The fourth of July holiday is always different in our family, yet almost always the same. For a little more than the past century, my family has gathered at Compass Lake to celebrate our country’s birth. This year, as most, my mother joined us. Mary Lou and I were there along with our daughters and their husbands and all four of our grandchildren.
Mom is the first in our family to swim in the lake for a full 90 years. She even gave an instructional dive off the dock for her great-grandchildren during a contest to judge the best diver in the family. The games we play in the water may change over the years, but there is always swimming. Lots and lots of swimming.
Eating continues to be a big part of the festivities. Ribs are always part of the menu. A beef tenderloin was the entrée another night. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and ham sandwiches along with all sorts of side dishes made their appearance at lunch. A hearty breakfast is always a tradition at the lake, with bacon and sausage on the table at every meal.
Watermelons were unusually sweet and juicy this year, though the recommendation was made to go back to seeded melons next year. The kids missed the seed spitting contest off the dock.
Homemade ice cream is a must for this holiday weekend as well as any other time at the lake. From the youngest to the oldest in our family, the ice cream is a favorite. The recipe, once lost for a brief period, is now safely tucked away in a variety of places. The title is simply “Compass Lake Ice Cream”.
Waterskiing was how my siblings and cousins spent our time at the lake. My grandkids have never cared for skiing but they sure love tubing. They bounce, tumble and jump until they are too tired to pull themselves out of the water. The competitive juice between siblings and cousins becomes intense, no matter what game they are playing.
The youngest of the grandkids is only three years old, but he loves the water too. He mostly plays on the sandy beach, building things and letting his imagination run wild. I wish I knew what was going through his young mind.
As kids, we slept on old wooden bunk beds stamped U.S. Army. The cotton mattresses on top of the old springs gave just enough to make it hard to turn over. The windows were open on the sleeping porch, and you could hear the Bay Line Railroad rumble through at night. Extra beds for big weekends are now located in a rented motor home that cost more than our first house, but you can still hear that train passing in the night.
We still sit on the front porch and tell stories, many of them heard over the seven generations that have enjoyed this special place. The front porch, however, has largely moved to the big dock that replaced the one lost thanks to Hurricane Michael. Hammocks are readily available when the swimming, eating and stories lead to the inevitable naps.
Four generations once again celebrated Independence Day by celebrating our own family. We gave thanks at each meal for our time together and we offered thanks for America, the country we all love.
Things have changed and evolved over our family’s long history at Compass Lake, but two things always have remained the same. Our love for our country and our love for each other.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org