How to Have a Fun Family Reunion

Danson Camping Weekend at Mary’s Landing

My grandma, Mary Danson, was a courageous woman to raise a flock of eleven children. And what a fine flock she raised. Before Grandma passed away on September 10, 2005, she said she hoped her large family would keep getting together. To honor her wish, my uncle Russ and his wife, Sue, have hosted an annual family camping weekend at “Mary’s Landing” on their farm in Rush City.

Russ and Sue invite the entire family to make themselves at home on their farm, and they always come up with activities to make the weekend enjoyable for young and old alike. These camping weekends are a tradition that many of us look forward to. In fact, this year, Mary’s Landing filled up with RVs by Thursday night, and the camping weekend didn’t even officially begin until Friday evening.

Friday’s agenda was simple: set up your rigs, dinner on your own, and keep the bonfire blazing until the last person goes to bed. Several of us went to Flickabirds Resort on Rush Lake for broasted chicken. My sister, Kris, and I had an entertaining ride back to the farm as Sue wrestled with the gear shifter in their cute bugga-bugga convertible. Apparently the gears are slanted?? Anyway, even though we went backward instead of forward one time, we made it back to the farm, and it was a beautiful night for family and friends to gather around the bonfire.

We always have good food to eat, and that’s thanks to everyone pitching in. Weeks before the camping weekend, emails zipped across the Net, and soon all meals were accounted for. We had group meals coordinated for Saturday breakfast (boil-in-bag omelets), lunch (sandwiches, salads and fruit), dinner (I’ll get to this) and Sunday breakfast (egg bakes). A big storage building with plenty of tables and chairs made for a perfect campground dining hall.

Saturday dinner was special this year. Aunt Marcia and Uncle Joe provided the ingredients, and their friends Kim and Jody worked magic with two milk cans and a hot coal bonfire. They lined the bottom of the cans with upright corn on the cob and tossed in carrots, potatoes, rutabaga, cabbage, green beans, sausage and ham. They topped it off with some flavor-enhanced liquids, put the lids on and set the cans into the coals. It took about 45 minutes for dinner to cook. When it was done, they dumped the perfectly steamed food onto trays, much like a low country boil. Kris and Marcia bravely husked all the corn; they only had winter gloves to protect their hands, but what they really needed was Ove Gloves.

By the time dinner was over, the winds had shifted and brought in a refreshing cool breeze. What a difference from the hot, humid weather the day before. Several of us donned jeans and light jackets; one person was even teased for wearing gloves. What can I say; they felt better on my hands than they did in my pockets. It was a lovely night for a bonfire, and our circle had expanded to include even more aunts and uncles (the “great” ones and the “regular” ones, as in genealogically and not subjectively) and two generations of cousins.

We had plenty of stories to talk about from our activities on the farm that Saturday. Russ had spent time with his Bush Hog in the preceding weeks to expand the walking and four-wheeler paths throughout his property, and he meant to tell us that we should only go where the Bush Hog had been, which did not include the bog. For those of you who know about bogs and how the Irish find dead bodies in them, it’s quite reasonable to conclude that two months of dry weather is not enough to tame a bog’s appetite for eating four-wheelers and the fools who drive them.

Seven of us (Dad, Kris, Cele, Andrea, Chuck, Glo and myself) were participating in a scavenger hunt and poker run through the woods when we decided to take a “shortcut” through the bog. Once you commit to a bog, there’s no turning back. We had to drag two trees out of the way (a chainsaw would have been handy) and use the winches several times to get our two rigs to firm ground. It was farther than expected (I’d guess 100-200 yards of winding trail), and we probably put 20 miles on those four-wheelers considering all the tire spinning. Despite the burns and cuts from the switch grass (note to self: never wear shorts in a bog), we embraced the challenge to work our way out. Chuck was so giddy about the opportunity to break in his brand new Arctic Cat that he gave Cele a big hug and thanked her for making the right turn that took us in what most people would have considered the wrong direction.

In addition to the scavenger hunt and poker run, Russ also created a 9-hole disc golf course. Kris and I joined Sue, my cousins Wendy and Loren and their families (including their German exchange student) as we tossed our Frisbees toward the homemade baskets. It was good fun, although several days later my right hip was still so sore I could hardly walk. I must have the worst Frisbee technique in the world. When I ended up on the ground after one of my first tosses, Kris said between laughs, “What in the world are you doing?!” Valid question, considering disc golf isn’t a contact sport. Well, I was putting my whole body into my throw and trying to keep it low, and I lost my balance. According to Kris, instead of throwing all my weight into my right hip (which is already in pathetic shape for someone my age), I should have focused on my wrist. My gluteus maximus (aka hind sight) tells me her “it’s all in the wrist” advice was spot on. Despite the pain, I still think the disc golf was a neat activity for our family reunion.

Some of us ended the weekend with puffy red saw grass slashed legs, aching hips, bee stings, bug bites and other minor flesh wounds. All of us left with something that will last much longer – good feelings and fond memories of another fun Danson family camping weekend at Mary’s Landing.


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One Response to “How to Have a Fun Family Reunion”

  1. Family Camping Weekend: Fun with Four-Wheelers | QWS Consulting Says:

    […] obstacle course, and with all the rain we’ve had, we knew it was wise to stay far away from the bog this year. Nearly everyone, young and not-so-young, paired up with a partner, and we split the […]