Playhouse, September 8, 2010

The final days of summer are on schedule for their exit! I don’t mean to be sad, but Labor Day, the caboose of summer, leaves me with more melancholy than mirth.

I’ve stored such wonderful memories of past Labor Days. Our children were still home and all the extended family blocked off Labor Day weekend for the family dove shoot. My parents’ home turned from a quiet dwelling for two to packed out bedrooms of cousins and special guests. Even if the doves failed to show, there would still be a good-time reunion.

Everyone followed the camouflage dress code and left for the dove field – across the highway and behind my grandfather’s barn. We were in our spot surrounding the field when the first sun rays glistened off our gun barrels. Then it happened – the first flurry of doves sailed across the field. Gun blasts broke the early morning peace, and it was war for the next three hours.

Not a bird ever escaped the trained eyes of our retrievers. When a bird whirled to the ground, Tahya and Eli met their cousins in the center of the field to see who could be the first retriever. “I’ve got it!” one young one would shout, and they’d all rush back to wait behind the hunters for the next fly-over.

By noon the birds had retreated from the field, so the hunting party would meet at our home for a light lunch. It needed to be light because everyone knew a feast was the fare for the evening meal.

Mid-afternoon had hunters waking from naps, kids leaving the four-wheeler trails, and cooks peeling potatoes. It was time for the last try at the evening’s main course. The touch of fall that always embraced that hillside evening returns each September and brings with it the nostalgia of wonderful times.

I reflect back to that circle of dove pluckers and the laughter and tales that the family shared amid a cloud of feathers. Mother was about more serious business – pulling out multiple skillets for the dove-fry and rolling out biscuit dough for the one hundred plus biscuits we’d devour. Daddy would be by her side making teamwork out of a feast catered by love.

The final result was a palate extravaganza. When I recall the blend of flavors we enjoyed as we emptied the bowls of potato salad, corn, lima beans and sliced tomatoes I just shake my head and smile. Add a platter of doves with gravy and biscuits and I chide myself for not savoring those moments a bit more slowly and with more gratitude!

It’s Labor Day weekend as I write this. Our young families are older and scattered to homes of their own. The dove field is an overgrown pasture, Daddy’s marker is in the nearby cemetery, and Mother spends routine days in the nursing home with one holiday blending into another.

So much change! Yet in each changing cycle of life, God is faithful and abundant in His blessings. 

 “Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever.”  Psa. 145:2  

About Chris Elkins

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