Day after tomorrow we will celebrate America's 233rd birthday! I love the Fourth of July! Always have! My earliest memories of celebrations are all about the annual Knippers Reunion at Kisatchie Creek . . . a celebration that lasted for two days! Full of excitement, the five of us always loaded the car and headed to that beautiful piece of woods on July 3rd, spent the night there with other relatives, and had the best of times on the Fourth.
Back then many of us had no tents but slept wherever we could find a place . . . in the car, on a cot, in the back of a pick-up. But that was part of the fun! That and seeing the entire Knippers clan . . . and the food . . . and the stories . . . and the fireworks . . . and swimming in the clear, cold creek or at the falls. I can almost taste the fall-off-the bone tender barbeque; the creamy pots of roast'near soup; juicy, sweet watermelons; and different flavors of homemade ice cream! Breakfast might have been even better . . . eggs, probably gathered from a Knippers' chicken house . . . and sausage and smoked bacon from some family member's hog-killing day . . . all cooked on Coleman stoves. You could smell it for miles! The wonderful aroma drifted deeper into the woods and brought the wild hogs right to our camp on at least one occasion! But there was enough room for all of us, and no harm was done that I remember!
I do remember the closeness of Daddy's siblings, a closeness that extended to their children and grandchildren. And so you could always count on a huge crowd. I wish it was still that way, but time has a way of changing the family . . . and sadly, our lifestyles. All of the children of Thomas and Miranda Knippers are now gone, and many of my cousins have passed from this life. Even though we have so many more ways to communicate now, we often fail to do so. But I'm so glad for the memories I have of those wonderful hot summer, almost-magical days spent in the Kistachie woods!
Although we celebrate much more quietly these days, the Fourth is still a very special holiday for me. I love to see Old Glory flying on any day, but it's especially meaningful on the birthday of our nation. We took three of our grandchildren to Natchitoches today, and the beauty of the town, which is older than America, was even more striking with red, white, and blue decorating the streets and riverbank. Natchitoches, all spruced up to celebrate the birthday of our country and the epitome of small town America, has a way of reminding me once again that I'm so thankful to live in this wonderful country.
Despite America's many failures, I'm still so proud to be an American! I realize more and more that our freedom has not, is not, and will never be free! And so on this Fourth of July weekend, I'll celebrate with my family, though small in number, and remember those who've paid the ultimate price for my freedom and the many blessings I enjoy! One of those privileges is being able to enjoy life in small-town America with my wonderful family.