Good old Palestine—not the Middle-East version, but my East Texas home town, pronounced “Palesteen.” For several months I had been catching up online with some of my sister’s high school friends, whose older siblings happened to be my friends. As familiar-sounding names came up, I often dipped into my junior- and senior-year annuals to refresh my memory. (Let me just pause right now and give thanks to my Creator that I no longer look like that!)
So Robert, the “point man” for the group, told me about a campout that some of the guys enjoy every April. He invited us to stop by since we expected to be in town for a bike ride the same weekend. However, he warned me that they mostly slouch, eat barbecue and smoke cigars or some such. None of the girls would likely be there, since they would not be caught with the sorry likes of them, and so on.
I imagined half a dozen scruffy, disreputable-looking guys propped up around a fire ring with several hot dogs grilling over it, a tarp, and maybe two pine-sap-encrusted logs to sit on. And my expectations dropped with each subsequent comment from Robert.
When we arrived at the meeting point, Robert’s wife led us in to the property. We followed her car down a dirt road through a thick cloud of dust, just hoping that we were still behind her. Brent muttered something about an instrument rating. Then we came out of the woods and bumped across a wide meadow toward a cluster of… wooden structures?
Yes, there at the edge of some trees stood two solidly-built open-air shelters. Padded cots were lined up under the larger one, but the hub of the operation was the smaller shelter. It had a back wall and housed one of those big ol’ redneck smokers, which as we approached was sending out a miraculous combination of aromas.
In the excitement of reuniting with the now-grown-up teenagers I remembered from 30+ years ago, I almost forgot about the yummy smoky smells. Then Robert let us peek inside the smoker. Not a hot dog in sight – instead we found a brisket, a double row of potatoes (each slightly smaller than my car) and a whole… pineapple? I think there was some other stuff in there but the gently browning pineapple distracted my attention.
But there was more to the camp. Robert opened the door of what looked like a tool shed but which turned out to be a fully-appointed bathroom, complete with curtained window, antique-style tub, sink, and actual flushing toilet. The walls, painted a tasteful dark green, were decorated with deer antlers in all sizes. One conveniently-located pair of antlers held two rolls of toilet paper. I studied the decorative glowing lights strung around the walls just below the ceiling. “Are those… shotgun shells?” I asked.
“Yep, shotgun shell Christmas lights—I saw those at Sears and couldn’t resist,” Robert said, adding modestly, “We ran electric and water out here awhile back.” A roofless, corrugated-metal enclosure next door proved to be a shower stall. Turning back toward the shady central area, which was surrounded by a picnic table and camp chairs – not logs – I saw a staircase leading up to some sort of loft at the end of the shade structure. Two porch swings hung from the shelter’s beams. Then I noticed the two refrigerators in the back of the kitchen shelter.
I’m pretty sure my mouth hung open for the first ten minutes we were there. This place was waaaaay more civilized than I had been led to believe. Why, Robert even wore a button shirt. He looked better than I did.
We all sat down to visit in earnest, and I got acquainted with Daisy. Daisy is a long-legged, goofy-but-lovable tan dog with a lower jaw that sticks out like a kitchen drawer and fails to adequately contain her yard or so of wet tongue. Rumor has it she can lick the back of her own head.
Then guitars started coming out of hiding, and we had an impromptu serenade / jam session. There is nothing like homemade music played in a setting of absolute quiet. I sat in the shade with Brent and our old friends, a breeze ruffling the highest branches, soaking in the tunes and occasionally sharing thoughts with one or another of the guys. I relaxed from deep inside me as I had not done all year.
When it was time to start home, Brent and I took turns in the bathroom. That’s when I saw the poster above the toilet. “You might be a redneck,” it advised, “if you have deer mounted in your bathroom.”
Well, now I know.
Thanks for reading!
PS: I am linking up with my even-more-civilized Company Girl friends at Home Sanctuary!