but the rain had turned it all around and only worsened it. Slip-sliding in the mud, and potholes the size of Texas. Upon arrival, all my servants emptied my vehicle and I took what I could carry inside. After putting my load of stuff in the cabin, and so thankful that the rain had stopped, I went out to where everyone sat around the fire. After a delicious supper of fried venison and fried turkey breast (killed earlier that day), I was already feeling better, attitude-wise. After supper, it was card time and my nephews (Tyler and Logan) taught me and another nephew, Andy, a new game of Uno called Firehouse was fun, only I didn't like getting my tail beat. About a dozen of us stayed down there that evening, and 9 others went out. Ginger and Erik took my vehicle back to Williston for my mother to have something to bring down the next day, on Thanksgiving. When I had first arrived at camp and other than taking my bags inside, I had never taken the time to unload my bags and noticed several things I had forgot to being my deodorant and toothbrush...but hey, someone always has some extras in the bathroom, and I also have a toothbrush I leave down there, so I really didn't worry.

The next morning, we all ate a small breakfast of Pillsbury canned cinnamon and orange rolls, then everyone starts preparing their different dishes for lunch, when the rest of the family and friends would be down. I was excited that our long-time friend Maria Sresovich was going to be coming with Ginger and Erik for lunch.

(Sorry Maria, but for some reason, I can't get the image to go larger)

Maria and Ginger incidentally had grown up together and after viewing some Thanksgiving pictures another long time friend (John) had posted from earlier years of Thanksgivings, she was looking forward to seeing how we celebrate Thanksgiving, "Gulf Hammock" Style. After I finished putting together my macaroni and cheese, I went to my room to get dressed, after that I put on my "face" and headed to the bathroom to brush my teeth and look for the deodorant....and here's what I found:

My first thought...what in the world? No Degree, no Right Guard, no anything...? I have to put on a deodorant scent that attracts deer or keeps them from smelling me? If that wasn't bad enough, someone had thrown my toothbrush away and replaced it with who knows who's, I just grabbed "whoevers" toothbrush and used it. A community reminds me of what I read the other know a redneck invented the toothbrush....anyone else would have named it a teethbrush. :)

When I got in to my room, I looked and found some perfume to disguise the Hunter's Specialties Deodorant, so the next best thing I found tucked away in my toiletries bag was a sample perfume I like to have to keep from having to take a whole entire bottle of cologne anywhere. Price-wise, they don't give perfume/cologne away these days...surely it would counteract the other scent. So I used a little Sensuous, by Estee Lauder....the name itself is quite a contrast from the HSD.

I had to wet the back of my hair down a little from the bed head and borrowed Anneil's hair dryer to blow it dry. I left mine at home because with all the females that go down there, someone usually has a hair dryer to use. The airflow was so powerful, I probably would have been better off letting it air dry. I said, "Anneil, this airflow is so weak. How can you stand this each time you blow your hair dry?" She told me she thought it was powerful, but noticed lately every time she uses it, it smells like something burning. Hmmm...I can't imagine why.... When I took the back of it off and cleaned the lint from it, I was shocked. I've enclosed a picture with the amount of lint I could get from it with the tweezers I had, and there was about this much still left in it. It's compared to the size of a finger ring. I think Anneil needs a hair dryer for Christmas...

The noon hour arrived and to sample the different dishes would be impossible without filling your plate to overflowing with all of the food. Trust me, everything I ate was delicious, no room for seconds. It's always so fun to get to see kinfolk we don't usually get to see but once a year...and taste their dishes too!

In closing, we've all got so much to be thankful for and we need to have a grateful heart more than one day or month out of the year. I need to take a dose of my own medicine too, because that doesn't come easy. Easier said than done. I could have stayed home and had a miserable Thanksgiving, after all, its no fun being sick....especially away from home. As Christians, we are commanded to be thankful. Two particular verses I leave with you that doesn't exactly sound like a suggestion. The Apostle Paul wrote this to the church at Colosse when in chapter 3:15 it says: "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." In chapter 4: 2 says to "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful."