Yesterday Mary Ellen received her National Geographic. The cover story was "Can We Fly?" Right away, I said, "I wonder if Grandpa's cousin, Pete, will be in it." Sure enough, a teeny weeny picture of him, about an inch high, tucked in the print with a blip,"1961 Bell engineer Harold Graham straps on a hydrogen peroxide fueled Rocket Belt and flies for 13 seconds."
Pete was my father-in-law's first cousin, his mother, Laura was the sister of Paul Lyon. We also knew that miniscule photo was him, because he gave an 8x10 to Lyle, his favorite cousin. I think they all got that caption. When he died, though, he left some money to Ellen, not Lyle. I got to read his will, written in his colorful style.
Pete showed up at Parker Dam in Pennsylvania sometime during the first weekend in August for the Lyon family reunion. Usually, at the air stream trailer with his cup for coffee. Each year a different woman with him, except the last few years, where Millie was the lady. He looked like Jack Palance and had that gravelly voice. He was younger than my father-in-law, teenager at the weddings, cooking up trouble with another cousin, Ermil Dill. These guys were great.
The Lyon family reunion started after too many funerals and not enough just getting together for fun. So after World War II, the cousins decided to meet at Parker Dam, since their parents were from this part of the Alleghenies and camp for their reunion. And were there cousins. Esther Dill, another sister of Paul, had 7 or 8 kids, and each of them had at least 4, but mostly more. Melvin Dill from Bedford, Mass had 7 children, as I think did his brother, Harry a.k.a Junior, as well. Melvin's wife thought she was done at 4, she told Ellen at one wedding, but Melvin winked. Three more came along, but the last one was Eleanor Nancy Dill- E.N.D.
Camping the whole weekend provided a chance to visit more. Children could play. It was funny, sometimes a child not of the clan would be camping near by. "Are you a cousin?" and find out, no it wasn't a cousin. Parker Dam, a quiet, small campground,for the longest time did not have electric sites. But my in-laws got around that with the air stream. Even this big crew wanted Ellen's fudge around the campfire, an expanding circle each year.
My first one was before we married in 1980. It was David's grandfather's last one. I think all the Lyle Lyon kids were there. We were much smaller family then, and Kathy was there, too.
Saturday was the big picnic with the food people made in tents. I don't think most of them were campers any other time of the year. We packed it all up and went to one of the pavilions by the dam. Parker Dam was a big dam for holding back what amounted to a larger farm pond. High in the mountains, the water being spring fed, was a great cool off on those hot sunny days. Only paddle boating on this body of water. We ate, then there was the big baseball game and some of the cousins were very competitive. Even my father-in-law played in the mid 80's. I have a picture of him running the bases. After the baseball game was time to swim. This was the order of the day. Sometime during swimming, people explored the nature museum at the beach. The ice cream was good at the concession stand, so usually, we had a cone, too. Hard to believe with all that excellent food- roast beef sandwiches, gumbo soup from Jeff Dill living in the south, Ellen's custard among an array of other marvelous offerings, we wanted ice cream, too.
People straggled back to the campsite, either in cars, or over the big rocks in the spill way. It was the quickest way to the campsite, if you had the nerve. Left overs for supper or hamburgers and hot dogs. Later in the evening, another camp fire with all that entails, s'mores, cookies, fudge.
I loved to go down by the lake at night with the moon shining over it. Parker Dam is quite enchanting sitting high in the mountains.I sat under the pine tree shadows.
I must say we haven't been there in a few years. It's not the same with Ellen and Lyle not camping anymore. It is a two hour drive up and back, a tiring day. The drive back hangs like a pall on the festivities. The girls get busy with Senior Follies or working. David doesn't relish a drive when he just had a long drive the day before and another the next day. But I hope next year we can plan it better and go, maybe camp. Because I really love the Lyon family reunion.