Saturday, July 19, 2014

Down on the Farm...

The Facts

We went to Idaho. We stayed on a farm.

His Side

Kristi’s dad grew up on a dairy farm. I had never been to a dairy farm… until now. We had been planning a trip out to the family farm in Kuna, ID for a while. I was excited about it because I would get to learn a little more about Kristi’s family (which has become my family). Also, I would get the chance to see a state I’ve never seen before which I have heard is beautiful.

We were staying at Kristi’s Aunt and Uncle’s house on the farm (a house which he built from floor to ceiling). Also on the farm lives her grandma and grandpa and another uncle. The house her grandma and grandpa live in is the house her grandpa grew up in… then raised his 8 kids in… and still lives in today. It is so cool to be in a house with so much history. It also has a scary basement, but that’s beside the point. Just walking around the farm and seeing all the old cars, historical farm equipment, silos, and old barns is neat. I just think about what used to happen in those barns and how it was a budding center of activity at it’s peak of milk production. 

Behind the farm is a canal. It has it’s own history including some skinny dipping (scandalous). But it is a beautiful spot. I fished (I’m not much of a fisherman) and almost caught a rainbow trout. I had him on the line, but the hook didn’t catch and he escaped right before I reeled him in. I was determined to not get defeated again. But I didn’t catch a fish the whole time. I did, however, gut and clean one, then cook it and eat it. It was rather tasty! My inner hunter-gatherer was pleased. 

The canal also was the spot where we held a touching tribute to Kristi’s dad. It was one of his favorite spots on the farm and he wanted some of his ashes sprinkled there. Over 20 of his relatives make the trek down to the canal and shared fun memories and touching thoughts about her dad and how important he was to them. It was a somber occasion but it reminded me how loved he was and how much he meant to everyone there. Also, hearing all the stories all week helped me get to know him better since I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing him for a long time. 

On the Fourth of July, the canal became a swimming spot. Many of the cousins and aunts and uncles took to jumping into the freezing cold canal. I didn’t join them because I was taking action shots of all the crazy jumpers. Kristi waded in at first, then decided she should jump in. She says that the cold water took her breath away both times. I probably should have jumped because it was so hot outside! But I was okay with staying dry, especially because I only had one more clean pair of shorts for the ride home!

Another important part of the farm is the back porch which became a sort of gathering place. The view is nice back there, it’s shaded for the most part, and there is room for lots of people to sit around and chat. I even played pinochle with some of Kristi’s cousins and uncle on the porch one night. I grew up on card games with my grandparents but hadn’t played pinochle in a long, long time. It was fun (and my team won, so that helps).

The biggest farm event was, by far, the July 4th picnic. Apparently they do this every year and Eichelbergers from all across the country travel to it. It’s basically a huge potluck with games for the kids, good conversation, these water rocket things, and more. Everyone there was related in some way but Kristi didn’t even know some of them. That’s how huge the Eichelberger family is. I come from a small family so it was foreign to me to see this large gathering of extended family but it was neat.

It wasn’t all sitting around the farm with family, though. We checked out the Kuna Cave, Snake River Canyon, the city of Boise, and more. I had never been in a cave before so I was excited about the Kuna Cave. It’s basically just a large lava bubble, but it’s pretty cool. Snake River Canyon is amazing as well. You drive for miles on flat, dry land then, all of the sudden… BOOM… there’s a big ravine leading down to a river. It’s strange how that happens but it’s beautiful.

We went into Boise a couple of times and I like it. It’s a college town much like Columbia and is even comparable in size to Columbia. We saw the famous blue field of the Boise State Broncos, ate at a really cool distillery place, checked out some souvenir stores, and more. I even went into the Jared there in Boise. Call me a loser if you want, but I enjoyed seeing another repair shop and talking to my fellow Sterling employees (Sterling is the overarching company that owns Jared, Zale’s, Kay, and more). Once I told them I’m a jeweler at the Jared in Columbia, SC, they tried to steal me away! I think I’ll stick around Columbia for now but, hey, maybe I’ll manage their shop one day down the road. 

Also in Boise, we went to Julia Davis Park where there is a tree under which Kristi’s dad proposed to her mom. Since then, every time they have gone to Idaho, they get a picture at that tree. It was a tough trip to the tree this time, though, since Kristi’s dad wasn’t there. But, we went to get some family pictures. We also gave her mom a family tree necklace with birthstones. There are plenty of spaces to add birthstones as grandkids come along, as well (she just so happens to know a jeweler, so putting new stones in isn’t a problem). It was an emotional experience, but everyone was glad we did it.

Her Side

Kuna, Idaho is a small town. If you go downtown, there is only one stop sign, and if you blink you might miss seeing the whole town. Kuna holds a special place in my heart because my dad was born and raised there on Eichelberger Lane on the family farm. As long as I can remember, my family has taken trips out west to the farm to see my dad’s side of the family. As young kids, we would go scavenging through all of my grandpa’s “junk,” although he would never call it that. We would spend hours outside enjoying the nice weather and ample space to run and play with cousins. As I’ve grown older, the trips have changed slightly. I began to grow out of the scavenging and running and have grown into sitting and enjoying the farm. This trip, a little more had changed from all previous times out west. This time, my dad wasn’t with us.

Dad always had a blast telling us what he did by that grain silo over there, at the canal at the back of the farm, or at the various places we passed on our drives to and from different locations. While they were vacations, they were always ripe with history… history of my dad. He would get the grin on his face and twinkle in his eye every time we would get to the farm. He couldn’t wait to snap photos or tell a new story about his childhood that had presumably never left his lips before.

While in Kuna, we took Nolan to a few of the staple places all tourists must go. We went to the Kuna Cave. It’s not so much a cave as a really big hole in the ground… a hole that I wasn’t willing to explore. We also took Nolan to the Snake River. It’s probably one of my favorite things to see. It’s amazing how you can go from dry, flat land for miles to suddenly a huge canyon. It comes out of nowhere and it is amazing to see.

Family Photo at "The Tree"
One thing you should know about the Eichelbergers is that they tend to be creatures of habit. So, as usual, they put on the annual 4th of July picnic on my grandma and grandpa’s lawn. Around 90 people showed up to the shindig… all related (although I’ve always been convinced that we might have had some folks just show up that aren’t related because they saw a line of cars driving down Eichelberger Lane). We ate tons of food, talked with tons of people, and even celebrated my grandma’s 90th birthday! I don’t think Nolan believed me when I said there would be a ton of people at the picnic, so he sure was shocked with the turnout. That evening a group of us sat on the back porch of Uncle Steve and Aunt Meg’s house and had a glorious fireworks show with wonderful music playing in the background… thanks to my cousins Amy, Mo, and Andrew!

We made a trip to Julia Davis Park, the place that my dad proposed to my mom many years ago. My brothers and I set up to have family photos taken at the very tree at which my parents’ relationship began. My cousin, Ben, met us there for the photo session (I am so thankful it was him who was able to take the photos). As we walked through the park toward “the tree,” we approached what we thought was the one. Upon arrival, we noticed a swarm of bees… one even flew into Mom’s hair. I’ll admit that my heart dropped at the site of the bees because I thought that our whole plan would be ruined… we couldn’t get pictures at just any tree, it had to be THE tree. But, just as we were all starting to walk away, my mom realized that we were at the wrong tree! Hallelujah! So, as we walked over to the new tree, we realized it was bee free and were all relieved. I’d like to think that those bees were my dad’s way of pointing us to the correct tree. Thanks, Dad! After our photos, we gave my mom a family tree necklace with all of our birthstones, Mom’s, Dad’s, and room for plenty more (as grandkids come along). After all, if it weren’t for that tree, none of our family would be what it is today.

The hardest thing about the trip, and the real reason we traveled out west was to spread my dad’s ashes. He wanted to go back to the farm, and that’s just where we took him. We had a small ceremony with family on the deck my uncle Steve built at the edge of the canal at the back of farm… a place where my dad had tons of childhood memories (most of which he probably wouldn’t want me to repeat… and I’m sure there are some stories he just never told). I couldn’t have picked a better place myself. It was a tough thing to do as it’s a final goodbye in a certain sense. Being able to share this special moment of spreading his ashes with his siblings and other extended family that meant so much to him was nice. Dad certainly was loved and still is loved.

Since this trip was very different from all others because Dad wasn’t with us, I knew it would be a tough one. I found myself thinking about what dad would have said about that sunset, or how he would have told Nolan about the mountain that looks like an Indian lying down, or even how he would have been taking pictures of all of the wildlife. Things I would have been embarrassed or annoyed at, I now longed for… It was Nolan’s first time visiting the farm and Idaho, Dean Lucas’s first time traveling by plane, a record setting number for the July 4th picnic, and we were missing one important person. But, as I’ve always said, even though he wasn’t physically there, Dad was still with us… I’m sure of it.

This trip was all about family, and that’s what I loved about it.

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