Summer is coming! We are on the patio, wearing jackets, and enjoying the afternoon. The wind has a slight chill to it, but the sun is out, and we are anticipating the warm days ahead. Thinking of summer, makes us think of past vacation trips, especially those we took when the kids were young.
Pat and I were born and raised in Kansas but have been living in San Diego since 1958. After we had kids we made it a point to get back to Kansas every year to see our folks and let the kids get to know them.
As we made our vacation trips, we refined the route by considering road conditions, scenery and interesting places to stop (like trading posts and souvenir shops). Our favorite way to go was also the shortest so we were very happy about it. The best part was the trip through the White Mountains of eastern Arizona. We passed the copper mines of the Clifton and Morenci areas, went through the spectacular Salt River Canyon, and went through places with interesting names like Show Low, Pie Town, and Tucumcari.
Today, we’ve been talking about the summer Russ and Doug were 10 or 11 and Terri was 8 or 9. (None of us can remember). Pat’s Mom had invited the kids back to Kansas for the summer and they were going nuts with anticipation. To go fishing and boating with Grandma and Grandpa would be the most exciting thing that had ever happened.
Pat and I were trying to figure out how to make it happen. We didn’t have the money for airline tickets. I didn’t have any sick days or vacation time on the books, but Pat said she could work things out with her job and would take them. I wasn’t too crazy about the idea at first, but she convinced me that she would be fine. She was smart, had a lot of common sense, and was a good driver. Her car was in excellent condition. It was a 1969 Renault 4-door with standard transmission, “5 on the floor”. It was a small car, had” quick” steering, was easy and comfortable to drive, and the best part, was that it got 36 miles per gallon.
The day to leave finally arrived and Pat and the kids loaded up for an uneventful trip back to El Dorado, Kansas. Pat only got to visit with her folks for a couple of hours before getting a few hours sleep and heading for home the next day.
The time spent with Grandma Melba and Grandpa Eddie provide the kids with experiences and memories they will never forget. The grandparents spent a lot of their time outdoors, fishing, camping, boating, and shooting. They were thrilled to have someone to share it with and immediately got the kids involved in all kinds of new things. One of the big outings was an overnight camping trip at Lake El Dorado. After a full day of running around, the kids went right to sleep in the camping trailer. During the night, Melba and Eddie were awakened by the screaming of the city’s tornado warning sirens. Not one kid woke up, they were down for the
count. Melba and Eddie didn’t have the heart to wake them and decided to stay right where they were and take their chances. A few days later, the kids got to experience the adrenaline rush of a tornado alert when the sirens went off and they got to spend a few hours in the neighbor’s cellar.
Eddie enjoyed archery so one day they went out in the country and learned what bows and arrows were about. Russ and Doug were starting to get some size on them, but Terri was still small, so it wasn’t as much fun for her. Doug remembers that even with a protector strapped to your forearm, that bowstring inflicted a lot of pain when you shot an arrow.
The house was just as entertaining as any place. It was a 2-story house with the garage occupying the lower floor and the living quarters upstairs. Eddie kept his fishing boat in the garage and he had a lot of tools and fishing equipment there also. He had a wood lathe in there also and helped each kid turn a lamp from a beautiful piece of black walnut.
The yard was just as much fun as the garage. There was a rope swing hanging from a very tall tree that the kids all enjoyed. The most fascinating thing in the yard was the discovery of the locust (cicada) shells attached to the bark of the trees. We don’t have cicadas in southern California so finding the shells or exoskeletons on the trees was intriguing. The kids foraged throughout the neighborhood and collected all the shells in sight. They brought them back to the house and hung them all on the side of one of the elm trees. One of the neighbors said he had never seen so many locust shells in one place.
One morning was spent shooting Blue Rock. Blue Rock was a brand of clay pigeon sold by Remington. The boys were old enough and big enough to really enjoy this. Terri wanted to shoot, too, so Melba went over the gun safety rules with her and showed her how to hold the shotgun’s stock tight against you to minimize bruising. Then, Melba stood behind her with her hands on Terri’s shoulders so the recoil wouldn’t knock her down. Terri said that it hurt but she really had fun.
At the beginning of the vacation, when they were out driving on country roads, Eddie stopped the car whenever he saw a box tortoise. He kept a lookout for the turtles until each kid had one. This was aa fascinating treat as we don’t have box tortoises in southern California. They kept the tortoises and fed and cared for them until the vacation was over and then turned them loose.
Russ, Doug, and Terri had a summer that was full of “firsts” and highlights. They saw and experienced things that we don’t have in southern California like lightning bugs, cicada shells, chiggers, and tornado sirens. They got to shoot skeet and fish for blue gill also. I’ll end this by recounting one of the stories that Russ will never forget. They were in the car and traveling down a country road. Melba was driving. Russ was riding shotgun in the front passenger seat and Doug and Terri were in the back seat. Russ was watching the countryside while Melba and
the other two kids were jabbering and laughing. Russ saw a semi pulling a Russ kept his eyes on the truck as it was a pretty wide truck to be meeting on this narrow country road. stock trailer loaded with cattle approaching. As they closed within a few yards, at least two of the cattle started urinating, spraying the yellow liquid into the lane of their oncoming car. Russ tried to interrupt the levity of the other three in the car. He wanted to yell, “Grandma, roll up your window!” but it was too late. The yellow stream struck her in the face and knocked her glasses off. At first, they were all in shock as Melba brought the car to a stop. Then, Then, the kids broke out laughing as Melba tried to collect herself and dry her face.
The wonderful summer with their grandparents ended. The grandparents were worn out and the kids’ heads were crammed full of stories of their adventures.
Dave and Pat Thomas May 16, 2018
P.S. There is more to this story and we’ll tell you about it in Patio Talk 8b: Mi Pat’s Wild Ride.