Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving Memories

For as long as I can remember Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday. There is something so appealing about the fact that it's an entire day where the whole country stops to focus on being grateful unless you were one of those crazy people participating in "Black Thursday" and if you are, shame on you... is a bargain really more important than spending quality time with your family? C'mon now. I thought that today I would share a few of my favorite things about Thanksgiving. I really doubt you care, but I am feeling a little nostalgic since it's the first time I won't be packing my boots and heading to the Ranch to celebrate.

Let me give you a little history on the Ranch and why it's such a special place to my family... The Ranch originally belonged to Senator Robert S. Kerr and was used as his hunting property. My grandpa, Jimmie D. Rogers, purchased the two thousand acre ranch almost fifty years ago as an investment, but quickly fell in love with the land. He decided to keep the best five hundred acres and sold the remaining 1500 to the Oklahoma Game Refuge and Mr. Herman Meinder, who in turn gave it to the Boy Scouts of America, ensuring that the land would never be developed. Over the years the ranch house on the property was added on to a bit so that my Papa Jimmie's growing family could bring their growing families to the ranch and everyone could sleep under one roof, even if it meant kids on the floors everwhere... that's how he preferred it actually! Many wonderful memories were made in that cabin and on the land that surrounded it - multiple generations playing cards together around one big table, kids of all ages learning to drive (and the accidents that resulted), lots of fishing and hunting trips, cutting a tree for Christmas and making decorations the old fashion way, listening to stories told around the fireplace and sledding on car hoods in the snow. My Papa always said he wanted to meet Jesus somewhere on "the back 40" and in July of 1999, that's exactly what he did. In 2005, the ranch house was robbed and burned but the memories and stories remained, as did the ritual of visiting the Ranch on Thanksgiving. Last Christmas my Grandma decided to have the ranch house rebuilt so that the family could again celebrate Thanksgiving under one roof. Today, Blythe, Zoe and Blake mark the fourth generation of Rogers family members to enjoy the Ranch! This was also one of the first places I took Brandon when he came to Vian. He, too, quickly fell in love with the land (and me!) and later decided that it was the perfect place to propose. On September 17th we were married about a hundred feet from the spot where he got on his knee. The Ranch has always been my most favorite place in the whole wide world (Sorry, Italy... you're a distant second) and I was so honored that Brandon decided to marry me there. He understood the significance of the place and appreciated the fact that it was somewhere we could always go back to. Thank you babe, for allowing us to start OUR family memories on the Ranch. (And now I'm crying at work...)

Ok, sorry, moving on... A couple of years ago I decided to "enhance" our Thanksgiving with a little family competition. I started a new little tradition, Wednesday night FLAG FOOTBALL! Anyone can play, doesn't matter your age. My dad is the ref (and he tends to cheat, but not for me. I don't get it.) and the twins are the team captains since they are the youngest participants. I expected it to get a little tense, (we are a rather competitive family) but I wasn't fully prepared for the amount of meat-headedness (made that word up but you understand) that was displayed the first year. It all started with the lights... being that it's a small town, first my aunt called the high school and asked if we could just play on the field. They would have let us but if the lights had been on everybody in town would come to see what was going on, so we all decided that probably wasn't a good plan. Then we thought we could just park all the cars in a row and turn on the headlights (Maybe a little redneck, but it gets the job done...) except that gas was like $3.50 a gallon. Finally, we did the practical thing and rented the type of lights they use for road construction workers to see at night. The thing ran on diesel and lit up the place like a prison playground. It was legit. Then everybody gets ready to start the game (Note: It was FREEZING - we are all layered up in sweats, scarves, gloves and earmuffs) and out of nowhere my brother strips down to a jersey and gym shorts. He said he was going for the intimidation factor or something. Crazy. So we start the game and everybody is having fun until my team scores. We are doing our little victory dances and being mouthy and on the next possession the other team scores. Things get serious. Next possession, this little party turns into TACKLE football. It was intense and AWESOME! We had so much fun and every year since we've met up on Wednesday night for the show down... granted the trash talk goes on year round. Definitely one of my favorite family traditions!

The Ranch is a great place for hunting so every year on Thanksgiving morning the men get up wayyyy before the sun does and go sit in the freezing cold waiting for a big one to come by. We always joke that nobody gets to sleep in on Thanksgiving because my Aunt Suzanne sweetly fixes the boys breakfast before they go... I'm sure the breakfast is delicious, but the banging of the pots and pans is not always smiled upon. When I was little, I would wake up and be so excited to hear if my daddy got one! Callie and I would wait by the window until the trucks started coming in and then we would run out there and look in the back of each tailbed to see what they got. The best part would be to hear the boys talk about their old hunting stories. They would tell stories on themselves, or each other, or my Papa. Oh heavens, he was a good man, but he sure did like to poach! His stories always make me laugh. I can vividly remember all those people crammed in the ranch with only 3 little tables to eat on and my Papa would walk in and plop a whole deer on the kitchen table right in the middle of all the pretty Thanksgiving food. He would just start cutting it up right then and there! It was kind of gross and definitely not necessary, but he didn't seem to see anything wrong with it. Crazy boys.

The picture above is one of my favorites (despite my glasses), it was taken on our last Thanksgiving in the original ranch house. Our family loves playing Spoons and Pitch. In this picture we were playing Pitch and my Grandma is helping us... every year she has to re-teach us the rules and the point system. Nobody ever said we were the smartest group... That was a really fun night and I remember how much we laughed and laughed at things Zac said (partially because most of the conversation is documented in my "Quote Book." I may devote an entire post to it someday). We also LOVE to play Spoons. The entire family plays and it typically ends with either blood shed or my Grandma Dorothy getting called out for cheating. She always lets whoever is the littlest sit with her and then, no lie, steals their spoon! She'll swear she doesn't but ask anybody else in our family and they'll tell you Grandma is a cheater. 

I told you before that I'm just learning to cook, but the thing I failed to mention was that I do have a little experience cooking one thing... pies! The women in my family cook a TON of stuff for Thanksgiving because there are a lot of mouths to feed and we typically stay at the Ranch for a few days (There are only two restaurants within a 20 mile radius and one is only open for breakfast so we eat most meals at the house) and so every year I help my mom make pies. I learned at a relatively young age that you don't add any more water to the dough than is absolutely necessary, that you only roll the rolling pin one direction or your dough will be tough, that chocolate pie looks like its all going well but can be very misleading and most importantly, if you want to stay on Uncle Bobby's good side just leave an entire apple pie in the passenger's seat of his truck... It's his favorite. Wednesday mornings in the kitchen learning from my momma are the best.

Another thing that makes our Thanksgiving so special is that it's one of the few times everybody slows down and just sits around and talks. We always build a huge fire and everybody just cuddles up and the stories begin. It's a time that I treasure because this is how we, the youngest generation, learn about our family's history. There is always a story told that I've never heard before and lots of stories that I have, but it's always good to hear them again so I get another chance to try to burn them in my memory so that someday I can tell my kids. I'm sure that sounds a little silly but it's one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving. This picture was taken one of the year's we didn't have a ranch house so we stayed at the lake... this one cracks me up every time. My dad is turning into my Papa! Haha!

Just in case you were confused, when I said my "ENTIRE" family stays at the Ranch I'm not talking about my mom, dad and brother. I'm talking my grandma, my four sets of aunts and uncles, my eleven cousins (plus their spouses which adds another four) and my three nieces... Yep, that's twenty-six people...  and we all stay in one not-very-big Ranch house for at least two nights. It's crowded, it's cramped, it's loud, it's messy, it requires sleeping on the floor in your sleeping bag while your cousin (Cough, Casey, cough!) snores across the room and it is WONDERFUL! And to make it even better my other set of grandparents come too!! So literally my entire family celebrates Thanksgiving together. I have no greater joy than to spend time with my family. They are a crazy bunch, but I love each and every one of them so, so much.

** I meant to post this on Wednesday but got a little side-tracked! I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Our first Thanksgiving as a married couple was wonderful... I'll give you the full scoop Monday! Please take time to enjoy your friends and family these next few days!!

Be Blessed,

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