Sunday, November 11, 2007

Jarring contrasts

This year, we're taking an extra month at Camp Freehold. The weather is good, and we've missed a lot of weekends this summer for one reason and another. An added benefit is that the campground is lightly populated and very quiet. This is exacerbated by the change back to Eastern Standard Time, since it's now dark by 6 PM.

Last night, Mrs. Freeholder decided that she really didn't want to be taken out to eat, and instead requested BBQ from a nearby eatery.

Obliging husband and BBQ freak that I am, I agreed and set off to the restaurant. It was dark, it was cold and it was quiet. The road was without traffic. The headlights bored a tunnel through the cold darkness as I drove.

Crossing the Yadkin River bridge, I could see the restaurant ahead. It was lit as usual, which is to say that the owners aren't going to spend much money on lights for the parking lot. I parked and got out of the car. Still cold and quiet. This place is the only eatery for quite some way on this highway, and attracts a large, but mostly local, crowd. Most nights groups would be standing in the parking lot after their meal, talking. Not tonight.

I walked around the corner to the door, and went inside. I was assaulted by light, warmth and the babble of families all around me. The aroma of food was heavy on the air. I placed my order and sat at the counter to wait for my food.

As I waited, others came and went. Old men, toothpicks in the corner of their mouths, paid their bills, greeted old friends, answered questions about kids and grandkids and opened the door for their wives as they left.

Other, younger men entered, obviously fresh in from the field--it was the first day of centerfire season for deer. Some were in groups of men and their sons, for others, it was Mom meeting them there after a day's unsuccessful hunt. They were still in their camouflage and boots.

"Hey, where'dja git that light on yore hat? That's pretty neat."

"Yeah, I used t' have to hold the flashlight in ma teeth, but I saw one of these at Wal-mart. You can git em 'bout anywhere--that little convenience store in Reeds has em."

"Didja see any today?"

"Yup. Saw an 8-pointer, but it was too late t' shoot."

"Alright son, git in there in th' bathroom and go. Why dinja go before we left the woods?"

About that time, I heard "Sweetie, your order's ready. You need napkins, ketchup, salt or some dip?"

I got some of each, and paid the bill. Then I took my food back into the cold darkness, and made the journey home to the light and warmth of my family.

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