There were two separate Thanksgiving Councils on the same weekend in 2006, after Vision Council had consensed for the area that included Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. The one I attended in the Ouachita Mountains of Oklahoma is described below. The other one was in Austin, Texas. (The 2007 gathering wound up in Arkansas.)
Subject: The Ozark Thanksgiving Gathering, near Billy Creek
From: Butterfly Bill <farfallab…@myappendixisp.com>
Date: Fri, 24 Nov 2006 14:46:00 -0600
Eleven adults, one child, and five dogs were at the bliss fire when the turkey was served at the Ozark Thanksgiving gathering yesterday. There was no formal council, except one that was suggested by the sister who had done most of the cooking after dinner was over, that soon turned into facetious suggestions for Alaska and Iraq as possible gathering sites. No proposals were made, and no consensi were reached, and there wasn’t a feather anywhere to be seen, even on a bird.
But I’m pretty sure I met all of the people from whom most of the scouting energy will come for next summer’s gathering. I met Jay Pitts, who has been posting here on a.g.r., and Chink Bob Lee (whom everybody called at this event Zeke) and Bird, all of whom live in the vicinity of Fort Smith, Arkansas. I heard a lot of informal discussion among all of them, but no site able to support a national has been positively found yet. But there was one unanimous feeling expressed by all: they’d rather scout Hell than look in Texas.
The gathering was in a small clearing off to the side of a FS road in the Ouachita Mountains, which is an arm of the Ozarks that extends into Oklahoma. Some of the peaks there are as high as in Pennsylvania. To get there you followed signs pointing the way to Billy Creek campground, but the Rainbow gig was three miles from the campground itself (a developed one with RV hookups).
When I arrived on Friday afternoon, I found Zeke fixing to place the top course of stones making the roof of an oven that was already chest-high, with a hinged steel door in its front, and a trench for the fire below. It was mortared with mud, and Zeke was an experienced stonemason who could square off rocks with a hammer and cold chisel. Bird was fetching him water and dirt, and they were the only two on the site.
The work on the oven had started on Monday, and they had been there since the previous weekend to claim the place from any deer hunters that might have wanted it. Deer with rifle season was going on, I saw people driving by in fluorescent orange vests, and I heard occasional gun bangs in the distance.
Nobody else had showed up by nightfall, and I was getting set to leave at the crack of dawn so I could get back to Muskogee in time to make it to the dinner at my church. But at about 21:00 a van pulled in. I stayed the next morning, and met Diantha, her husband Jewell, and their three year old son, Luke.
Diantha cleaned up the bliss fire area with loud expressions of her displeasure with the mess she found, she brought out plastic table, and everybody yielded the kitchen to her. She got a “breakfast” ready at about 13:00 of potatoes, ham, and eggs, then she set about preparing the feast. Zeke and Bird got the fire going, and the turkey was placed in an iron Dutch oven that was placed inside the brick one inside the brick one.
At about 14:00 another van came in and out of it unpiled three brothers, three sisters, and two more dogs. All the dogs present were mellow and friendly, and got used to me right away.
They initially underestimated the size of the fire necessary to get the oven hot enough, but they got it figured out and the bird was done at the same time as the other dishes of bread and nut “stuffing” (really a casserole in a pan), molasses baked beans, and baked potato wedges: about 19:00. Diantha was showered with compliments. The van of six (plus two) left at about 21:30, and I left shortly after daybreak Friday morning.
Diantha was a stern about everyone washing their hands as Felipe, and she made sure water boiled for twenty minutes by asking people with watches for the time. She also wouldn’t serve into people’s own dishes, but gave us new paper plates with every serving. (The used plates were thrown into the bliss fire.) She stayed up late and finished the cleanup and I saw no mess in the morning. She is a consummate kitchen ogre, and if she is turned loose to do her thing in Seed Camp kitchen, there will be some good eating and no bad shitting.
Zeke said he had talked with the rangers about leaving the oven there after we all had left, for possible use by hunters and other campers. It is certainly a noble edifice.
– Butterfly Bill