It was a special Labor Day weekend. Mary Lou and I enjoyed having all our grandkids at Compass Lake plus my mother and one daughter and son-in-law. Family gatherings are always special and should never be taken for granted.
Labor Day and Compass Lake never happened together while I was growing up. It was the height of peanut season back then and the Labor Day holiday gave small farmers extra help to get their crop to the peanut mill. The extra help was their school-age children, of course. Everyone worked on a farm in those days.
It was not until the 1990s that our family finally added Labor Day to the other big Summer holidays celebrated at the lake. Memorial Day officially kicks off the Summer and Labor Day signals the end, though some pretty good days for spending time on the water remains outside of those brackets.
As for July 4th, it remains the biggest holiday of all for our family at our lake house. Everyone in the family makes it if they can. We are only limited by the number of beds as our family continues to grow.
This year’s Labor Day reminded me more than most of my two grandfathers. My paternal grandfather died shortly before I was two years old. I only know him from memories told by my father and other family members. His birthday is this week, September 8th. I wish I had known him.
My maternal grandfather was a big part of my growing up years. He was blessed with a long, rich and full life. He and my grandmother lived just down the street in the small town I grew up in. The peanut company that was such a big part of my life carried his name, Beall Peanut Company.
I could write a book about Granddaddy Joe. He owned the lake house at Compass Lake when I was visiting as a boy. He usually cooked a big breakfast when all his grandkids were there together. Pancakes were a favorite and there was always a lot of bacon.
Granddaddy would pull us for hours behind the boat skiing. He was always doing things around the house that made our vacations there seem so smooth and seamless. Kids do not think about those things, at least I did not. It was fun growing up on a lake and spending time with your cousins. Life was good.
For many years now, there has been another person filling that role, hearing his name called repeatedly. I am the current granddaddy at Compass Lake, the latest in a long line. I hope there are many more to come.
I usually fix breakfast, with Mary Lou’s help, for our crowds when they arrive. Pancakes remain one of the favorites menu items sixty years later. Only the syrup has changed; from the Daddy Buck’s or Blackburn’s Syrup of my youth to Aunt Jemima’s, now known by its more politically correct name, Pearl Milling Company Syrup. Eggs and cheese grits are another frequent request. All meals come with bacon. Lots of bacon.
I am the second Grandaddy Dan in a row, following the big footsteps of my own father. Like Granddaddy Joe and Big Dan, I pull those grandkids for hours behind the boat at the lake. Water skiing has fallen a bit out of fashion and the grandkids want to tube. For hours.
The games in the yard and off the dock are different only in name and format. They are mostly invented on the fly, with rules changing as you go. I take pictures, more than I will ever see or share. The laughter of the cousins that are my grandchildren are like a mirror into my past. Who could ever tire of hearing that sound? Mary Lou enjoys it just as much as I do.
My mother, Jobie, also takes great pleasure watching her great-grandchildren enjoy the spring water just as she did as a child eighty years ago. After all, this is her happy place as well, shared with her own cousins. Both her maternal and paternal grandparents had cabins at Compass Lake during her youth.
I grew up working on what was often the longest and busiest day of the peanut buying season, Labor Day. These days, I still work just as hard on Labor Day. However, this time around it is a labor of love.
Dan Ponder can be reached at Dan@ponderenterprises.net