As a kid, I used to lament more or less that every September back at school I didn’t get to write a story about having gone to Disneyland in the summertime. Everyone I knew went to Disneyland for their summer vacations. Except me. Well, almost everyone. But, not my family and me. No, instead, I always had tales to tell about going to ‘the farm’ of my paternal grandparents as well as another ranch-style farm of my maternal cousins in southern Alberta Canada. Sometimes I had to get a smidge creative in the telling. I wanted good marks, and I didn’t want to feel embarrassed that my Dad wouldn’t ever spring for Disneyland.
Without much invention or exaggeration, I always managed to spin an interesting-enough yarn about all the adventures I had experienced and created with siblings and cousins. I gradually learned that the ‘farm stories’ were strangely so very interesting, that beyond always getting a top mark from the teacher, many of the kids I knew in school wanted to trade their lavish yearly Disneyland vacations for the real-life adventures in and around the Bennett and Dudley barnyards. Wow. Who’da thunk it? But, it was sort of like going to a Dude Ranch. Maybe the poor man’s Dude Ranch. The poor kid’s Dude-ish Ranch. Something like that. Over some years, I grew to realize how very comparatively special those summers were.
After arriving to the distinctive barnyard KO-punch aroma that stuck in your nose for a long ten minutes, you’d finally sleep in either a tent-trailer, a tent, or an old abandoned bunk-house with the ‘was or should have been forgotten’ outhouse in the too-near distance, or in a new or old-creepy ‘sort of root cellar’ basement, or maybe even up in a stinkin’ hot attic bedroom if you were one of the lucky cousins.
Excessively early in the mornings, you would rise to the smell of Grandma Bennett’s bacon, eggs of all kinds and sorts, stacks of real farm-freshly-churned-buttered toast, mountains of flap-jacks (hotcakes/pancakes), more than enough ‘thick, lumpish, sticky and gooey’ oatmeal porridge and maybe even some familiar cold cereal if Grandpa Bennett allowed you to be that ‘gall-darn city-kid’ fussy.
But wait, there was more. More food. I forget what else, but enough food to feed at least a dozen big manly hungry Ranch-hands preparing for a long day ‘til noon of workin’ and sweatin’ on the range. That’s why all that ‘table for maybe sixteen’ of food was pretty cold by the time the whole dang family was at the table and somebody’d said grace to bless it all. There was a ton of vittles, but there were never any complaints about how so much that was supposed to be hot, was not. Grandpa wouldn’t have allowed anything said against his darlin’ wife’s mealtime offerings.
When all the gobbling of breakfast was done, whether or not you helped Grandma with the dishes and all or not, you’d dash for the outdoors. We were all generally required to stay outside until the big brass bell clanged for lunchtime. So we would dash. To the barn, the barnyard, to any given haystack (built with giant bail bricks of golden hay, as big or bigger than starter homes), to any number of fields or pastures, to visit corrals of cows or horses, to hunt for one of fifty to one hundred semi-tame to wild cats for petting and playtime (or too oftentimes scratches), to one of several ponds and so forth. My sister and I always went for the horses. We always wanted to ride. All day long. But more often than not, while waiting for permission and proper saddling, we fed them, petted them, talked to and climbed atop them bareback. Just being with the horses was nearly enough.
And when you heard Grandma’s gargantuan bell clang to call you back home for eats again, you’d run like the Dickens towards the farmhouse. Sometimes we might have been a mile or few out, but we’d hear that bell ringing us in. Grandma’s lunch spread was a good deal like breakfast. Various sandwiches, some sort of Gelatin salad, the classic Potato Salad, maybe some cold fried chicken, yesterday’s fresh milk from the Holstein or Jersey cows, and I forget what else. But with Grandma Bennett, there was always more and to spare. A good deal more than all of us could ever possibly eat. And when that midday meal was done, we’d all be off and away, running wild and into danger at many turns, on our Grandparents’ land once more. Until the bell tolled us in for suppertime.
There was also fun and games in the dark after supper and before a country early bedtime. And counting stars. Plus ghost stories. Before I tell all, I suppose I’ll tell instead that I’ve begun work on a fictional series strongly based on my childhood summer vacation farm adventures. I’m sure Disney vacation experiences are thrilling for many and all, but who knows if my Disneyland memories would have ignited the imaginings that compel me to write childhood stories now. After all, for me, the farm was where it was at. Give me a horse-filled Dude Ranch over a land of Disney any summer’s day. My heart and soul live on horseback, back in time.
But, wait, this was going to be all about my grandsons coming for the summer to spend their vacation time with Gramps and Grani Williamson. No, I didn’t take my grandsons to Disneyland or Disneyworld this last month and some. No, I don’t own ‘Pony Country’. Yet. No farm or ranch. Not even an acreage. Just a big sprawling yard round a sizeable house with a couple of big hills out back. Of course I’d love to give my grandkids a big sprawling ranch to run wild on, but would I really let them run crazy wild like we did those decades ago? No. I can’t imagine that. I’d worry about my little ones if they were running wild outside. I like to supervise and stuff. And besides, I want to enjoy as many minutes making happy memories with them as I can while they are here for their vacation of a visit. Yes, this Granma spoiled the grandsons with Lego and fruit, movies and popcorn, cookies and juice-bars, water-fights and ice-creams, tickles and giggles, smiles and hugs, and the fun list could go on. Mostly, I took in their sweet smiles and laughs, their cute chatter and shenanigans. It was good medicine to me. And when we all waved our last goodbyes ‘til next time, I felt an instant melancholy missing them already.