Symbols memories: Hobbs pond

16 May

The yellow Canoe slipped in the water at Hobbs pond as Al held the gunwale. I boarded her, then held my paddle stuck in the bottom mud until Al boarded. Paddling gently we navigated through the reeds, listening to the redwinged blackbird’s protecting their nesting territory from the invaders. We kept to the open water on our way to the wider section of the lake.

As we came around the bend headed to open water we saw a flurry of activity over to the left. Every time we took our canoe out we look for birds and wildlife, scanning rushes, rocks, lake bottoms and shoreline. We paddled quietly and speak softly to each other, and have been rewarded with many sightings

This day our luck was in. On a tree branch hanging out old water we saw a pair of goldfinches chattering. We sunk our paddles in the mud to hold us steady and stopped to watch. In front of our eyes, near the clump of reeds we saw a baby goldfinch teetering on a slimmer read. As the parent birds continued to call him back he took a faltering flight and landed on the low branch of the tree encouraged by his success he flew near to the parent birds paragraph.

“Look,” I said to Al, “they are teaching the baby to fly.” As we turned our eyes back to the reeds in the water we saw another baby goldfinch trembling as he grasped his swaying read. We held our breaths as steady as our paddles held the canoe in place. Hesitantly the baby flew up, to the encouragement of his parents.

We stayed still and quiet as we gently turned our heads back to the reeds. Sure enough another goldfinch ventured up the reedy stem an answer to the parents cries, and flew up to the tree branch. Eventually four baby finches rested in the tree.

As we watched in awe the parents then encouraged the babies to fly from one limb to another, until they were able to fly away. Turning our canoe out of the reeds back into the mainstream we slowly paddle on. The clear water, warm sun and soft breezes and the miracle of the birds made a special day.


Sybel’s Memories

27 Mar

We planned our camping trip to Shoal Bay carefully, making sure our canoe, bikes and lawn chairs, as well as the food for the five night stay were included. Our camping companions included Vera and Buddy, Charlie and Doris, and my sister Lorene.

Buddy and Vera arrived first and parked thier camper in the “honeymoon suite”, so-called because the campsite, located right near the beach, stood in a lonely isolation from all the other campsites. A black top driveway led to two trailer slots, and the third camper fitted nicely on the end of the driveway, perfect for our kind of family camping and fun.

Before we got completely set up, with our name board and decorative lights hung outside, we heard the honking of a Canada goose. He came running, reached his long neck out, expecting a handout.

“Got any bread?” Al asked me.

“Sure,” knowing what he wanted it for. I rummaged around my grocery box, found the bread and handed him a heel.

Of course feeding the goose made him our constant companion for several days. One day Al walked up the steep hill to the bathhouse, and busily lathered up for a shave when he heard the awful honking outside. He put his shaving gear down, looked out the door, and saw the goose waiting impatiently for him to come out. “How did that goose know I was there?” He wondered. Not hard to figure out, as that goose followed him everywhere.

In the morning I took my watercolors, pad and small table under one arm, and my lawn chair under the other and walked down to the beach to paint the bay and the mountains beyond. The goose came running up the beach and poked around in my painting supplies. No bread there, and soon he waddled on up to the camper for his daily bread handout.

One morning Vera, buddy, Al and I decided to take our canoes out and paddle around the point and out to the highway bridge over the creek.

We turned our canoes right side up, fastened seats in, donned lifejackets, tossed our paddles in and carried it down to the shore. Al held the canoe close to the shore while I climbed in, and I held steady with my paddle while he climbed in. We paddled a few feet out in the water to wait for Vera and Buddy to get situated too, then turned our bows into the waves and headed out.

We paddled slowly, savoring the day when Al said “look who’s behind us.”

I turned to see our friend the goose paddling along behind us. Soon he reached us, paddle between our two canoes and settled down for the trip. Occasionally he would dive under and come up on the outside of one of the canoes and swim alongside for a while.

We heard the putt putt of a fishing boat in the distance. As the boat drew near the fisherman spotted the goose paddling along with us. They watched as long as they kept us insight. We made quite a picture.

As we paddled parallel to the shore we saw several pairs of geese, followed by their goslings, swimming along the shoreline, but our friend made no attempt to join them.

Later in the week that goose deserted us, and we didn’t understand why. We discovered later that someone down of the marina began feeding him M&Ms.

Dry bread can’t hold a candle to M&Ms.

Sybel’s memories, ghost houses

7 Mar

We drove through Quintin, Oklahoma, the day of aunt Sadie’s funeral, out to the Quintin Cemetery. After the committal service I wandered through the cemetery, reading names of family members, friends and neighborhood families on the simple gravestones.

Driving back through Quintin, my brother Charlie pointed to a pleasant meadow at the edge of the woods, that crowned a small hill.

“That’s where our old house stood” he said, “and there is where the Mings’ house stood, and there the Higgins lived.”

“Oh yes, Hazel and Verna Mings lived on that corner. I remember them.”

Only one house still stood, all alone, and neither Charlie nor I could remember the name of the family who lived there.

“Up there where that group of outbuildings are is where Sylvester Mills lived. He was in my room in school. He was Indian,” I mused. I kind of liked Sylvester when I was in the fourth grade.

As Charlie drove along the gravel highway I looked at the Prairie remembered as a child and it had shrunk, or so it seemed to me now. Other memories, long forgotten, floated through our heads as we continued our journey.

“There is where grandpa and grandma Butler lived. They had a storm cellar. We stayed all night at grandma’s house the night Merle was born.”

“When Al and I were first married”, I continued, “we came with mama and daddy over to Quintin to see grandpa and grandma. It came up a storm and everyone headed out the back porch door, across a few feet of the yard to the cellar door. Al didn’t want to go to the cellar. I think he was more afraid of what might be in there (like snakes) then he was of the storm.”

I looked back over my shoulder as we drove on by and headed out of town. I probably will never see the place again. And perhaps the assortment of cousins, grown up since I had seen them last, had children and grandchildren of their own.

The only tie we have left is the tie to Butler blood kin, and the only one I know who still lives there is my cousin Bill Butler. I Know of no other.

Sybel’s Memories Al goes to the hospital

6 Mar

Truly it was an unplanned visit! The work is progressing nicely at the Barling First Baptist Church on work night. Al was pleased as he put away his tools and started for home. He had parked car by the first sidewalk, instead of the second, as he usually did. Since Barling First Baptist has two front doors, it has two covered sidewalks. The right hand one is the most used, but Al had parked near the left door. The lights out, the door closed behind him, he walked down and stepped towards the car… Only the pavement dropped off there, and Al lost his balance and fell heavily against the car. Brushing it off, he assured the men he was okay.

But his neck got sore and a day or two later we made a trip to the emergency room for treatment. Al decided not to go to aunt Sadies funeral as his neck still pained him dreadfully. I had gotten me a new permanent and a ride with the rest of the family here, so I went ahead to the funeral. I was surprised and pleased to hear her pastor say how active she had become the church, and nameed shut-ins she had visited and other kinds of deeds she had done. The pastor read my favorite passage of Scripture, John 14:1-6.

After the cortage to the cemetery, where I wondered after the committal service, I saw graves of people I had known in my Oklahoma childhood. Charlie drove us around Quintin afterward and I saw the vacant lot where our old  school stood, and remembered the names and houses of several the neighboring families. I had a lot to tell when I got home.

Al’s neck continued to hurt, and I woke up on Saturday morning to find his side of the bed empty, and discovered him in a chair in the living room. Soon he came in and said “I think I need to go to the hospital. It feels heavy right here in my chest. I may be having a heart attack.”

Recalling the instructions I passed out with the plea for money gifts for the American Heart Association “before you call the ambulance give the patient aspirin, it may save his life.” Well I didn’t call the ambulance, but I gave him an aspirin, and dressed as quickly as I could, and drove him to St. Edwards Hospital before daylight. It is about 3 miles straight down Rogers Avenue from Barling. He walked into the emergency room, sat down and gave them all his medical information, before they got a wheelchair and took them to a room, and monitor on him.

I called brother Mark, our pastor, and then Charlie. We have a camper for sale and had two men call on Friday and they plan to come and look at it on Saturday, so Charlie came over and stayed, but they never showed up. (We still have the camper, too much to worry about it now.)

The nurse got a wheelchair and moved Al out, then he was put on a stretcher and moved room 3402 and hooked up to an IV. I settled in beside his bed, where I stayed for two days and two nights. The nurse found a breakfast for him, but he didn’t feel like eating, but I was so hungry so I ate it. After a while Charlie came to the hospital to check on him, and said the two men never showed up to look at the trailer. Boy, that was the least of my worries right then! When Charlie went home he emailed all the boys for us. David Called at the hospital and talked to both of us. Dan and Joan says a gorgeous bouquet of flowers, which is still blooming today on my long table in the dining room area of the kitchen. (I kept in the hospital room until today, since I know he’s coming home in the morning.)

When I got home I called Willie about the church building project. Told him where to pick up the finished boards Al and I stained on our patio, so he could finish around the sound booth, since the carpet people were coming in a day or two, and all the work in there needed to be finished before the It was laid.

I picked up the mail, and there was a box with my new Easter dress and shoes and I was glad to get them in the house. I checked them out, and they will be nice for Easter.

I stayed with Al for two days and nights and I was there when they did the sonogram. What a fascinating thing that was there on the TV screen, a moving picture of Al’s heart, in full color, as it pulsed and moved. Later the technician enlarged parts of it for a better look. At one point Al said “that looks like a valve.” And the technician said “it is.”

Two men came in from Fianna Hills with Al’s doctor. One of them an Episcopal minister, grinned and flipped his fingers and told Al he’d given in the last rights! Al loves to tell visitors about it. The other doctor said “there’s nothing wrong with your heart!” I gave him the “praying hands” sign and he smiled at me.

When it was time for the stress test, I watched with a worried look on my face, as Al walked out surrounded by nurses, with his hand clutching the back flap of the Johnny, trying to keep it closed. One of the entourage of doctors and nurses said “well I don’t know what they’ve got you in here for!”

One of the nurses in his room was a little oriental girl and she told us her story and showed us her diamond ring… Later on she filled in more details of her six year courtship before she finally agreed to marry the guy after he became a Christian like she is.

Al had oxygen from tubes inserted in his nostrils, monitor cords fixed to his chest, and his name tag on his wrist. Most of the time he slept. I sat beside him patiently. He told me to bring a book to read but I haven’t done it. One of the nurses brought in a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Dan and David called us, and Paul called us. He was so good to have these boys to talk to. A comfort to us.

At 3:40 a nurse came in and changed all Al’s batteries. She said they have a room where they monitor the heart batteries. Later when Dr. Calloway came in he unhooked the tubes. They have about decided that the pain was caused by his blood pressure being too high, and are giving him medicine to lower that.

I came home during the day to pick up the mail and feed Bill Bailey. This day Al told me to stay home and get some rest tonight and hopefully he’ll come home tomorrow.

Mary Addy (from our church) call to see how Al is, and tell me the people at the center have signed a card for him… where should she send it, and I said “home.” She reported that Bobby Belt taught our class Sunday night, and did a good job. So now we know who we can ask to teach it while we are in Maine. Our teacher died of heart disease since we were in Maine last.

What the heart gives away is never gone. It is kept in the hearts of others. Robin St. John.

We keep you all in our hearts.

Sybel’s Memories Our trip to Louisana …continued

28 Feb

Most interesting was the cemetery. The walk on guide told us the graves are above ground because of the high water table and the flooding that often took place in this low land.

Each mausoleum had names and birth and death dates of each family member buried there. And sometimes names of slaves that were buried with the family. In order to contain all the family, the bodies that had turned to dust were in enterred in a crypt in the base of the monument. It was sad to see listed deaths of so many small children. The guide told us the monuments were handed down through the family by deed just as any other real estate.

We stopped in a park and all descended on the building housing the restrooms and snack bar. I chose an ice cream cup nameed “chubby hubby”. It had all kinds of good stuff in it… Nuts, Caramello, tiny marshmallows, etc. And was absolutely delicious just like husbands.

A lot of the group went down to the French Quarter this afternoon. We came back to the hotel to rest up for tonight’s dinner at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Company restaurant. That will be our last Louisiana experience.

Thursday night: Boy this afternoon we sacked out! We were so tired. Half or more of our group went down to Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, but we all joined together to go to the restaurant. Sue, Bo, Al and I said at a table for four and the restaurant with a lot of Forrest Gump Momento’s we enjoyed talking together. Sue has been so busy keeping the trip going, but she tries to spend some time with each couple or group.

Bourbon Street was a noisy place since there had been something that required police cars red lights and sirens on down the street. We did not discover what it was.

After we finished our dinner a group of eight mule drawn carriages pulled up in front of the restaurant. Al and I went up and petted the first mule and then climbed into the front seat with the black driver. We went up Bourbon Street and around several blocks onto another street and then into the Italian section. Our driver was well-informed and in addition to answering our questions, speaking loud enough for the ones in the back to hear, and directing the mule, we had a good time, learned a lot about the area and the rich and famous “who had lived there” and so on. He pointed out a gay bar to us which was openly acknowledged… Even, you might say, with pride.

It ended too soon, and we walked up Bourbon Street couple of blocks to where our driver had parked the bus. We rode back to the hotel past all the big hotels and the high-rise business buildings onto the multilevel streets, saw again the sports arena. We’ll never remember all we saw and did, but have truly enjoyed our stay here.

Tomorrow it’s up at 6 AM, baggage outside by 6:30 AM and we board the bus at 7:30 AM heading to Vicksburg Mississippi.

Some interesting things we have learned about New Orleans… The Mississippi River was discovered by DeSoto.

The designation “Creole” was the people first born in New Orleans.

Shotgun houses which are houses where a person could shoot the gun to the front door and the bullet would go through the house and out the back door, (provided all the doors were open). A double shotgun houses one with two families can live and the two front doors and all the inside doors so aligned as in a single house.

Enough for today. We are enjoying the people on the trip, some we had not met before. We saw gay bars on Bourbon Street… Separate gay bars for men only.

Back to the hotel and up outside stairs to our third-floor room, we packed our stuff so would be ready to leave in the morning.

Friday we loaded in our bus and took off for Vicksburg Mississippi. We went to a lovely home they are which reminded me of Montpelier in Maine, not that it was quite as big, but that it was occupied about the same time, and by a military man also. The gardens were nice, and we enjoyed sitting in the back patio, waiting for our turn to tour the home. Then we saw a film about the national Park and drove afterwards through the park and cemetery where both Northern and Southern soldiers were buried during the Civil War. One soldier turned out to be a girl, and she is buried there to. It seems her boyfriend was killed and she donned his uniform and fought to the death also.

We saw monuments erected by the states that fought in the conflict… And no, Maine did not have monument there.

We had spotted gambling boats on the river and some of our group could hardly wait to get supper over so they could go to try their luck. Not me! We had dinner at Jaques in the park in the Battlefield Inn. After dinner we went on to our motel. There was a mall and some shops over there but I couldn’t persuade Al to go so I didn’t either. I was just looking for a bookstore anyways and I couldn’t see one from the driveway.

Some of our group went to the casinos to try their luck. Some even won some money. I didn’t hear of anyone that lost his shirt at the gaming tables.

Saturday morning we hopped on a bus after breakfast at the end and rode to the Coca-Cola museum where Coke was first bottled in the USA. After that we got back on the bus for a trip home.

Sue reported that she and Darlene thought it would be a good idea to stop at McDonald’s for lunch, since they had some funds left over, enough to feed us all. They trotted across the parking lot to inquire if McDonald’s could accommodate us, and they said yes, though they had quite a lot of customers already. That was a fun impromptu lunch.

After lunch we got back on the bus for the final leg of our journey home. We were all pretty tired by then, all but our mouths. We had a lot to talk about… At least some did! It was dark when we got back to the center, picked up our luggage and headed home.

Lorene was at our house with Bill Bailey and we told her about our trip. All of a sudden Bill Bailey ran across the room and bit Al a good bite on the back of his hand. That’s the first time Bill Bailey has bitten Al, although he latches on to me every once in a while.

After telling Lorene all about our trip… Or as much as we could remember right off quick, Al drove her home and I followed in our car to bring him back. We didn’t bother to set up talking or playing with the the cat, we just sacked out. It has been quite a week.

Would we go on another senior trip? You bet!

Sybel’s Memories Our trip to Louisana April 17-22, 2000

27 Feb

Day one: Lorene took us to the center. She is feeding the Bill Bailey for us, and picking up our mail, stowing it in a box on the dining room table, and making it possible for us to leave our car at home.

We had lunch on the bus, from a box Sue and Helen, who is the director from Lavaca, packed before we left. We arrived in time for supper at Barnhill country buffet in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. We passed through Vicksburg where the battle of Vicksburg was fought during the Civil War.

The big tour bus was loaded. Two cancellations made it possible for Treva and her daughter to go. Treva is a paid helper at the center.

We played bingo on the bus to while away the long hours. I won one game, got a candle holder for the short fat candles. That made a nice holder for the tiny shells and white sand I picked up on the beach at Gulf Shores. Two retired school teachers, man and wife, set behind us, and she is very nice. The woman across the aisle engaged in loud conversation the whole day. Que Sera! We didn’t let it ruin our day.

Most of the day was spent traveling down across Arkansas, Barling to Little Rock, then southeast to Lake City and south to Mississippi then east across Alabama and down to the Gulf Shores. We stayed at the best Western on the beach.

I am very weary. But Al and I didn’t have to take turns driving to get here, PTL! We can see the waves rolling in from our motel window. Most of us plan to spend tomorrow on the beach, watching the other people and going on a dolphin watching boat, supper included.

We hated to believe Bill Bailey behind, but Lorene will go by every day, feed and water him and hold him if he’ll let her. She’ll also bring in the mail and newspapers.

Dad just opened a wicker freestanding closet and found a microwave and refrigerator. He was out on the hall balcony with some of the others who each said they plan to spend most of the day tomorrow on the beach.

I believe, according to our itinerary we’ll take a boat and dolphin tour tomorrow evening. I look forward to it all. There are 50+ in our party.

We had driven down in the southeast corner of Arkansas on our goose tour recently, but still marveled at the flatness of the land year as compared to our Western Hills. 6 AM to 11 PM makes an LONG day.

Tuesday: Up early and ate in this huge motel on the beach, then out to walk on the beach. We saw one pelican fly from the beach. I drew a blank and had to ask what it was. I think of pelican swallowing fish not from  flying, then we saw a black backed gull and black headed gulls. I asked one woman to see if she could find me a Florida bird book at the mall (we are not mall shoppers unless we go for a specific item. We usually go one day to Christmas shop. Al always tell me to “get everything you need today because I’m not coming back!” Sometimes I go with Lorene, but mostly she goes every week with Doris.)

As we played bingo on the bus yesterday I won one game and got a medal holder with a small glass holder for a candle. Since I don’t use candles I decided this would be a unique way to display my small Gulf Beach shells and the white sand.

The hotel is gorgeous, six stories high, and we are on the sixth floor. There is a wicker standing clothes closet and inside is a microwave and dorm size refrigerator the. The fridge is perfect for keeping Al’s eye medicine cold.

Lunch is on our own today… Mine will be very light since his lack of physical activity (I exercise 40 minutes, five days a week at the senior center) doesn’t use up much energy.

Tonight we have dinner cruise and dolphin watch. Hope we see dolphins.

Today we are hanging out at the big beach hotel and resting from yesterdays long 14 hour trip. We sat on the balcony outside our hotel, sixth floor, and watched the sunbathers on the beach in a teeny teeny bikinis. One of our fellow travelers commented that the girls only wear strings with small patches to cover the necessary parts. ” I’ve got one of those at home, but I sure wouldn’t wear it in public!” Then her husband looked at her in surprise, and asked “you have?”

For lunch we were on our own so we walked across the street from our hotel, moseyed down, looking in shop windows at garishly painted T-shirts and other tourist trap offerings, stopping at an ice cream store for our favorite ice cream in a cup, which we ate under a big umbrella out front.

We had quite a show from out there as several police and rescue trucks, sirens wailing, rolled up the street towards the beach, and at least two pickup trucks, filled with white teenage boys and decked with the Confederate flag drove up and down the street. Then there was a pickup with girls in swimsuits driving up the highway and back again. Spring break?

9 PM: We had one of those unbelievable evenings. Our bus driver arrived and we loaded in, each in our own assigned seat, which we occupied for the entire trip while traveling. With 50 passengers booked, a vacant seat identified the missing person. A stuffed monkey, hung at the front of the bus, indicating which side to unload first. I tell you these gals were organized.

Back to our evening. First our bus driver took a wrong turn and we went miles in the wrong direction, and we had to retrace our route.

Then on the dolphin watch the captain had a hard time finding and tracking dolphins. However Al and I were on the left side of the boat when one dolphin surfaced,heading straight for the boat, then dived again, but we saw his friendly face.

Our dinner was very simple, teenage boys and girls as waitpersons. Something happened to the Water supply and there was no coffee… The gal in charge passed Sue two boxes of sandwich cookies, hard and dry, which she passed on to us on the bus back to the motel. However we saw big tugboats and barges crossing the bay and it made us feel right at home. We are really enjoying ourselves. This afternoon Al and I sat on our balcony overlooking the beach with its white sand and lots of sunbathers, little kids chasing the shallow waves in and out, seagulls over head and large pelicans flying by, and soaked up the scene.

Big day, now for the sweet rest and TV before sleep, and the Bellingrath gardens, before heading out to New orleans.

Wednesday: Breakfast in the hotel, bags outside the door. I had a bagel with cream cheese for breakfast and Al just had coffee. It was interesting to hear French spoken among waitpersons and accented English spoken to us.

A long, long ferry trip across the bay. Al got out on deck to take pictures, as did a good many others, but I stayed warm inside. Probably it wasn’t as cold as riding the Vinalhaven ferry outside, but I wasn’t taking any chances. Al took pictures of an oil drilling rig of the day.

Eventually we got to that Bellengrath garden’s about 11. After viewing a short film about Mr. Bellengrath, who started the Coca-Cola company in the 1930s and built this beautiful mansion in Bellengrath, Louisiana, We walked through the mansion and then the beautifully tended flower gardens, featuring a rose garden and an azalea garden, among others. We ended up at a cafeteria on the grounds had lunch.

Afterward we boarded the bus for the trip on to New Orleans, only two ladies were missing. Sue went to hunt them. Someone said the ladies went to visit the mansion because one of them fell in the museum and missed the trip to the mansion. Eventually they showed up and we got underway again.

A long, long drive there to New Orleans arriving about 4:30 PM, going directly to our hotel room and the holiday and, numerous on the West Bank. We passed a cemetery with all the “graves.” on top of the ground. They look like white marble boxes from our bus window.

Wednesday night: the bus picked us up about 6:30 PM and took us to the Mississippi River for our dinner cruise. On the way, as we walked across the parking lot, one lady fell off the edge of the sidewalk and cut and bruised her face and Elbow. She refused to go for medical attention so intense she was and her husband to go on the dinner trip. There was a large dining room on the boat and the long buffet table set off when we got there. 50 one of us filled just one end of the boat, and we can see the paddle wheel out of the rear window.

We had a tall, thin black man for our waiter and he was fun as he joked and teased with us. When I asked for hot tea he made quite a thing of it and I told him “I’m from Maine we like our tea hot.” I got my tea.

After a bounteous buffet he brought us our dessert… Would you believe bread pudding? I looked at mine and asked “could you put a little syrup on mine, that’s what we do in New England.” He brought mine back with syrup and three maraschino cherries! Then he had to bring cherries for the rest of the table.

As soon as we finished dinner the engine started and the huge paddle wheel started turning. That was right outside our big window and we watched it turned as we “sailed” down the Mississippi River very slowly and in a stately manner. Such fun. We were entertained during the evening by a Dixieland jazz group and two of our couples got up and danced. The rest of us just watched.

We sat out on the deck for a while and watched the water traffic on the Mississippi and the lights of New Orleans under a full golden moon. Pure delight!

Thursday: after breakfast a tour guide boarded our bus for our sightseeing tour, and we drove through New Orleans, learning the early history, seeing beautiful homes of the rich and famous, and lovely parks… Not to mention the Superdome where the Super Bowl games are played.


Sybel’s Memories Camping at Blue Mountain October 1998

26 Feb

“Want to go camping this weekend?” Al asked me as we sat with our feet up, watching TV.

Bill Bailey, our Siamese cat, skidded across the floor, crouched in the end of the sofa where he had hidden his toy mouse. He crouched there until Al got the flashlight and the yardstick to rescue the mouse.

When Al return to his recliner I answered his question. “Yes, but we’ll have to take Bill Bailey with us since Lorene has gone to Missouri and can’t take care of him for us.”

“No problem. We’ll take his Carrier. He’ll be safe in that. I thought we’d go Wednesday to Saturday, that way we wouldn’t miss bowling Tuesday and be back to church Sunday. Where do you want to go, shoal bay or blue Mountain?”

“Either one is okay.”

“Okay, we’ll go to blue Mountain.”

So it was decided. I began collecting camping gear from the garage and making a list of food to take. Bill Bailey dogged my footsteps, watching with interest everything I did. Toby, our former Siamese, hated to travel, and went into hiding every time he saw the suitcases being filled.

Tuesday after bowling, we stopped by the storage place and picked up our pop up camper and brought it home. Early Wednesday morning we packed our food, clothing, life jackets and canoe paddles in the car, caught Bill Bailey, put him in the cat carrier, and slid the carrier on the backseat, where we strapped it in with a seatbelt. Then we were off!

“What a lovely October day to go camping” I thought as we crossed chaffee land and drove along  highway 10. “I think that’s a wild turkey” I said, spotting a big bird scuttling across the road and up into the bushes.

As we drove on by I looked up the bank and saw the bird with the blue head. I took my bird book from the glove compartment and looked up “wild turkey.” Sure enough the wild turkey in my bird book had a blue head. I marked the date in the book… My first spotting of the wild turkey in Arkansas.

When we arrived at the gate to the campground, the keeper said “I’m sorry, we don’t have any campsites open. We are repaving the campsites, and the ones that are finished will be occupied by the campers already here. Then they will have to move out of their sites so we can do them.”

Our hearts sank and in my mind I was already thinking how to get to shoal bay from there. Just then the Ranger we had asked directions from when we were out on the highway, drove up to the gatehouse.

“We have three more pads up on the hill finished, ready for people to move in.” He told the gatekeeper.

“Would you mind being up on the hill?”

“No”, we answered.

“Jump in” he said to Al, “and we’ll go look at them.”

Al chose site 50 and when they came back we filled out the papers, paid our fee, and drove on. “We need to go down to the beach and unload the canoe.” He said, and turned the car in that direction.

After the canoe was tied to a sturdy tree limb another boat came ashore.

“Catch any fish?” I called, as a couple tied up their boat. They walked over as we walked to meet them. I saw the Assembly of God motif on his shirt and Al had his Habitat for Humanity hat On. As we talked of them all spoke of our joy in helping build houses for Habitat for Humanity, and the fisherman said he and his wife went around helping build churches for their denomination.

“He has one trailer fixed up into a workshop with all his power tools that we take with us on the job” his wife told me. After further pleasant sharing we drove up to the campsite and parked our trailer. We were busy for a while, getting our trailer set up in our camping equipment stowed. Afterward we drove down to the beach and put our canoe when the water.

It seemed good to dig our paddles in the sparkling water and push off. We paddled up out around the point, breathing the fresh air, drinking in the sundrenched air, watching the great blue herons lift their huge wings and fly further up the cove

Far out in the lake an occasional fisherman moved his boat to a more likely spot. We paddled around the little island, watching birds fly and turtles duck their dark heads as we paddle near. Soon our paddles brought us to the nearshore. Al Held the canoe steady as I climbed out then I pulled the bow ashore and he climbed out. We tied to canoe rope onto a big granite slab, then carried our lifejackets and paddles across the hill to the other beach to stow our gear and bring the car up to the campsite.

After lunch we rested in the shade of a big tree, I looked up and saw Bill Bailey walking through the leaves away from the campsite. As I ran to pick him up, Al examined the camper and found the canvas unsnapped in one place. After that when we went anyplace we fastened Bill Bailey and his cat carrier, turned him so he could look out the window, and went on with our activities.

Sue and Bo Brown came up from their camper to visit us. They brought us some filleted catfish for supper and Bo gave us a bulb to replace a burned out one in our camper, so we could have lights.

Every day we paddled our canoe out into the lake, enjoying our favorite sport. As we moved quietly around small islands and into shallow inlets we looked at the cypress trees lining the shore, with the cypress knees surrounding them. We saw formations we’d likened to groups of people.

Some looked like shrouded women going to church. Around the trunk of another cypress tree the roots look like people sitting in a circle. That afternoon we came back with our cameras and took pictures of the cypress root formations. After supper we walked to the shore and took pictures of the red sun going down over an island offshore.

Friday night the wind came up and hit our little camper with all of its fury! Bill Bailey forsook the shelter of his cat carrier and climbed on the bed with us. We listened to the roar of the wind and the rain and waited for daylight.

Saturday morning we took down our camper and packed everything in the car, except the paddles and lifejackets. We drove around to the shore where we tied our canoe and took one last look before we lifted the canoe and tied it down the camper top… Double checking to see that we had all our belongings, we got into the car to head home.

So ended Bill baby’s first camping trip with us. We hope it won’t be the last.