For 23 years we have spent at least part of the Thanksgiving week at our place in the Texas Hill Country. Sarah was 7 years old when we purchased the property and for the first couple of years Sarah and I stayed behind in the city to have Thanksgiving dinner with my parents and then we drove out that afternoon to finish the week with Rickie. It is unusual in my family to be absent at the holiday gatherings. But we soon realized we not only wanted to spend the time with Rickie but to spend as much time as possible here.
(Photo - Sarah the week we bought the property)
Rickie has always taken this week off from work to come out. It is a long drive and only at Thanksgiving, Christmas and summer vacation did we get to spend more than a couple of days at a time here. We didn’t spend much time here in the summer because of the heat.
For all but the last 6 years we stayed in a little travel trailer. It was in shape to qualify as a hunting camp but not much more than that. The many holes in the floor were patched and Rickie had to patch the roof every year where it leaked. It had leaked in the past before we had it and the kitchen ceiling was falling in and the cabinets were badly damaged. Much of it was held together with duck tape. We had only a small air conditioning unit to cool it and you could not stay inside during the day; it was just too hot. The A/C unit barely cooled it down at night.
So our favorite time of year to come was the fall and winter. When we all started coming out together we would eat Thanksgiving dinner at the one restaurant in town that had dinner that day. They prepared a turkey dinner with all the trimmings! We couldn’t cook much in our trailer. We only had a two burner camp stove. We found that we were not alone in spending this week out here! The place was overflowing with hunters who had come out to their leases. Most were from the Houston area, some from San Antonio and Dallas, and a lot of them brought their families since the kids were out of school that week. We had to make reservations to be sure we would get in!
One year we decided to cook at home and bring the food out here but that didn’t work too well. It was hard to heat the food up only using the stovetop. So we gave up on that idea. And one year when Sarah was in college we cooked and stopped by her apartment and ate then came out. And a couple of years we went back to have Thanksgiving with my parents.
But our hearts were always here. We long ago grew weary of living in the big city. What we found exciting there as young people had long since lost its appeal. We were held there only by our jobs which we needed to pay for the place out here.
(Photo - Rickie makes his famous chili!)
Sarah kept a box of art supplies and she and I read when rain or snow kept us inside. At night we would put a Louis L’Amour audio tape in the cassette player and all lay in bed in the dark listening to his tales. We had a tiny television but you could only get one channel and that only if conditions were right.
Sometimes our boys Larry and John (in photo), who were grown, would come out and bring the grandkids but they usually came when we weren’t here. There wasn’t room in the little travel trailer for more than 3 people so we would have to alternate when we came. Once when John and Natalie came it snowed and one of the little electric space heaters we used for heat went out. Nat remembers it as the time she almost froze inside the trailer and the time she made a little snowman on the picnic table!
(Photo - Sarah and a deer rub)
We keep a little tiny toy travel trailer on the bookshelf to remind us how it used to be in case we ever get to feeling sorry because we don’t have more room.
This year Rickie took off early and we were here together for a week and a half. John and Zac and Cam came out the first weekend to hunt. They helped Rickie cut and stack cedar while they were here. One day Rickie and I went to visit Sarah and Justin and Bixby and have a late Thanksgiving with them.
Rickie had to leave to go back to work just before the cold front blew in. We covered the tender plants in the garden and winterized the water system before he left. He filled the firewood bucket up for me and filled the hay rack for the longhorns.
I grew up in a big family where relatives were always around. And yet I’m not generally a person who gets lonely. I like my own company just fine and I like to do solitary activities like reading and walking the woods and working on whatever project I am doing at the moment. I’m comfortable with myself.
But I felt a sadness when Rickie left this time to go back to work. I’m thinking on those days long ago we spent in the trailer when Sarah was small and we lay at night listening as Tell Sackett went where The Lonely Men go or Texas Ranger Chick Bowdrie followed the trail of an outlaw.
As I sit by the fire tonight with the temperature outside dropping and the wind howling, I look forward to the time when Rickie will be back.
There’s all the news to tell him, how’d you spend your time, what’s the latest thing the neighbors say. There’s a fire softly burning, supper’s on the stove…..