I drove almost 2000 miles to get to the Family Reunion in the Barada Hills.
We all gathered at the old family farm—the Funny Farm—where our kinfolk have lived for many generations.
Our father was there in the farmyard, reigning over his unruly clan with a certain pride. “Straighten your shoulders, now!” Poppa said to everyone, “You don’t want to look stoop-shouldered like your Great Aunt Bertha.”
“That’s right!” my sister said. She frowned. “And whatever you do…” she added. “Don’t step in the chicken poop! It’s everywhere.!” She’s the Sophisticate of the family, you see. She might wear overalls, at times—but they’re always neat and clean. “Those dang chickens!” she said.
We had a couple of newcomers to the Funny Farm, this year—future sons-in-law…Men who were uninitiated to the ways of the Clan. They watched and listened with trepidation, uncertain as to what would happen next.
They had good reason to be nervous.
The hubbub in the farmyard grew louder. The menfolk had taken out their rifles, and were pointing them haphazardly in all directions, sighting down the barrels. Suddenly, a large bullet was ejected from a rifle chamber and fell to the ground. It was examined closely.
“Lord have mercy!” my father said. “That bullet is so big it could’ve blown up the barrel and killed somebody!”
The chatter grew louder. Words were flying thick and fast, now—even faster than the purported bullets—full of obscure references that meant nothing to anyone else but us:
“Hey! Remember the rabid skunk that Aunty shot in the barnyard with a 44 mag?”
“Yeah…And how about the big black snake in the bathroom faucet? We had to chop it in half to get it out of Granny’s bathtub…”
“And remember that cougar!? Saw his huge paw-print out by the Humpty Dumpty Road!”
“Hey…!” somebody said loudly. “Speakin’ of the old Humpty Dumpty Road….Let’s all go for a ride there in Poppa’s pick-up!”
A few groans could be heard, but most cheered wildly. We all scrambled into the back of the Ford Ranger—fighting for our favorite positions.
Our father obliged us. Poppa took the wheel and we headed across the hills at a high rate of speed, the truck bucking and bumping madly down the Humpty Dumpty Road.
The In-laws were aghast. “You do this for fun?”
“Oh yeah!” we said. “Oh yeah!”
The sawdust from the back of Poppa’s truck swirled around us. It got in our eyes and clogged our nostrils. Thorn branches thwacked dangerously close to our heads. We swung around the bend and headed straight up a sloping embankment, the truck straining for all it was worth.
“What the heck…?” the future in-laws said through gritted teeth. “This truck is gonna tip!”
Up and over the embankment we went. Onward, we thundered, taking a hair-raising tour of Poppa’s grandest haunts.
We flew past the ‘Temple Mount’ and roared across the back-forty, thundering over hill and dale until at last, the truck swirled to a halt amid a cloud of grit and sawdust. We were back at Granny’s and Poppa’s farmhouse.
We all tumbled out. One of the future In-law’s collapsed on the ground, falling flat on his back.
“Lord—what a ride! Are we even alive?”
Bruised and sore, we stood panting. “What’s next?” the kids said. “What will we do now?”
“We’ll eat Granny’s good home cookin’,” someone said, “Then we’ll build a bonfire and sing songs. We’ll make some s’mores, and drink hot cocoa and apple cider.”
And that’s exactly what we did. We ate Granny’s good home cookin’ ‘til we nearly burst. Then a bonfire was built. Marshmallows toasted. S’mores eaten. The sound of happy voices echoed through the Barada Hills.
All too quickly, the sun sped across the heavens and sank behind the rounded hills. The sky turned a soft pink.
At last, it all faded into the velvety darkness of night. The burning wood crackled. Firelight flickered on the slumbering dogs and cats and chickens. I stood looking at the sleepy kinfolk lounging near the fire.
I’d come almost 2000 miles to be here, today: to cavort and play at the Funny Farm…To remember the joys of Granny’s good home cookin’ and the trauma of Poppa’s Humpty Dumpty Road. And now it was all coming to an end. Such a long distance to come for such a short reunion! Had it been worth it?
It was then that I heard my father’s voice speak to me from the dimness. “Straighten your shoulders, Vic!” he said. “You don’t want to look like your Great Aunt Bertha.” I squared my shoulders and turned to go.
“And don’t step in the chicken poop!” my sister said. “Those dern chickens!”
A sigh escaped me—but it was a contented one.
2000 miles? I would have gone 10,000….!