Funny how life can be summarized around a campfire.
We had all gathered for a long and relaxing weekend. Each of us had traveled far to reach our point of destination; from different directions we all arrived taking a different path, brought together to celebrate a birthday. A member of the group had reached the half-century mark.
We stood around the campfire ring, huddled close to its warmth as the cold, nighttime air surrounded us. We were an odd collection of individuals. Two of us had been married several times. One was married and currently divorced. Two members of the group had yet to marry. Sadly, only one of us had found success in marriage, and they just celebrated their 25th anniversary.
Standing around the campfire that night was a longhaired defense attorney, a Lieutenant in the Constables office and an 18-year veteran of serving and protecting the citizens of Houston, Texas. There was an environment demolition specialist, a Project Manager for large companies, a sports photographer, a nursing home administrator and an observer of life, me, the writer. For our chosen professions, we had absolutely nothing in common. Yet, our time together has exceeded three decades. Two of us went back to grade school.
The moon was full on the first night of our gathering, as we stood mesmerized by the orange dancing flames. The tales told on that first of three nights were just as full. The cold beers and whiskey flowed effortlessly that night. The later the hour – the taller the tales.
The comedian in the group – the defense attorney – sent the woman scrambling into the house following a rather descriptive and crude joke that had the rest of us shedding tears as we laughed. It wasn’t long before our comedian began to boast of the vasectomy of all vasectomy stories.
For three nights and four days this continued.
We gave updates on our lives, about our kids and the what-was-happening-now in our work careers. We shared joyous tales of personal triumphs along with a few about the tragedies that life can throw you.
We shared more than a few jokes, told plenty of tall tales about the shenanigans of our youth. It was hard to believe we ever got away with those things, and somehow, we were never caught. We sure weren’t smart enough back then to get away with it. We were lucky, I guess.
We had gathered on a ranch in South Texas. There was a lot of history on the place. When the ranch owner was a young boy, he came to the United States by ocean liner following World War II. He fell in love with South Texas and dreamed of becoming a cowboy and owning a ranch. Through his hard work and high-risk profession, he achieved his goal, and it was there we had come together.
On the second evening of the trip, we all stood on a wooden deck built on a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande River and Mexico. It was known as the “Happy Hour” deck. With cold beers and drinks in our hands, we watched a beautiful sunset. We all had much to be thankful for, but silently we gave thanks for standing on this side of the river.
With more than a few grey hairs and wrinkles across our faces, we shared our time together.
At dinner, we all sat at the large table, treated to food fit for kings. The conversations continued and soon we were back outside by the fire ring another mesquite smoke-filled night awaiting us.
And so on into the night we went.
The hour drew late as the remainder of our time together drew short. More logs were added to the fire as the tales continued. The ice chests grew empty, the trash cans grew full. There, we all stood, listening to each other swap stories about life. We were surrounded by 17,000 acres. A ranch that came together by a man’s childhood dream. For as Father Time reminds us that life is worth living, dreams can come true, and you are never too old to stop dreaming.
And on that last night we all stumbled away from the campfire trying to find our way for a place to lay down.
Life can be so easily explained sometimes.