It took months of preparation and planning during this time of a virus sweeping across our nation.

The goal was simple enough: a birthday celebration with a brother living in Oklahoma and for us that celebration meant a good steak. And because I do dare to admit it, age and health risks were in the forefront of our minds.

Concrete plans of sanitization of everything touchable and wearing of masks that were sometimes ridiculed prior to the shut-in and afterward to guard the safety of each other was firmly in place. Proper diet (excluding pork and other food culprits) and exercise was also part of the regime.

Things were beginning to look slim as the pandemic reared its ugly head again, but sheer determination allowed that trip to take place recently.

There is nothing like sitting on a patio with Karla, a sister-in-law drinking coffee in the early morning light listening to the chirping of birds, frogs, locusts and other animals announce the dawning of the day or taking an early morning trek across the pastures of Kuykendall farmland in which we grew up while the coolness of the earth could still be felt.

Even bouncing across the fields in a farm truck to feed and count cows to discover newborn baby calves was a joy and a total relaxation from the outpouring of COVID concerns.

An open invite for a delicious meal featuring home grown vegetables and fruit came from Karren, another sister-in-law and topped anything you could possibly find at a five-star restaurant and yes, that steak for the birthday guy – Frank(ie) Kuykendall – did get to take place at Cattlemen’s Steakhouse located in the historic stockyards of Oklahoma City.

His special dinner was detained somewhat due to a mishap on my part, but none-the-less we were seated in a special dining area providing a larger social distancing area and the steaks were as good as we had remembered on previous occasions.

Social distancing and the use of masks seemed to be noticeably more important in Oklahoma than in Texas at the time, so travel to do a lot of adventurous things was limited, with the exception of taking an afternoon road trip to Rush Springs, a town known as the “Watermelon Capital of the World.”

Aug. 8 had been planned for their huge watermelon festival, bringing in thousands of visitors per year to enjoy around 50,000 pounds of the vine-ripe delicacies from the field. For the first time, the festival is closed, but the trucks and the crews could be seen in the fields loading the melons to sell throughout the state, and keeping the large vegetable stands along the roadside filled.

After choosing several melons for our own treats, we ventured on down to the Jeff Davis Memorial Park, where we found locals filling water bottles with spring water free to the public. It was there, two young men, Toby Timms and Shawn Spears, filled a drinking cup of the natural water for us to enjoy and told us spring has an output of 72,000 gallons a day. “The spring is mentioned in the earliest histories and furnished Indians and settlers” and other historical data was found etched in stone monuments above the springs. For the cattlemen and the historian, the whole story of Rush Springs is quite interesting.

“After all this time, I didn’t know we could get the water ourselves,” said Frank. “And here it is almost in what you might our backyard (meaning a short trip away). We have played in this park more than once growing up and didn’t even realize what a treasure was here.”

Before leaving the area, a circle around to the adjoining cemetery led to an accidental finding of a descendant and photos were taken and sent to a niece to confirm it in which – naturally — got the rest of the family off on a genealogy-stirring, but peaked the interest of the younger generations.

Before calling an end to the vacation, nephews and nieces hosted a family gathering at the farm pond. Tents for shade and tables had been erected, barbecue with all the trimmings, games, swimming and fireworks completed the evening.

Social distancing and masks took place there, as well, for the elderly, proving that the best of blessings can be found in your own backyard, with the love of family and friends caring for your welfare.

Looking for a restful vacation? Look to your own backyard. And yes, it was worth every bit of preparation beforehand and during to be able to celebrate with family a very special birthday. Happy birthday, brother! I can’t wait until the next one and maybe you will get that homemade banana nut cake soon.

Speaking of locals: Thank you to those who tried to keep me updated with Kilgore happenings while away. It seems the discovery of the Kilgore Bulldog being relocated to a new location at the corner of Lantrip and Kilgore Street near the historical Dean-Keener Crim home has caused quite a delightful stir with Kilgoreites.

The Bulldog belongs to BASA Resources with the original idea of it being placed on the pump jack coming from Supt. Howard Langley.

Langley said, “It originally was placed on a pump jack near Walmart, but the area became so overgrown hardly anyone noticed it. We shut two wells down several months ago when the property was purchased to build a service station on that corner. The COVID temporarily shut that project down and I didn’t have the heart to discard the bulldog. We chose to mount it on the one closer to the high school. It pleases me that more people are seeing it…I just couldn’t get rid of it.”

On the homefront, the News Herald has hired in Donna Shupe as a new multi-media salesperson. We are very happy to have her as part of our team.

There is more to come, but I am currently typing with one hand. Always good to go; good to get back.

May His love and laughter fill your hearts and your home throughout the week. In the meantime, we may be reached at chitchatlinda@aol.com or (903) 984-2593.

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