Since our move to Southern California in 2006 Samantha and the Kids have taken an annual pilgrimage to Idaho to visit family in June after school let out for the summer. It quickly became my least favorite time of the year. I’d reluctantly pack them up, drive them to the airport and sadly wave goodbye each year because being alone is not a strong point of mine.
After a few days I end up staying up til 4AM, watching infomercials and buying what’s offered. Sam tries to help by giving me healthy food to eat but I always end up at Walmart buying chocolate covered donuts, 7-up (an underappreciated beverage), beef jerky and chocolate milk. It’s rough. I need the action of people walking around and my wife to sleep next to.
Charis Portraiture, my taskmaster for 3 years, went down in flames in March. So this year for the first time I had the lucky opportunity to go with the family to Idaho. We had some pleasant times. Actually some great times.
My business went down hard so I am usually broke now but I have plenty of time. Being financially poor but time rich is a complicated pleasure. It can be a pleasure if you can ignore past due notices, and your impulses at Walmart, and eat cheaply, and never go to the mall, and be perfectly happy with a 1995 Isuzu Trooper that leaks a large amount of oil all over your rented 1.4 million dollar houses driveway.
Our first stop was the Smith Family Reunion in the lovely hamlet of Wendell Idaho. The church (LDS church) has a park that you can set aside for usage like a family reunion. It is a perfect place for a large group. The only downfall was the constant smell of a dairy farm and some crazy cow mooing all night like it was being tortured.
This place in Wendell is Idaho in its most simple form: grass, trees, blue skies, and noone around.
The days are long in June. Sunrise at 6AM Sunset at 9:30PM. Light breezes and temperatures in the 80’s. Recreational opportunities unlimited.
This is all of Samantha’s 5 sisters except for Shauna. They are masters at organizing themselves into a pleasing photograph at any moment. Sam is on the far right.
The tents provided hours of fun and pleasure for the kids. Lily climbed in the tent when we set it up and did not exit for several hours. Everyone that walked by got an invitation to “come play with me”. She had found her home.
At the reunion certain groups emerged. This one emerged quickly. When we arrived and started to set up camp the boys high fived eachother and then proceeded to crawl around on the ground, climb the chain link fence, tell Star Wars memories and run amok.
There are no age differences, no personality quirks, no distance too far to dampen the cousins relationships. This is boyhood at its purest.
The kids make the reunion fun and exciting. Nothing is too much fun and anything goes. This photo was taken after the “so you think you have talent” variety show. This is most of the kids. Several didn’t make it to the photo. They were too busy playing on the swing set
This is the swing set that I was speaking of. Its an old-school steel one. At one point during the reunion someone screamed and the rumor immediately circulated that one of the kids had cut themselves badly on an errant part of the swing set. All the parents sprinted over to the swing set to find out that it was untrue.
We didn’t believe that that old thing could be safe. Its too old.
Grace was only 1.2 years old at this point. She was lurching around the place learning to walk. She went about in this diaper most of the day.
That morning I took her to Simerleys, the grocery store, to get some milk for her to drink. Uncle Dave drove us in his big pickup truck. I had her wrapped in a blanket with just her diaper on. It was 8AM. The grocery store didn’t open until 9. We went to the Maverick gas station. I told Dave that I was worried what people might say when I took Grace in the store. He said “I wouldn’t worry about it. People don’t just naturally assume the worst around here”.
He was right. I got a lot of smiles and although I was a scoungy lookin’ dude carrying a mostly naked baby in an old blanket noone said anything. It was refreshing.
We played baseball. The pitcher was great. He could pitch a ball and still hold one in his glove. The catcher played a conservative game. I wonder where she would be if there wasn’t a backstop to keep her close.
The first night we were foolish. The day was warm and the evening got cool. At 2AM it was freezing. Grace sobbed all night in her crib in our tent. The next night I resolved to put 2 pairs of Jammies on her. She slept quietly all night. It got fiercely cold at night. You can feel it settling through the nylon walls of the tent.
Its easy to forget about these things living in the soft weather of Southern California.
My Father is a gentleman. His favorite things in this life are his wife, his 8 children, his 20 some grandchildren and his grounds. He and I stood out looking at the front yard and he said “there’s nothing like grass. Grass is civilizatioin” 30 acres is a lot of grass.
July 2nd, 2009 at 6AM I soaked my shoes walking around Ball Manor. It was perfectly still. All you could hear was the birds.
I took this photograph from that same early morning session. I had a visit from my Father and Mother last week. They were going through some of my photographs and they came across this one. My dad responded with an emotional frown and grimace. Missy the mouser, the best hunter to grace the lawns at Ball Manor had gone missing. She used to follow Dad around the house while he pulled weeds and mowed. He had never seen a photograph of her. It was a powerful thing.
I had a friend at Brooks who always said with mystery in his voice “only the dead inhabit photographs”. Sad.
When I dream of golf Banbury Golf Club is the place and except for the 12th hole this is the hole I dream of. The sun is always raking in from the left and the air is usually heavy with humidity from the marsh that you stand next to when you tee off here. It smells like soil, moss and Idaho standing there.
The air is always electric because the round is starting and anything is possible. I set up my rolleiflex to take the photo but stopped to put my ball on a tee to give myself the feeling of a fresh round at Banbury once I returned to California.
My golf buddies range from Brothers. Josh, Zach and Jake to friends Matt, Christian and my Brothers in Law Josh King, Joe Oliver. My most trusted and reliable golf buddy is my Father in Law Laurence Smith. He is the most enthusiastic golfer that I personally know. He is always ready to drop appointments, switch flights, skip important meetings and do nearly anything for 18 holes. He is also legally blind. The thing I hear most when we are golfing is: “did you see where my ball went?”
The temperature was probably 101. These three cousins were born within 9 months of eachother. They were reluctant to participate but the dogs were on hand as was Sams hand.
I like how flush their cheeks were. Red in the heat.
Your first child is highly celebrated. Brodie is no exception. Standing room only at his 1st birthday party.
The 4th of July is a magical day to me. The long day, the heat, the friends, family and BBQ. Finally, the fireworks that make the day so exciting. My wifes annual flag cake expresses patriotism and committment to her family. We love it.
There are parents who take good care of their children and then there are parents who let their children sit in their high chairs for too long without food
Along the long and dangerous road to Atlanta IdahoNext came the Ball family reunion. It was in Atlanta Idaho, a freeky, small town full of social exiles and pariahs. The resort that we stay at has become a family tradition its called pinnacle peaks. The drive from Boise is beyond dangerous but interesting.
My sister got a flat tire on the way out and it took her over 12 hours to get to the nearest town, Idaho City. Once she got there all the tire shops were closed. The next day she had to drive back from Boise with a spare.
Grace and her grandpa had dressed in the same colors. Pink and brown. Graces favorite blanket had somehow found its way outside to the chair. She held her finger in front of her lips when she heard a dog bark. She is so lively.
At the resort there is a ramshackle putting green with astroturf and ridiculous contours. Nonetheless, each year the annual Pinnacle Peaks invitational (2 days, two rounds of 9 holes) is held. Zach and I battle against Josh for supremacy. Its no use. Josh beats us soundly.
Zach does hold great form anyways, he’s always a class act.
Kickball is the game. My siblings and I devolve into children under our parents care and act like idiots. Its great.
I gathered those of us who played the game for a group shot. Justin always finds the most unique ways to pose in a picture. Here he is face down doing the deadman. His pose certainly adds a strong horizontal element to the photograph. If you zoom in you can see his eye through the blades of grass.
In their own world these two fished for hours. No cares but where to cast their hook next, no time constraints, noone out on the pond but them.
Childhood memories just burn so deeply into your conscience.
I noticed that their hooks were bare and that they spent most of their time casting and reeling in. I thought that I might intrude and ask if they wanted help catching something. Then I thought “I don’t think they really want to catch anything”