Wieners, marshmallows, fine, but somehow…

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Ever since back before Cousin James died, the youngun’ had wanted us to have another big wiener-marshmallow roast. He faintly remembered a big one we had up in Uncle Kent’s pasture, and had wanted us to recreate it ever since then. Something would always come up. It’d rain or be too cold or nobody’d be there but us, or we’d just not get around to it.
But not long ago we did. It was a cold, late fall weekend. Not too cold, just brisk enough to make the shins itch and a fire feel good. We first thought of setting up for business on the hillside pasture across the driveway and down the hill from the house, but we decided that if the northwest wind came whipping down from Hezzie Matthews’ as it was threatening to do, things might get a little airish out there on the exposed stubble.
So I had a better idea, one that, for a change, turned out OK. I found a spot in the old gully down at the foot of the hill that was just right. It was on up near the beginning of the gully, just down from where the frightening sheer drop used to be right at the edge of the road. The gully was deep back then. But kudzu and time gradually filled it to the point that it is now a quite tame water runoff place when it rains.
But on that night, it hadn’t rained in many days. The sandy floor was dry and covered with leaves. Daddy had already gathered some wood for the occasion, and we carefully raked the leaves back a piece and got the fire a-goin’ famously. It was getting dark by then. The womenfolk began to come down the hill with the vittles, packs and packs of weenies and buns and relish and kraut and mustard and ketchup and mayonnaise and marshmallows and sody water and everything. Just before dark, I had taken my trusty Old Timer in hand and cut a bunch of green sweetgum limbs for the roasting of the food.
Some of the kinfolks arrived. Peg and Tom and Tommy II parked up at the house and found their way on down the gully. And here came Nell and Wynell and W. J. and Anna Banks. And sister Donna Sue and her two. And Aunt Eunice was helped gently down the bank, very gently, after the car had pulled down as close to the woods as possible.
Oh we were prepared. We had some folding chairs, and even some big mattress-sized pieces of cardboard, to keep posteriors off what we thought would be damp ground.
As it turned out, the leaves on the south bank did the job quite well without help. The fire was a good one. It burned bright and smoked and popped a little. Within its circle of light the cleared space we’d picked for our site seemed like a cozy room.
We ate and talked and reminisced, people from Auburn and Montgomery and Miami, all of us with our roots there in that North Alabama dirt. The talk was easy, and the night air and the coals made the weenies taste better than any weenie would normally expect to taste. After they’d gorged themselves, the children commenced to amuse themselves by sliding down the steep banks on pieces of cardboard. Some of us older ones remembered when we used to slide down the steep red bank by the road in front of Uncle Asa’s, and, on barrel staves, on the straw covered slope out behind his barn.
Subjects ranged from the old tabernacle of family legend to Mt. Pisgah and revival meetings there to eating Kobe steak in the Far East. But mostly, the wonderfully familiar family tales were kicked around again for the thousandth time. And, once in a while, in a lull in the conversation, you’d see people gazing into the brilliant coals, trance-like for a moment, as if seeing in there the kinfolks who had romped and played and told stories at similar gatherings in the past.
I was kind of hoping that, just maybe, a flock of wild geese might fly over as we were breaking up, as one did that night up in Uncle Kent’s pasture, when a much bigger bunch of us was there, when Uncle Kent was still up and about, and J. O. was his very vital self, and Charlie and Gay and Willa and Virginia Dale were all there, faces bright in the light of the fire. The geese didn’t make it. But it was a good get-together, anyway.
Bob Sanders is a veteran local radio personality, columnist, author and raconteur of note. He can be reached at bobbypsanders@gmail.com.

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