That was my wake-up call this morning. No need for an alarm clock when an able-bodied rooster lives down the road. We are here at The Camp this weekend. I’m sitting on the porch swing with my mother-in-law watching birds peck the lawn for their breakfast. For anyone looking for relief from the pressures of city life, the woods of East Texas have a lot to offer. My late father in law, James, knew this better than anyone. He is the one who bought the property near Lake Sam Rayburn back in the sixties.
I heard about The Crouch Camp long before I married Jimmy. He started talking about it on our second date. He and his brothers helped their father build it while they were still in high school. Plumbers and electricians were called in for technical assistance, but whatever could be managed with hammer and saw was designated for the three sons.
As soon as the house was completed, Jimmy started bringing buddies for duck hunts and fishing trips. I didn’t get to be a regular until after our kids came along. A weekend in the country with Mamaw and Papaw was just about as exciting as Christmas morning. For Daniel’s 4th birthday, we bought a pint sized 4-wheeler. That kicked our fun into overdrive.
Then Papaw put together a small cart to hook on the back of his riding lawnmower, so that he and his granddaughter could ride at the same time as Daniel and Will. Reba and I watched from our lawn chairs as the happy parade kicked up dust on the road in front of the house. Holding our breath, we said a prayer whenever our three-year-old was aboard. Miracle of miracles, she never fell out of her carpet covered carriage.
Everything felt like an adventure at The Camp. Even work could be inviting. Daniel discovered that when he was tapped to paint the porch. To this day, it’s still green. “He was only sixteen when he did that!” Reba is delighted that grandkids have followed in their father’s footsteps leaving their fingerprints on the place, too. “Did Donia Cain hang that shelf? “ she asks, but she already knows the answer.
Maybe that’s why we love it here so much. All of us have invested some type of sweat equity. Drawn to the outdoors, I like to burn branches and mow the lawn. Our kids are more inclined toward interior design and home improvement. Like his father before him, Jimmy is a fixer. Earlier today he installed new mesh panels on the screened-in porch. The clerks at Big Tin Barn know him by name.
We are different in what we bring to the Camp and we leave with our own unique memories. Reba, whose memory album is packed with the largest collection, may also have the sweetest ones of all. She remembers the colors of fall in Vermont and the water lilies in Monet’s Paris Gardens but her most treasured ones seem to come from the Piney woods of East Texas. Don’t offer to drive her there unless you truly mean it. She will grab her purse and walker and be waiting in the front seat before you can say Pineland.
Now it’s Sunday, and time to go home. We decided to take one more turn on the porch swing and watch the rain darken the pine trees. I started to worry over a puddle in the corner of the concrete floor, but even water coming through the roof couldn’t dampen our matriarch’s outlook. “I believe that is the first leak we’ve ever had”, she said, brightly. “Jimmy will take care of it.”
The Camp brings out the best in us. It doesn’t matter whether we’re fixing things, doing chores, having fun or just hanging out. We make new memories with every trip and leave a bit of ourselves behind every time we come. James knew what he was doing when he bought this lot in the woods for his growing family. Taking care of The Camp is simply another chance to take care of each other. Memories are made both ways.
Donia Caspersen Crouch was raised in Southeast Texas and lives in Austin. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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