Sunday, March 27, 2016 Road Junkies 0 Comments

SWEET HOME, Alabama—When we heard cousin Richard was coming all the way from Oregon to visit the family farm in Alabama, we couldn't resist an opportunity to see him without having to travel across country, especially after he recently escaped a very close call with cancer.  Since nephew Steven was on spring break in Tennessee, we picked him up and took him with us, arriving at Nanamama's on Thursday evening.  Nephew David and his family, sister Jeanne, and cousin Steve also rolled into town, making for a sweet little mini-reunion.

On Friday, Ken and I drove to the city of Mobile to visit some dear ones there and take care of a bit of business for the country cemetery we've been volunteering for.  Kathy, one of my dearest college friends, whom I met my first quarter on campus and rumbled with for the next four years, has spent too much time in hospitals in the last year due to a variety of health issues.  I wanted to see her in person and was thrilled to find her at home for a change.  We met her two roly-poly cats and enjoyed a companionable visit chattering about our coterie of mutual friends and catching up on each other's lives.

UnkaJim and his lovely wife
Next stop in our Mobile meandering was at the home of the inimitable UnkaJim and his charming and hospitable wife Dean, both of whom have been battling health problems of late also.  As usual, we found them full of smiles and good cheer, rising above their difficulties.  Cousin Sport, their spoiled and justifiably contented dachshund, insisted on a little quality time of his own.  After doing our part to indulge the pup and hearing the latest news about Dean's grandchildren and UnkaJim's nine, but soon to be ten, great-grandchildren, we drove back north, relieved to see both of them (and Sport) looking so well.  (For the record, Sport is blessed with an extra dose of charisma.  Even his dog sitter asks for play dates with him when he has been away from her too long.)

Friday night our PNW cousin Rich and his brother Tommy, who lives locally, came over to Nanamama's for a good dose of her Southern cooking.  And what a spread she prepared!  All manner of veggies, cornbread and some 'cued ribs left everyone soporifically sated.  We were all eager to catch up with the goings-on in each other's lives and spent the rest of the evening in lively conversation.

Lonesome Pine Farm
Saturday was farm day.  The farm in question is five miles from Nanamama's place, which was christened Knightwood last year.  Divided between Nanamama and her siblings when their parents died, the land was gifted to our great-great grandmother and great-great grandfather by her father.  Pretty generous of g-g-g-grandfather when you consider that he had 22 other children.  But that's another story.

When UnkaJim inherited the farmhouse and the property immediately around it, he changed the name from Clover Hill to Lonesome Pine Farm.  He now lives in Mobile but still enjoys visiting Lonesome Pine, as do his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Four-wheeling cousins
Since UnkaJim wasn't in residence today, we visited other parts of the farm inherited by his brother and sisters.  Jeanne and I rode ATVs with the Duncan boys down to an area along the creek which cousin Steve has dubbed Moccasin Lane.  This part of the farm was inherited by their high-spirited and fun-loving mother, our Aunt Claire.  Ever the Eagle scout, Rich started a fire in Steve's fire pit by the creek using just a flint.

Rich shows Jeanne how it's done.
While the cousins were chilling at the creek, Ken, David and the kids were fishing for dinner at what is affectionately called "Lake Jose," part of the farm which was handed down to our witty and widely traveled Uncle Joe.  Fishing at the pond was a favored activity when we were growing up, and Jeanne has introduced that enjoyment to her children and grandchildren.

What's for dinner?
Our final stop at the family farm was the pièce de résistance from the kids' perspective.  Yes, four-wheeling is cool, and fishing is fun, but for them, nothing can compete with the giant sandbox on that part of the farm that went to Nanamama in the division process.

The giant sandbox
Known locally as the gravel pit, this stretch of land is characterized by sandy topsoil over layers of clay and more sand.  It has been mined as a sand quarry for many years for local roads and other construction, leaving big granular hills perfect for kids to run up and slide down.

For older kids, the gravel pit offers a safe place for a bit of target practice.
The biggest problem with taking kids to the gravel pit is getting them to leave.  Never in my recollection has a kid declared him or herself ready to depart.  Even the teens like to go, albeit for a different reason.  Those who have AT&T cell service have no signal in this rural area—except from the top of the hills in the gravel pit.

There's some fried fish on that table, thanks to our fishermen, and Nanamama, our wonderful cook.
Another fine spread of down home cooking was awaiting us at Knightwood when we all returned from our farm adventures.  David quickly prepped the big catch, and Nanamama fried it up.  By then David's wife Tonya and son Andrew had arrived to join us, and we all ate until we coudn't.

The next day was Easter, and everyone dressed in their spring finery.  All too soon, it was time for us to depart so we could get Steven home to return to school the following day.  As much as we missed the cousins and siblings, aunts and uncles who couldn't be there, it was another fun time on the farm. 

On the way south, we stopped to visit nephew David at the University of West Alabama, his new coaching home.
Very close to the farm is the resting place of many other relatives.  We like to visit them also.
Cousins reunited:  Richard, Steve, Di, Tommy and Jeanne
Three of the Duncan boys (We all missed Bruce, who was in rehab in Tallahassee!)
Richard, a city boy on a country lane
Like the farmhouse, Lake Jose once had another name.  Our grandmother called it Mirror Lake, for obvious reasons.
Steven and Carson play "together", each on his individual device.  "We can talk; we just can't listen," Carson explained.
Sister J gets the big catch of the day.
As kids we called these sand columns with pebble tops "fairy castles," but I've never been able to find the real term for them.
Spring on Moccasin Lane
Look out below!  Here comes Lizzie!
David and family looking good, even without their Easter bonnets.