Family day trips were always popular in our family. Many is the time I remember going for day-long rides with my Papaw in his pick-up truck – Granny was usually at work since they worked opposite shifts – out country roads many of which don’t exist today. We would stop at mom & pop stores and get our lunch. Papaw would tell the old man behind the counter he wanted whatever lunch meat he was in the mood for that day, cut about half an inch thick, on bread (white bread was a given) with mayonnaise and then asked what I wanted; I always wanted the same thing he’d ordered – even when I had no idea what the lunch meant I was getting was. The old man would get the items from the deli case and start making our sandwiches while we picked out a pop, soda for you northerners, which was usually a Hire’s Rootbeer. Papaw would toss a bag of chips on the counter and we’d set our rootbeers up there, too. He’s then dig out his billfold, as he always called his wallet, and tell the man, “Put it all in a poke for us, please.” (That’s a paper bag, again for you younger and/or norther folks.)
We’d load into the truck, always a Chevy or GMC and usually orange or red in color, and drive down the road a few miles until we found just the right spot, where we’d pull off the side of the road in the shade and park. The tailgate served as both our picnic table and benches. Occasionally Papaw would light up his pipe; he only had one that I know of. More often he would get a jaw-full of Redman or Levi Garrett afree we ate and we would talk – for hours some days. I honestly can’t remember most of the conversations we had on those drives. But the memories I do have are vivid and very dear to me.
Now I am the “Papaw” and we still carry on this tradition, granted, in a slightly modified version; we usually pack a lunch (there aren’t many mom & pop shops that fix you a sandwich anymore) or hit a restaurant. And there’s always at least three of us: Papaw, Granny, and grandson. Occasionally our son goes along too, if he’s not working.
A week or so ago we had one of these all too rare times when the four of us took a spontaneous road trip to Carter Caves State Park in KY. The drive isn’t too far and, while not as popular a destination as it once was, it’s a beautiful place to visit with a lot of activities if you plan for them.
We arrived around 1:00 pm I think and drove a little loop through the main part of the park to 1) get the lay of the land and 2) give Granny and the grandson a bathroom break. Once the “necessaries” were out of the way, we drove back down to the entrance of the park no began our look for the spot. My son and wife both had input on where it should be; neither agreed, to no big surprise LOL. But none of them were right in my mind. I suddenly stopped the truck, scanned the area and decided this was it! To some protest, I pulled off the road onto a parking shoulder and parked my Silverado. While the other two questioned my judgement, I asked my grandson what he thought about the spot. “If you like it it’s perfect, Papaw.” Issue settled.
We unpacked what little we had taken and set up next to a real picnic table with real benches and the dispute quickly dissipated: it was shady, comfortable, had a great view and was close to but a safe distance from he creek, perfect to hear the water gently flowing by.
My son and grandson geared up for their hiking adventure, my wife settled into a comfortable spot at the picnic table, and I got set up in my bag chair. The young ‘uns headed off on their adventure and I broke out my pipe. I loaded it up with a favorite blend; it took fire nicely, enhancing my anticipation of a nice, relaxing afternoon. As I sat there, bluish smoke gently swirling around me, listening to the gentle babbling of the creek, I was transported back in time it seemed. My wife was walking along the creek’s edge picking up interesting rocks for my grandson and me (we have 3-5 stones from everyplace we visit, another hobby/collection we share) and she seemed 20 years younger – as did I! It was a most perfect, peaceful, and serene few of hours spent just enjoying each other’s company and God’s wondrous creation.
All too soon the sun had moved as the hours ticked by and devoured our cool shade. It was well timed though as about the same time the boys were winding up – or winding down from – their adventure. My grandson had packed back 5 stones, the same number I had collected with my wife’s help. We settled on 6 or 7 to bring home and packed them and everything else up in the bed of the truck. It had been a splendid day indeed!
The drive home was a much quieter one than the trip there; everyone had worn themselves pretty much out. As I drove with the radio softy playing, I couldn’t help but reflect on those trips with my Papaw. And wonder how much he must have enjoyed them; I often wish he was still around to talk about those and many other things. But the main thought on my mind during that drive home and in the days since was quite simply this: it’s really good to be the Papaw.