Castor Fest 2004 - The young and the spry

Thursday, September 9, 2004

Sept. 9, 2004

Dear Julie,

The end of Labor Day weekend at the cabin on the Castor River is bittersweet. Summer is ending. We won't see the visitors from the western part of the state until Thanksgiving or maybe Christmas. DC's mom always chokes up when she says grace at breakfast that morning.

She and DC's dad have been coming to this cabin for many decades. The three nieces from Neosho have grown from babies to young women in just the last two.

This year, one of the nieces was missing, working at an internship at Disneyworld. Getting them all to return year after year is only going to get harder.

The front end of the weekend isn't sad at all. Labor Day weekend 2003 saw the beginning of a new family tradition we call Castor Fest. One morning we built an outdoor stage next to the cabin. That night the stage was inaugurated with impromptu performances.

Castor Fest 2004 was more organized. There were T-shirts with dancing catfish in top hats on the front and the words "This time we rehearse" on the back.

A mechanic's work light and tiki torches lit the stage. Carrying on without their sister, Danica and Darci danced. I employed all three chords I know to play "Will the Circle be Unbroken" on my new mandolin. My brother-in-law, Doug, told a cockeyed story called "Rindercella."

In the finale, all the females in the clan donned shades and did a little dance to "California Girls."

Our elderly but amazingly spry beagle, Alvie, and Doug's young hunting dog, Tang, probably provided the weekend's best entertainment. Tang was coming into heat, and Alvie wouldn't let her be. But Alvie is a miniature beagle, and Tang is a large yellow Lab. Tang was safely out of poor Alvie's reach.

Boys always want girls they can't have, DC sighed.

Something always happens during Labor Day weekend to make it memorable. For me it was the answer "Yankee Doodle Dandy" the night we played charades. Darci told me the girls had a tape of that song when DC and I got married. When "a real live nephew of my Uncle Sam's" came along, they'd sing along because they now had a real live Uncle Sam of their own. Unclehood doesn't get much better.

My mother's only living aunt was visiting from Southern Illinois the day we returned from the cabin. Lela is 97 years old and spry, too. Her daughter, Lee Ann, is more than spry. Lee Ann is known for leaving the 16 parakeets she was watching for a neighbor on the porch one day when the weather turned cold. Returning home from work to frozen parakeets, she put them on a cookie sheet and popped them in the oven in hopes of reviving them. Her husband, Jack, came home asking what was cooking for dinner.

This time Lee Ann told us about going to a Ricky Skaggs concert that was too loud.

"The music was so loud it made the springs on my seat tickle," she said.

A span of the old Mississippi River bridge is being demolished with explosives this morning in Cape Girardeau. Some people who live downtown have been asked to evacuate their houses. If they stay home, the blast at the very least is likely to make their seats tickle.

Love, Sam

Sam Blackwell is the managing editor for the Southeast Missourian

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