Friday, May 25, 2007

Memorial Memories

My family, the extended family, didn't get together much. Kendra is amazed that I do not know my cousins as she knows her cousins. Kendra's family is huge! Both her Mom and Dad have seven brothers and sisters, all with children, and some of those have children. Their family reunions run into the hundreds, all family, all close. There have been times that this closeness causes some discomfort, but by and large there is a great blessing to be said for having a large family. When Kendra and I were engaged and came time for me to meet the family I was petrified. We were in Oklahoma City and Kendra's family was in Sterling City, Texas. It was about a seven hour drive from OKC to SC, TX. I had never been to Texas before I went with Kendra.

The entire drive there I was busy learning the names of all her aunts and uncles. We focused mainly on her Mom's side of the family since we would be seeing more of them than on her Dad's. "Ok, all you have to do is call my grandpa Paw, Paw; my Grandma...Grandma; Then there is my Aunt Kathy and Uncle John they have John B, Margaret, and Katherine, my Aunt Jerry, Uncle Kelly, who have Candace, Chris, and Dustin, my Aunt Janice who has..." you can imagine how my head was spinning and we weren't even to the third aunt! I knew I was doomed, doomed. Entering situations that I've never been in, not knowing what is going to happen really keyes me up. Meeting my future wife's family on their turf for the first time is a butt-clench that I still feel to this day! Holy Cow it was awkward.

The drive to Sterling City was long, I felt as though I was pushing that car and not riding in it. We drove mostly in the dark because we both had to work before we left town. We were in Kendra's Nissan, little 5-speed Sentra, that was such a good car. There was a point in the drive to Sterling that I realized we had left civilization. I'm a city boy and used to wide roads and street lights to guide my way. We were in the toolies of Texas and there were no lights, no wide roads, no homes, no hills, just flat, barren, darkness. "Where are we?" "We are just about to Bronte?" "What's that?" "A town, we'll go through about six town before we get to Sterlin City." My wife has one of the best Texas accents around, I love to hear her talk.

After Robert Lee (a town) we hit the long stretch of road. Now when I say long stretch of Road I'm talking about Sacajawea saying, "Long river." This road is two lane, no lights, and about thirty minutes of driving straight, literally in a straight line. "Help me watch for buzzards." "What!" "Buzzards, oh yeah and deer, too." "I cant' see a thing." "Well you have to watch for buzzards and deer because they come up to the road at night, the buzzards want to eat the dead deer that people hit. And the deer are just stupid." As if I couldn't be more clinched the thought of encountering a buzzard feasting on the dead carcass of a deer was just too much. Where I'm from you just don't have to worry about that at all!

After completing the longest drive of my life, we turned left. "Now where are we?" "See that light up ahead?" "Yes, what is it?" "Well in about twenty minutes it's going to turn into Sterlin City." Twenty more minutes, at least this stretch of road was two lane divided highway. "Sterling county is the only county in Texas with one town-Sterlin." That bit of trivia is still amazing to me. "You have all the names down of my family, you are going to meet them tomorrow, my uncles will want you to go hunting with them." "What!" I had never hunted anything (well except the sale clothes rack) in my life. I didn't' know the first thing about stalking prey, killing it, I couldn't go hunting! I also did not bring the appropriate clothing for hunting. "Maybe I'll just stick by you (as a blood tick clings to it's host for dear life)." "What's my Mom's name?" "Ok, there's Ken and Billy, Devin and Mindy." "Good, my sister leaves tomorrow, but we'll get to see her a little bit. I'm sure they are up." It was around 1am and I was dead tired.

"Here we are." Sterling city is small. Currently, there is a huge truck stop (Town and Country) a grocery store (Hitchin Post) a Hardware store (Ross Hardware/funeral home) the bank, the post office, a Mom and Pop Pizza Mexican anything else place to eat, and Dairy Queen. You cannot be a Texas town and NOT have a DQ. At the time we were (which is now about 12 years) there Kendra's aunt and uncle had a grocery store as well. At their grocery store all you did was walk in find your groceries and sign this little slip of paper. That's it, the billed you. I had never seen anything like that my entire life.

When we got to Kendra's house her brother and sister were sure enough up and waiting for us. I had met Devin one other time. He's chatty cathy and full of trivia. Devin is one of my favorite people, you can't help but love him you just can't. He's married now and has three kiddos. He could be a whole entire post that Devin. I'll just leave it as him being one of my favorite people in the world.

I went to bed in the guest room. There was a ceiling fan in this room that I am sure was the propeller for a small engine. This fan created more wind in this room than you can imagine. I could feel the skin on my face peeling off it was unbelievable. The room was great, very comfortable, and...breezy! I never have trouble going to sleep and this was no exception. Even though I went to bed very late, I still woke up early--butt crack of dawn to be exact. I had to go to the bathroom. I couldn't walk out of the room and meet her parents for the first time before she woke up. I just couldn't. It was to awkward, just too awkward. This part of my personality undoes Mildred, who could chat up anyone! It was two hours before I heard Kendra get up--my bladder was about to explode. Had the window been big enough i would have crawled out the window peed in the yard and crawled back in. I heard the first sign of life--finally! "Hi sis.." "Hi Mom." I found out later that Kendra Dad said, "You better go get that boy, or he'll never come out of that room." He was exactly right, I would still to this day be in that room 12 years later, impacted and bloated--dead as a doornail. Her family was great. I felt at home from the very first time that I met them. Very hospitable, very Texan. Her family is a hoot, and I love to hear her tell stories about them.

The beauty of Steling City is one that you have to either love automatically or be born into, it just doesn't' come right out and hit you. I'm from the lush hill country of Missouri: Mark Twain National Forrest, Boston Mountains" Sterling City is flat ranch land. I have grown to love the southwestern landscape, but at first I struggled to see any beauty in this place.

Almost every man in the town wears a white cowboy hat and drives a truck. their face and arms are deep, dark brown while their foreheads are white as pure driven snow. The black and white photos of the ranchers crack me up because there are these tan fellas with snow white foreheads. Those cowboy hats are their saving grace I'm sure. I can't imagine what the sun would do to them if they didn't have those hats on.

Two other stories about Sterling then I'll shut up. First, the freezer. I wanted to cook dinner with Kendra and we had decided to make spaghetti. "The ground beef is in the freezer." I went to their upright freezer and looked for the meat. "It's in the bottom bin." Ok. I was picking up wal-mart sacks with kielbasa in them to get to the meat. "Will, do you know what you are holding?" "Sacks full of sausage." Kendra did not attempt to contain her laughter and began to roar! "N...n...n...o...i...t...i...s...s..n..a..k..e" "What did you say?" "They are rattlesnakes, you better put them back before they thaw." At that precise moment I had the energy to run, like Forrest Gump back to Oklahoma City non-stop! "Why in the sam hill would you have rattlesnakes in your freezer?" Turns out Kendra's dad hunted snakes for a living at one time and still caught them from time to time. He would put them in these sacks alive and place them in the freezer where they would coil up and die. They still love to talk about that around the dinner table and I still open the freezer with extreme caution!

Second. We were all in the back yard, which is beautiful. They have the most peaceful yard with cool Bermuda that is like walking on carpet. So nice. As we were all siting around chatting on the gazebo I looked down and saw a tarantula crawling between my legs. It was all I could do to not scream like a girl and do a clog dance on that sucker! "Uh...there is a tarantula between my legs..." Kendra's dad casually walked over, picked it up. "These things will not bite you, go ahead and hold it." I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to touch a tarantula. "That's ok, I believe you." Please God, don't put it in the freezer! The tarantula is a welcome sight in Texas because they are great at pest control. No fun for a City Slicker, but none the less occupying a good spot in the circle of life.

Our boys love going to Granny's house, Teensy has yet to make the trip. We are still very afraid to get too far away from Doctor's that know us and our teensy. One day we'll make the trek to Sterling City and I'm sure she'll love it as much as we do.


Tracy said...

snakes in the freezer and tarantulas between your legs
i'm with you
i'm too much of a city girl and
and and
i'd still be in thaat room too!!!!!
now i could get out of that room and introduce myself if necessary on the way to the can - but way back when my dh and i were dating... i'd explode b4 i left the room!
your description of texas makes me think of my visit to phoenix. however i dont see much beauty in all that dirt, rock and just browness. i'm too east coast. i gotta have me some trees (think large numbers... like forests)... and pretty countryside that doesnt look like it needs a big fat drink.

Donna said...

No, William, that drive to Sterling City is 1300 hours. I'm sure of it.
Now, get that bow down and put some coo whip in it.