Growing up, my mama worked weekends at the local hospital as a nurse which meant that Daddy was our sole caregiver. When we weren’t eating Happy Meals and watching weekend Baseball games, we spent time with my Pops and my grandparents. I loved spending time at my grandparent’s house—we played in their big backyard, their flower garden, and cooked things my Mama would have never allowed. God Bless grandparents! My most memorable times with them weren’t at their house, though, they were in the woods. My Gramps was a member of a couple of local Hunting Clubs and took us there in the off-season. A side note about Gramps, although he is a big talker, and a tough guy (you kinda have to be after building houses for most of your life) he couldn’t bring himself to hunt anything bigger than a hog. The thing is, he wouldn’t even kill those because the cleaning process was too stinky and disgusting, so he stuck to hunting squirrels. And he was a good squirrel hunter, just ask Grammy who had to cook all those little guys. Anyway, Gramps loved to take me and my little brother to the woods. Grammy would pack the perfect picnic, we would all load up in the Wagoneer and head out for a day of walking, talking, and spotting lots of cool Florida critters.
One particular day stands out in my memory. It started out like all the others, we went over to Grammy and Grampy’s house and as Grammy put the finishing touches on lunch, packing all the fixins in a laundry basket, her signature style, Grampy loaded up the Wagoneer with some chairs, a folding table, and the ice chest. Dad got in the front seat beside Gramps and my brother, Grammy, and I piled into the back seat. Grammy was a petite, little woman, but don’t tell her that! What she lacked in height, she made up for in spunk and heart…mostly heart. She was a beautiful soul made everyone feel important, just by the way she listened--always looking, not interjecting, letting you take your time to say what you were saying, and then responding sincerely and complimentary. As we sat in the back seat, my bro and I argued over who would tell Grammy their story!
This day, we drove the thirty or so minutes to the Hunting Club excited for a delicious picnic lunch and some outdoor adventures. Once through the gate, we took a familiar dirt path through pines and oaks and the occasional magnolia. The road was a little bumpy and muddy that day because of a recent rain, but we drove along talking, being silly, and asking “are we there yet?” Us backseat travelers were caught off guard when we slowed down and then stopped. Silence. We looked in front of us and saw that the road turned into a small lake, with woods on one side and a low fence on the other, definitely no room to drive around. My Dad and Gramps discussed what we were gonna do. Back up a long way down this one lane road? Go through on the left, near the woods? On the right, near the fence? Either way, they both seemed confident that the Wagoneer could make it through. The back seat crew gasped as we began our aquatic adventure. We drove a little into this puddle-lake, and heaved a sigh of relief, we were gonna make it. Then the tires started spinning, even I knew that was not a good sound. We were stuck. And sinking. Oh, Dear Lord. I remember some maneuvering back and forth to try and fix the situation, but ultimately my Dad got out. It was decided we would evacuate the vehicle and one of the guys would walk to get help. Remember, we’re miles in the woods, on a pretty much empty piece of property. Now, Gramps and Dad are out and the three of us deflated picnickers are sitting in the back seat. Dad opened my door, and as he did, water starting seeping in. He carried me, my brother, and Grammy out of the Wagoneer and onto dry land. Whew! We didn’t have our normal picnic that day, but I do remember Grammy giving us some drinks and food she grabbed out of the vehicle as the water rose. And you know what, that made for an even better than usual day. In the end some guys in a big truck came along and pulled us out. After completely new flooring and engine work, the Wagoneer was at it again.
The day didn’t turn out at all like we expected, and at times, it seemed it was a total disaster, but in the end it is a muddy, messy adventure that I will treasure for the rest of my life.
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