Picnic Paragraphs

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Our firecracker plant blooming for the Fourth!

Our church, First Baptist Cairo, is hosting an All American Indoor picnic on June 30 following morning worship (about 11:45). Bring a dish of slaw or some chips and come on! Everyone is welcome to join us for hotdogs and hamburgers. The cool thing is, it’s indoors. Years ago I wouldn’t have thought it was fun to have a picnic inside. Picnics should be outside under the trees.

For example, our family once a year, sometimes more often, traveled up the road a few miles to picnic at Panther Creek. The parking lot was a quarter of a mile from the wonderful creek. Shelters and picnic tables were on the other side which we reached by way of a nice wooden bridge. Every person, small and tall, would carry something–a potato salad, deviled eggs, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cookies and a gallon of lemonade. As you approached the creek you could hear the water gurgling around rocks and you couldn’t wait to set down your load, pull off shoes and socks, and go wading. Eating could wait until the cooks called.

We took a picnic lunch when we went on day trips to the Smokies. There were no picnic tables. We sat on a log or rocks or leaning against a tree trunk. There weren’t numerous cars going by so it was quiet except for our own teasing and giggles, the trickle of water dripping down a rocky bank, and birds singing. The picnic itself was very simple–maybe boiled eggs, apples, bologna sandwiches and cookies. Always there were cookies!

Most of our picnics were at home. We might spread a tablecloth under a mulberry tree down in the meadow. We might sit in a circle eating our sandwiches down on Myrtle Lawn under an apple tree. Or we might trek up Tulip Hill or picnic beside the pond to the tune of a thousand frogs “singing.” Whatever the plan, it seemed always to have been made before we young ones appeared for breakfast. There was time, then, to help make the picnic lunch and to fully anticipate the wonderful event.

A favorite picnic place at Pinedale was in the South Woods. Sometimes we spread a cloth under the beech tree by Indian Brook, sometimes near Indian Springs, or over by Ramble Brook where a wonderful oak tree invited us to climb and drop off a lower limb. Near that tree was a waterfall high enough we could get under it and feel the cool spray.

One of the most memorable picnics in the South Woods was the one we set up on the banks of Indian Brook within a thicket of laurel bushes. The dogs, as usual, were with us–a German shepherd and a cute pudgy mutt. Some of us played in the cold water while older ones helped Mamma spread the cloth and laid out the food. We settled, finally, around the picnic with Mamma cautioning us to keep our wet feet away from the cloth. Right about then the dogs  began jumping around wildly at the crest of a slope behind us. There ensued a great rustling of oak leaves and then a huge scurrying and yapping as the disturbance wound through the laurel bushes. And then there it was–a long brown water moccasin plunged (he didn’t have time to slither) across our picnic, the dogs right behind him. That snake hit the water and disappeared under a ferny bank leaving the dogs unhappy and our picnic a shambles. We ate heartily of the splattered remains of food, laughing that the moccasin would have a mighty good story to tell his children. He wasn’t the only one.

When Charles was in veterinary school at Georgia, our combined income from his student loan and my secretarial job did not allow dollars for eating out or for entertainment. Going out to a nearby park on a Sunday after church was a favorite pastime. It was much better, to me, than walking a high railroad trestle, which we did one Sunday. At the park, we usually ate our sandwiches and went for a walk following trails that wound past habitats of deer, peacocks and an aviary. But one Sunday, a windy one, we hauled with us a tiny grill with charcoal, two hamburger patties, a couple of buns, a tomato and a bag of chips–and, of course, cookies! It took us two hours to get the fire going. We’d forgotten starter fluid, our matches weren’t good, and the wind kept blowing out every tiny flame we coaxed into life. We thought we would starve before we could ever cook those hamburgers and I think we ate them half raw. But that stands out as one of the best picnics, maybe just because we were struggling together towards a goal.

After we moved to south Georgia, picnics were often cookouts or fish fries. One summer day Charles and I, along with most of his family, gathered at their farm pond. We fished and played and laughed and had such a good time. The children spun a frisbee back and forth, caught a frog, and played in the lily-choked pond. I can’t remember whether anyone really caught any fish! Good thing we had all that other food–including, of course, cookies!

Church picnics have always been wonderful to me. At the end of Bible school we always had a picnic. We had a huge picnic in 1974 as part of our centennial celebration. Everyone dressed in costume, fancy hats, flowing skirts, and all. Tables and chairs were set up on the lawn where now our Fellowship Hall stands. Everyone brought their scrumptious casseroles, cakes, salads, and, I think, crispy fried chicken, and cookies! The children, though somewhat hampered in long skirts and knickers, played happily and long. At a church picnic we all have time to talk longer and find out more about each other than we can in worship services. It’s a bonding time.

Think about two of the “picnics” described in the Bible. The time Jesus fed 5,000 is one. I think the fish and bread multiplied by Jesus must have been so delicious! But, even better, would be the friendships shared as the disciples seated everyone in groups of fifty. Then there was that breakfast on the shore of Galilee with Jesus and His disciples. I never tire of hearing that story. Going back much farther, consider the children of Israel on their journey to the Promised Land. There weren’t any fast food places on that trip, but plenty of manna. It was one long picnic!

But back to the indoor picnic at our church tomorrow. Let’s face it, we have become soft. Eating indoors doesn’t seem like a bad idea. We still have those wonderful food contributions. We still have so much fun just seeing all our friends, and maybe making new ones, in that casual setting. And the children still play. Children will find a way to play. And–surely someone will bring cookies!

Happy Fourth of July!

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