In The Thicket

Yesterday I spent the day with my friend Justin and his girlfriend Amanda at Justin’s property out past Steeleville.  It is literally in the middle of nowhere.  And it’s awesome!  Last summer, I went out for the weekend.  This trip was just for the day, but we had a great time.

Our plan was to pick blackberries, ride ATVs, and shoot rifles.  We didn’t end up shooting, but we most certainly had fun.  Before we left, Justin’s dad told us that the forest ranger for the area said that they had found bear poop on their property – i.e. bears had moved in.  No one in Justin’s family had seen any bears, but we wanted to be prepared, especially since blackberries would be prime area for black bears. (We didn’t see any bears or traces of bears either.)

Getting out to their land takes you through part of the country that most people never see.  It is certainly an experience and I really do like it.  There are definitely parts of that culture though that I do not understand, other than perhaps doing things that are convenient (e.g. parking a car in the middle of a front yard of a house on main street, using a school that caught on fire as a junk yard).

We drove around on the ATVs, raced through some fields, and picked a ton of blackberries.  The grass was high and I definitely ate some grass seed :-).  We spent several hours out there picking blackberries, walking into blackberry thickets (really the only way to describe them), getting stuck by thorns, picking berries, and trying to avoid bugs and bees that were buzzing around.  We even got out a machete and hacked our way into different areas in the middle of the bushes to get more berries.

I had to wash my hands about 20 times to get the stains out.  Those berries sure are good.

Getting ready to head out for a day of ATV riding and blackberry picking.

The Banner Ranch

Part of me would love to live in some rural area.  I find an appeal in the middle of nowhere lifestyle that I can’t really describe.  So many times I hear rural/country/”hick” lifestyles demeaned, but as I thought about it this weekend, I do not think I would know how to live in many different situations.

I spent a good part of the weekend at my friend’s ranch/land/farm in the middle of nowhere Missouri.  My friend Justin and his family have some land off of Indian Trail State Forest (there is basically no information on that place online).  There nearest town that we drove through on the way there was Cherryville, which from what we could tell as one main store and three churches.

A picture of the cabin at the Baner Ranch from an earlier high school trip.

Since I first joined Troop 310 in 1999, we would go out there and shoot guns, make fires, play poker, hang out, etc.  When we got older, they got ATVs and we would start riding those.  It got harder to get people together once we all went to college, but we have been back a few times.  It was great going back this weekend.  I really love that land and the openness and freedom it represents.

We watched an amazing heat lightning storm on Friday night from the back of a pickup (with a tractor tire in the bed haha), rode ATVs (on roads, on trails, and in the middle of the forest), shot guns (.22 rifle, .308 rifle, .50 blackpowder pistol – 1700s era), picked blackberries, saw the Banner’s new vineyard, and reminisced about old times.  We had a dutch oven roast and a dutch oven cobbler.  It’s been a while since I have been able to say that.

It was certainly strange though not having our whole old group there.  It was also weird to not to have any parents there.  When we used to go out there, we always had a parent come with us. for extra supervision with the guns and whatnot (we were younger) and so they could enjoy it as well.  Mr. Banner (Justin’s dad) would also help get stuff ready for us and help with clean up – even in later years.  This time though we had to take care of everything ourselves.  Apparently that’s what happens when you grow up.

I hope to go back out there soon.  Spending time with people I have been friends with since 5th grade has definitely been a highlight of this summer.  As we all go different places, I hope we can continue to come back together.