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How I Spent My Fourth of July Vacation

Background Information

A couple of weeks ago, I agreed that this weekend would be The Weekend™. The one where I bring home The Cats™. Nanny and Granddaddy's cats. Matt & Lucy. But we had to have them sedated because, having done the "unsedated cats in the car in Atlanta traffic" schtick before, I want no part of it. Ever. And neither do you. Trust me.

Along a totally unrelated subject but also a couple of weeks ago, in an email correspondence, I arranged with my cousin Jim Roebuck not only to attend the 110th Henderson Reunion (of which he was the organizer), but to enter the Brunswick Stew contest.1 The reunion was on July 4.

Thursday Morning

Tore my left cornea very badly when I woke up at 6:something AM. Could barely see. Plans for work and for driving to Eutaw Thursday night foiled.

On her way back from visiting a friend in Montgomery, my mother stops by the vet in Tuscaloosa and picks up knock-out pills for Lucy & Matt. And a plunger for making sure the pills make it down their throats.


Eyesight still blurry, but I have little choice but to drive, given everything that is planned for the weekend. Donned sunglasses and drove to Eutaw bearing huge stew pot, crock pot, and a grocery list.

Friday evening was to be the 81st birthday celebration for my uncle Reginald, whose birthday was actually on June 1, I believe. I was supposed to make a chocolate pie or two, but because of foiled plans (curse you, weak corneas!), I simply didn't have time. Considered making a blood sacrifice to my cousin Lou as penance. (She adores my pies.)

I left Atlanta earlyish and ended up getting to Tuscaloosa (the Next Biggest Town™2 from Eutaw) just before lunch time. I stopped at the grocery store and picked up a few things my mother needed, and also bought all the ingredients for my Brunswick stew. Got home to my mother's house by 1:00 and we had lunch: sautéed pork steaks smothered with onions, fried yellow squash, and rolls. Tasty.

As soon as we were done, I started cooking the stew. I won't bore you make you hungry with the details, but it contained beef & chicken stock; a whole, large sautéed Vidalia onion; ground beef, thoroughly browned; beef tips, thoroughly browned; chicken thighs, thoroughly browned; the leftover pork steak; okra; baby lima beans; corn niblets; a couple of large, baking potatoes, cut into small cubes; lots and lots of tomatoes; tomato paste; Worcestershire sauce; herbs & spices; and lots and lots of stirring and TLC. :)

My uncle Jesse came over during the cooking process and he and my mother kibitzed whilst I cooked. (And he may have convinced my mother she must have an iPhone. <sigh>)

I had to stop the stew about 1/3 of the way done to attend the birthday bash.

My cousin Pete grilled steaks, there were potatoes as large as your head, and a bunch of other stuff I didn't eat. I had what I needed after the first two items were named. :)

Oh, and homemade peach and vanilla ice cream, of which I tried some of both. With fresh cut strawberries. Heaven.

After that had wound down, I fussed over the stew until the wee hours until I could no longer make positive contributions to its fundamental state of deliciousness.


Got up and tasted the stew, which had sat for a few hours as it cooled off and had time for the flavors to meld. Added a few more herbs and spices, some cayenne, some more Worcestershire sauce, and a touch of salt. I pronounced it Good, and it was so. I set off for Northport, Alabama (suburb of the Next Biggest Town™) for the reunion.

I arrived a tad early. There was a primo parking space right in front of the door, which I happily took. I unloaded my stew and took it in, where a very officious woman (who turned out to be my second cousin Carolyn(?)) directed me to take it forthwith into the kitchen. I futzed around a bit transferring the still-warm stew to the crockpot I'd brought so it would stay piping hot, then registered (you read that right), noting that my name is "Gary Henderson" and that my ancestry is "Charlie via David." With name tag on, I helped people carry and set up, greeted the few people I already knew and met my second cousin Jim ("Trixie" (whose real name was actually "Ucal")) with whom I'd exchanged so much email.

By this point, my direct cousins and aunts and uncles had started to show up, so we did what everyone else in attendance did: we clumped up in family units (we were the "Charlies") and didn't much associate with anyone else. :)

I won't bore you amuse you with all the gory details, but I will hit some of the highlights.

Hendersons is musical, by golly! And when a bunch of us all get together, there will be music. And it will sound quite nice. And will be in at least two-part, if not three-part or four-part harmony. I'm not even kidding. Toward that end, Jim had asked all the "numbered cousins"3 what their favorite hymns were.

Have I mentioned that my extended family is very, very religious?

So Jim took all the answers and...there's just no other way to explain it. He photocopied all the hymns named and consolidated them into a sort of hymnal.

We—and by "we" I mean that I did sing along on the ones I knew the music to, because who wouldn't want to be a contributing baritone/low tenor to a choir that spontaneously and with no prior practice sings two-, three-, or even four-part harmony?—sang the first verse of all of them.

You may chortle, now.

The singing was led by one of my other cousins, Wilson Jr. ("Wilson"), who has been a music director in various churches since I was a child. At least 30 years, anyway.

Golly. There was so much else to at least mention. The stew cook-off. The "white cake" cook-off. The "caramel cake" cook-off. Siblings all dressed alike. "Silver dollar" tossing. And food. Oh, the food.

I did not win the stew-off. Jim did. You know, the guy who organized everything? Yeah. Mm-hmm. I'm sure it was very fair. :) And I even offered two whole dollars to my uncle Reg (#7) who was one of the judges. Razzafrackin' incorruptible mumbledy-mumble.

We only had the Northport Community Center from 9:30 to 2:00, and at 1:45, when everything was basically over, Jim gave the word and we all cleaned that place thoroughly. It was a thing of beauty to watch, really.

The total number attending was 153. And that wasn't anywhere near everyone.

But wait! The day still wasn't over! Act now and you can receive even more fun!

My cousin Wanda (Reg's daughter) was having a July Fourth party at her house that evening. At which would be <stage-whispering>alcoholic beverages!</stage-whispering> Which is why my mother and I were invited, but uncle Reg and aunt Patsy were not (they don't really approve), and since uncle Jesse and aunts Linda and Peggy were with Reg and Patsy, none of them were invited, either. So it was a pretty raucous affair.

Well, raucous in comparison to the other two parties. :) There were <stage-whispering>alcoholic beverages</stage-whispering>, soft drinks, tea, lots of food (yes, more food; can you say "bloated," boys and girls?), many fireworks, laid-back relatives, relatives of those relatives, people who weren't at all related, people related to those unrelated people, and I think at least one person who was an unrelated acquaintance of a relative of someone who was a relative of a spousal unit of one of my unrelated relations. I dare you to diagram that.

Then I went home. And thus endeth Saturday.


Sunday will hereinafter be known as "C-Day." It was the day we sedated Nanny and Granddaddy's 16-year-old cats (Lucy and Matt), then waited for them to get groggy whilst my mother and I and Catherine (who, if you'll remember (because you hang on every word I write) was Nanny and Granddaddy's caregiver for several years and now a dear friend of our family) made a few more passes through the house determining what to do with the stuff that's left.

I confiscated all of Nanny's cookbooks. And her little recipe box. In which is the recipe for "Cistard Pie." I haven't been able to bring myself to go through it, yet, because it's hard to read through...<ahem> something in my eyes...and every time I open the box, I <ahem> get something in my eyes. Soon, though. Soon. In there lies (I hope) such wonderful concoctions as "Cistard Pie," "Aufdenkamp Soup," "Sausage Pinwheels," fried peach pies, homemade chicken soup with homemade noodles, chicken and dumplin's, etc.

Once the cats were woozy, we shoved them into their crates, shoved those into my car, and I set off toward Atlanta.

Matt meowed a little every now and then, but Lucy kept her yap shut the entire way. I never knew just how awful I-59/I-20 is in Alabama until I had Matt reacting to every rough section of the road with panic.

I made it to Atlanta in good time, took the cats in, set their carriers down in the Cat Room, opened them, put out some food, water, and litter, and then left them there while I joined JP, Jennifer, and Emerson for dinner. Normally, we would have done this in Alabaster on my way through Birmingham, but this weekend they just happened to be on their way back from one of the Carolinas, and so we still got our traditional dinner, but on my home turf instead of theirs. :)

Matt & Lucy came out of their carriers and went instantly under the two chairs in the Cat Room, and nothing I said or did could convince them to come out.

Around midnight, I checked on them again, and both were standing in the Cat Room, eyes wide with fear, and looking like their worlds had just been overturned.

I opened the doors, and Lucy rushed out to explore, meowing frantically the whole time.

Matt stood juuuuuust on the other side of the open French doors. Looking.

I followed Lucy, but she wouldn't let me touch her. I realized quickly that she was finding all the deepest, darkest hidey-holes for future reference.

Matt continued to look.

Lucy found a dark corner in my closet and wedged herself into it, eyes bulging with fear, curled up and glared at me whenever I dared to check on her. She eventually let me pet her, but it was with skin crawling away from my hand.

Matt, for all I know, continued to look all night. Although I know he eventually came out, because someone knocked a box over in my kitchen, and I know it wasn't me or Lucy.

Catching Up

And that was my weekend. Yesterday, Lucy became a total attention-whore. Once I caught her and made her let me scratch her right ear4, she melted and has been following me around, meowing animatedly, and ramming her head into any part of me that presents itself. She went from "Gaaaaah! Stranger! Run away! Run away! HATE HIM!" to "Ooooooh, pet me. Pet me now, pet me forever, never stop petting me!" in only hours.

Matt...is still thinking about it. He hovers just in the periphery, never coming quite into the room with me and Lucy, but I can tell he wants to. He'll eventually come around.

Just in time for me to have a house-guest, I'm betting. :)

More as more develops. Sorry this got so long. But it took days to write it. :)

  1. I'm finding it very hard to believe that I never wrote about the Henderson Tradition of Brunswick Stew on LiveJournal, but the evidence of my own eyes is indisputable. Wow. I'll have to remedy that. Later.
  2. Those of you who live in rural areas and/or small towns may understand this. When you live in a small town, to get Anything of Any Worth Whatsoever™, you simply must go to The Next Biggest Town™. For Eutaw, this could be either Demopolis, Meridian, Greensboro, or Tuscaloosa, depending on your preference and which direction you want to drive. For Tuscaloosa, this was Birmingham or Huntsville. For Birmingham, it's Atlanta or Nashville. And so on.
  3. Oy. Where do I even begin? The Hendersons go back a long way. My grandfather and all his brothers and sisters are who everyone was counting their ancestry through (Charlie, Trixie, Wilson, etc.). In earlier times, the children of those siblings (this would be my father's generation) would all come to the reunions, and there would be pictures made. And "they" wanted everyone lined up according to birth order. So the oldest was #1, the next was #2, and so on. The youngest was #46 (yes, approximately 12 siblings had 46 children that lived). My father was #25. Hence "numbered cousins." (Incidentally, since I'm the eldest child of #25, my "designation" is #25A. I wish I were making that up. :)
  4. Lucy lost her right rear leg in an accident some years ago, so she is unable to scratch anything on her right side. The trick to getting on Lucy's good side is to constantly rub or scratch around the right side of her neck, her right ear, or near her right jaw. And that little back nub just twitches as you do it. And she purrs up a storm.

Atheists Are People, Too  Antispam  


( 12 hisses — Hiss at me! )
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 8th, 2009 03:24 am (UTC)
It does seem like it was just a short time ago, but it was two summers ago, in 2007.

I sit in my office at home as I type this, and Lucy is about 2 feet from my feet. Every once in a while, she reaches out a paw and grabs one of my toes with her claws. And meows.

Matt is under a chair downstairs. Cats.
Jul. 7th, 2009 09:59 pm (UTC)
Curse you. I could do without a family reunion, I think, but I am absolutely craving brunswick stew now.
Jul. 8th, 2009 03:25 am (UTC)
It was quite tasty. And I left all three remaining quarts with my mother so she won't have to cook for a few days. :)
Jul. 7th, 2009 10:03 pm (UTC)
My Bet:
Now that Lucy has warmed up to you, I have a feeling Matt won't be far behind...
Congrats on surviving!! :)
Jul. 8th, 2009 03:32 am (UTC)
Re: My Bet:
We can hope so. I would have bet good money that Matt would have been the first to come 'round, because he loves to be petted.

Just, apparently, not by me. :) Lucy has always been the more stand-off-ish cat, probably because of her disability.

Color me surprised.
Jul. 7th, 2009 10:57 pm (UTC)
Fun read, I promise I hung on every word! Kitty smoochies to Matt & Lucy!
Jul. 8th, 2009 03:31 am (UTC)
Every word? Even the "really" in the 26th paragraph? :)
Jul. 7th, 2009 11:41 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a rip-roarin' good time! I'm sad I missed it. The cats sound like they are coming around nicely. Buttermilk (the newest kitten) has some sort of insecurity/needy complex that requires him to constantly be touching a human at all times. This is usually fine until he wants to sleep on my face. Cats.
Jul. 8th, 2009 03:27 am (UTC)
So far, there has been no desire in either of them to be on the bed, other than a couple of "test drives" Lucy took during the first night.

I'm torn because I loved to have Taz and Gremlin sleep with me. There was something nice about having them there and purring. But then there was also something rather unpleasant about waking up to Taz raking his claws across my eyelids because he wanted to play at 5:00 AM, or Gremlin spearing my ankle with his claws because I had the audacity to move during the night.
Jul. 8th, 2009 03:20 am (UTC)
I'm very proud of you. Matt and Lucy undoubtedly have the perfect home in which to live out the rest of their lives. :)
Jul. 8th, 2009 03:29 am (UTC)
That's my goal. Nanny and Granddaddy are beyond caring, but I know at least Granddaddy died knowing I'd take care of his cats.

I was hoping the cats would find some comfort in the things here that used to be at their house, like Nanny's clock. But so far, they don't seem to recognize the familiar stuff.
( 12 hisses — Hiss at me! )

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