Labor Day 2022

Labor Day 2022

Labor Day weekend was, for me and the kids, an epic ranch trip. We did so many things, and, more importantly, so many great things happened.

The universe would, I think, vigorously convulse if a six year old boy were permitted to remain clean for more than ten minutes in a row at the ranch. It was, therefore, the first order of business to bury Ruben in the sand. Having Ruben consigned to being an ambulatory dirt clump for the remains of the weekend relieved us of suffering an ill tempered universe.

Soon after the smudging of Ruben, and the unpacking of the multitudinous items of no use that my children ferried along, we all sat down near the fire ring for what would be first of many such gatherings. Whether for a meal or just for a break in the middle of the day, we would sit in that place and do the things that families do best: argued, laughed, badgered, discussed, harassed, and hollered. Mostly, we filled the time and the air around us with our nonsense, and for reasons not understood came out stronger and closer to each other at the end of it.

The feeding of the many children I had with me was a task of similar magnitude as the provision of that meal along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, so many years ago. This being the case, I elected to have hot dogs every night. Cheap and easy to cook over the fire. What could be better? Loving these wholesome tubes of meat as much as I do, I also ended up eating Circle-K versions on Saturday morning and Sunday after Church. I must have been given special graces, because normally eating a mere two of these delicacies in a row will impose consequences on me similar to Old Faithful in both character and predictability.

Saturday morning saw us rising early and carrying ourselves off to the nearby White Mountains for some time in the pines. Our first stop was Lake Hulsey, a modest alpine lake partially ringed with cattails. Before I could traverse the small distance to the shoreline, the boys had already made it part way round the lake, to a cattail outcropping, and, harvesting a small number of them, commenced a sort of fencing match. In moments they discovered that if they dipped their cattail in the water, they could deliver to their opponent a wet, sloppy smack. Naturally, this quickly degenerated into a first rate spectacle, with the girls hauled into the chaos as well. Regaining control was no small endeavor.

Before departing Lake Hulsey (many of us bearing odd wet spots), I enjoined all of the children to please avail themselves of the facilities before leaving, as our next destination had none. Thus we began the short trip to the trail that ascends Escudilla Mountain, to the ranger tower on top (a forest fire lookout). After perhaps 15 minutes of driving up a winding mountain road, we arrived at the trailhead, where I was immediately presented with a child that had to poop and another that had to pee. The thoughts in my head at that moment are not for now. After watering and fertilizing the flora, we finally started our ascent. The stands of aspen trees were beautiful in so many ways, the wind on the leaves was singing a gentle song, the views breathtaking, and my children superimposing their fussing and complaining over the top of all of it. We made it a mere mile up the trail before we had to turn around. To ask my children, you’d think they’d endured Auschwitz!

Returning to the ranch, my kind eldest daughter, rather foolishly in my judgement, invited each child to drive her car (the ranch roads are private, so normal laws do not apply). The younger kids were constrained to sit in her lap, but the older kids got the complete experience. I have no idea how this went, nor do I care to know.

Our Saturday ended as our Friday had, with time sitting near the fire ring, being foolish.

When at the ranch, we generally rise and set with the sun. So it was that we were up much earlier on Sunday morning than Church dictated. We decided that shooting was a fine pre-Church activity, and so we spent some time running through Dad’s expensive bullets. The kids really started to enjoy this once we started keeping score. The problem, however, with keeping score, is that you are keeping score. Never mind – let’s not talk about that.

Later in the day, after Church, the older kids requested unsupervised shooting time. After admonishing them to be careful, I sent them on their merry way. It was then that I realized that perhaps we have made progress with these kids since we adopted them. Here I was, sending them shooting, alone, and not being concerned. Later as they returned, they were singing an unrecognizable song (unrecognizable because none of them can carry a tune in a bucket), which was amazing, because singing is something they never do.

That night, our last, after our normal deranged time around the fire ring, we decided to retire early (we had to get up early to come home). It was then that a minor miracle occurred. Our kids, who are frightened even by cobwebs, decided to sleep outside (with all the bugs). This was very uncharacteristic, and I was and am proud of them for braving the weather and the insects. That had to be a big step for them!

A postscript: every ranch trip I have taken (at least that I can remember), when I had all seven of my younger kids along, involved at least one of them puking. I thought that this time would be different, and I was almost there, so close. On the way home, my little ambulatory dirt clump started feeling that way. I had no choice but to quickly remove the lid from my delicious Coke, and hand it over for him to puke in. I decided I didn’t want Coke anymore.

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