As we’ve mentioned many times before, there’s always “this much still to do.” No matter how hard we work or how much progress we make, there’s still a lifetime of projects before us, taunting us from their places of neglect. But we are fast approaching the one-year anniversary of moving out here, and even more quickly approaching the five-year anniversary of inheriting this giant effort. So we figured it was about time to do the housewarming thing and invite everyone out – even though the house doesn’t really accommodate large numbers of people.
Hence was born the Open-Ranch Party. Yes, it’s November. Yes, it’s only 40 degrees outside. Yes, we would be cold in the blowing wind. But no, it couldn’t wait for next spring. We planned three tours, each focusing on a different aspect of the domain. We set up a gun range. We prepared for a bonfire. We arranged for hay rides. We intended music and laughter.
We got the laughter, and that’s all we really hoped for.
Dude led the second tour, after Mr. Anonymous helped him with the proper location for the “extraneous” wire amongst the spark plugs in our truck. Two big farm trucks, loaded with hay bales and giggling children and guests not quite prepared for the cold, headed to the north end. They stopped to see the Big Spring, the ancient horse-drawn combine, and a few other notable points. I took a third truck out to meet them, loaded with late-comers, but found them just as they were turning back to home.
I led the third tour, giving the history of the homestead and buildings. Filled mostly with a generation older than me, the conversation was speckled with “I remember that” and “my folks had one of those” and “yes, this is for…” We then moved inside the current house, stopping to see the mammoth tusk on our way to discussing the planned remodels to our living space.
Through all of this, the gun range was expected to be a big draw but the wind was too strong. Instead, guests wandered amongst all the junk, and history, and treasures that make up our daily experience. A gaggle of women discussed food allergies in the kitchen, while making sure the cupcakes weren’t raided by roaming children. Sister She (who also discovered that scented fragrance beads look like non-pareilles) and Chevy Mama added “appointments” to my calendar. Blondie took sorted ranch items off our hands – thankfully. Others watched the digital picture frame for shots of Hillbilly and other family members they once knew, while marveling at the changes from those early photos. AuntI even had a visit from a mutual friend, though she had isolated herself in her room for the day. Beautiful flowers from our lease-holders graced the table, alongside one of my precious 3-wick candles. So many people were passing through the house that the heat built up, something I wish we could duplicate daily.
As dusk fell, Dude and Mr. Anonymous started the bonfire. The resident great-horned owl graced the party, arguing with Munchkin (as always) as the kids ran to the table of food. Guests ladled up fresh-made apple cider and traveled the solar-light path to the garden, where a blaze of Clarence the Tree really prevented rather than helped the dinner effort. Maestro shoveled a pile of coals to a smaller location, and hot dogs and smores were then devoured. An old bench from the cellar was pulled in front of the fire, and periodically moved as the heat waved over us. No singing happened, but the conversation was good, graced by the song of coyotes and geese. While gazing at a beautiful, shining Venus low on the horizon, we witnessed the flash in the thin clouds of a blown transformer the next town over – exciting and strange!
The evening ended with ChevyMama and Red, with teens in tow, visiting and wii’ing around a now-empty living room. We brought in the fire-sticks and doused the bonfire, and after sending the last of our guests off with big hugs, literally fell into bed exhausted.
I have so many delightful memories. The line of cars that extended clear up the road, more than this place has ever seen. The shadows of many mini-conversations backlit by the fire as I approached along the solar-light trail. The farm trucks loaded with friends and bouncing along the northern fields. Friends I’ve known for years meeting for the first time, while former friends – lost to name changes and job transfers -- reunited again in my kitchen. The young boys establishing the “Sandhill Fort along the Barbed-Wire Road,” and the young girls cooing over cats and dogs and horses and llamas and ducks and chickens. The sweet and thoughtful gifts brought by our friends that we didn’t expect.
The biggest gift, though, was the warmth our friends brought to our cold, tired home. We were blessed by the presence of friends of all ages from all our various associations over every phase of our lives. So many were unable to come, but we felt their love too. We will cherish all this, and as we’ve said before, our door is always open to our friends, cold weather or warm.