I’m a homebody. This is very true, but there is nothing that I enjoy more than an old school cookout. My family is from the South, and I can recall the numerous cookouts I’d attend during our summer visits to South Carolina. There was a smorgasbord of Southern culinary delights: catfish, whiting, fried shrimp, cornbread, potato salad, and peach cobbler … pretty much everything that could cause diabetic shock. My family is big on cooking. We’d always have a nice spread.
More than the food, I enjoyed both the company and the tomfoolery. The Lewis clan is rather large and the only time that I’d get to see all of my cousins, aunts, uncles etc. was during the summer. Both of my parents are from the South and we’d split our vacation between visits to my father’s folks and then my mother’s, spending a week with each clan.
My dad’s parents lived in Little River, South Carolina. My grandmother owned a stretch of land on which all of my father’s siblings had built their homes, a combination of trailers and wood panel houses. The road leading to the homes, which were less than 100 feet apart, was unpaved. As we drove toward my grandparents’ house, my father would delve into an impromptu history lesson. The land was allegedly once a slave plantation (I haven't been able to confirm this claim). Hidden amongst the trees adjacent to the dirt road leading to my grandparent’s house, were a slew of wooden stumps marking the spots where houses once stood. As we drove aside one particular location that was riddled with wooden slabs protruding from the ground, my father told us that our great grandparent's home once stood on the spot. The slabs were the reminants of the house's foundation.
When we'd pull up to my grandparent’s home, there would be two billowing lines of smoke trailing behind the car, the side effect of driving on a dirt road.
We’d always arrive around the 4th of July, which is when one of my aunts would host a fish fry. There would be folks all around the house, in the front yard and the back, munching on fried whiting and shrimp. My uncle would light up the grill to charcoal burgers and hotdogs. We'd be outside until the early morning.
My cousins and I would venture off along the road barefoot, walking from house to house, the dirt making its way in between our toes. In hindsight, it probably wasn't a good idea to go off by ourselves. Although an aunt or an uncle always knew our whereabouts, the area was heavily wooded, and pitchblack ... we were an adventurous group of girls--my cousins and I.
As we walked, we kept a look out for snakes. We had encountered one in the past and went off running and screaming back toward my aunt’s house. A cousin claimed to have heard us hollering from up the road. You’d think that someone would have come to see what we were yelling about …
During our walks, we would reach Cousin Net's house. There were two graves in her front yard, off to the right in front of the woods. From what I can recall, the deceased had no blood relationship with the family. I'm not quite sure who they were, but they were layed to rest in Net's front yard. There was actually a graveyard a little ways from her house; all that separated her home from the graveyard is a small wooded area. Both the graveyard and the graves in her yard have been there for as long as I can remember.
We were adventurous but not that adventurous. Once we reached the woods near Net's home, we would begin the journey back toward the cookout, where we would load up our plates once again before searching for something else to get ourselves into.