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Domestic Travel

French Lick, Indiana

The Freeman Reunion - August, 1997

Early in August 1997, Alissa & I stuffed the kids into our minivan and drove East.
We were going to see the Great Smokey Mountains, part of the Appalachian Range.
Along the way, we made a number of stops, visiting places we had each lived before
when we were younger. French Lick, where Grampa Freeman came from, was more
than just a whistle stop, however. His entire first family were gathering from hither and
thither for a grand reunion. Like the Smokey Mountains, French Lick was going to be
a fresh, new adventure for most of us in the little eastbound Mazda MPV.

Saved from the golf course!
Back from golfing
in a torrential rain
9 August 1997
...and puppy dog's tails...
Eli had his pick
of bugs to catch
9 August 1997
Wonder my brother is up to...
Taylor looking for
bugs with Eli
9 August 1997
If you push a caterpillar down a slide, it leaves behind a slimy goo
Hungry caterpillar
goes for a slide
9 August 1997

I can't recall if we camped in our tent or if we stayed at Rudy's & Phoebe's, or Zoe's house.
We were set up for camping anyway, and I'm always willing to stay anywhere for free!
At any rate, the big reunion day began with the elder Freeman brothers taking our family
and a number of the adult grandsons out for breakfast at Uncle Itchy's café in town. Afterwards,
the wives and kids all went back to Edith's place while I joined seven related guys for a few
rounds of golf at the famous French Lick Resort, where John Dillinger used to swing a club...

That's when the trouble started.

First, the older guys, including my father-in-law, scooted away in golfcarts, playing as a foursome.
That left me, unmistakably the worst player of the bunch, to take up with three of Edith's
adult grandsons. These guys were Fun Times Incarnate, so much fun that they were dangerous!
There were frequent detours to the beverage cart, something quite new to me, and the beer added
countless strokes to our game. Sometime around the sixth hole, the sky filled with big, fat clouds,
and we played on. It started to sprinkle sometime around the eighth hole, but we played on. My
enthusiastic cousin, an expert fairway motorist, rolled the golfcart side-over-side, but we escaped
serious injury, thanks to nimble cartwheels and the wet grass. By the ninth hole, we were being
drenched in a torrential downpour, lightning crashing all around us. In contrast to our elders, we
left the Back Nine for another day, and headed back to the reunion, already in progress.

Gather under the tent for dinner!
The reunion dinner
under the big tent
9 August 1997
Sadly, Leatha & Claire had passed on
Edith and fifteen
of her 17 children
9 August 1997
See there are some shenanigans afoot...
Another view of
Edith & her children
9 August 1997
It's a pretty good representation... albeit incomplete
Some of Edith's
many grandchildren
9 August 1997
Did I mention we were all being eaten alive by mosquitoes?
Edith and her
grandchildren posing
9 August 1997

Needless to say, Merrill was amazed when he heard the story of our misadventure.
He was amused; not as much could be said with regard to my Alissa. A change of clothing,
and I joined the others in the grand feast. Following the early afternoon dinner, everyone gathered
around Grandma Edith for photographs. Her fifteen surviving children - minus Aunt Leatha and
Uncle Claire - stood beside her in tiered ranks. Next were the grandchildren, then the greatgrandchildren.
Then it was dessert time. It seemed like we never stopped eating that day. The rain had cooled off the
ambient temperature, and the mosquitoes were held at bay by our jackets and DEET bug spray.

Next! Greats on deck!!
Greatgrandma Edith
once again surrounded
9 August 1997
They can't find us in this tree, can they??
Brianna & Eli
sitting in a tree
9 August 1997
It's a Family Tree!
Treed all together
for a family shot
9 August 1997
Sharing a big laugh under the tent
Aunt Phoebe, the
epitome of joyfulness
9 August 1997
It was a private moment. Sort of.
Playing my guitar on
Grandma's porch
9 August 1997

The sun went down quietly that evening, its setting hidden by the verdant
hardwood forest surrounding Buzzard Hollow. Many of the family went over to
Uncle Itchy's house for a nightcap. He's the great entrepreneur of the family,
and he had a throne-like observation point in his living room, to which he
beckoned me with a wave of his hand. He just wanted to share with me
his strong feeling that I should be a good husband to Alissa. It was a family
moment. I promised that I would, unless she killed me first.

Got it!
Eli either catching,
or smushing, a bug?
9 August 1997
Playing with a tiger. Easy does it there, boy!
Eli messing with a cat
at Rudy's & Phoebe's
10 August 1997
Homestead in Buzzard Hollow
Grandma Edith's
house from the road
10 August 1997
What Alissa remembers most about French Lick
The mailbox across the
road from the house.
10 August 1997
One of the last times we saw Grandma Freeman
Alissa with her
Grandma Edith
10 August 1997

There's a mailbox across the road from Edith's house, which Alissa says she will
always remember from her childhood visits to French Lick. There's also a natural
spring down the road a few hundred feet, filling a cistern that supplies water to
Edith's house. We visited that as well, then the graveyard where Leatha & Claire
are buried. At Uncle Rudy's, Eli took his chances playing with a bad-tempered
barn cat. We also took a little trip to Spring Mill the following day, with some of the
family. When the sun came up the next morning, we said goodbye to French Lick.

Until next time...

All images © 1997 EBBoykin, Jr

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