The young and beautiful Catherine (Cat in the Hat) Balsam graduates from high school next year.

            The young and beautiful Catherine (Cat in the Hat) Balsam graduates from high school next year. Places to go on her “senior trip” abound. As her favorite uncle I leaned in close as she discussed the possibilities. Someone mentioned Washington, D. C. and I saw her eyes light up. “Oh, that is one of my favorite places. They’ve got so many museums, statues, parks and historical sites. It is just such a great place to visit. There are so many things to see……”

            I didn’t catch the rest of the travelogue. Bless her heart, she had sent my memory racing back to a distant past. There were places as a young boy I dreamed of seeing, cities I wanted to view from the inside out, roads I craved to drive down and mountains I wanted to “look off of”. But Washington D.C. was never on my list. As a matter of fact, I’d rank Washington right up there with Gary, Indiana, or any place in Syria, as my least likely vacation destinations!  

            ’Course, we never went on a vacation when I was Cat’s age. If my parents could spare the time we went to see grandmother or Uncle Hugh. They told us it was a vacation because it took three hours to get there and we got to sleep in a different bed. We were young but we weren’t idiots! A trip to your relatives is not a vacation! Plus, they didn’t even live close to anywhere. Entertainment consisted of sitting on the front steps with all the cousins and watching the grass grow. Uncle Clifford would have us picking cotton. Uncle Womack had milk cows. We could have stayed home and milked for goodness sakes!

            I wanted to go to Texas or Arizona. I think that’s where Lash LaRue fought the bad guys. I wanted to visit the dude ranch where Roy and Dale would pick you up in that station wagon with the wooden sides. We wanted to go to Tombstone and see for ourselves the town “too tough to die”. We wanted to get to Lincoln County, New Mexico, before the cattle wars ended.

            By junior high we realized that getting to Hollywood, meeting Hopalong Cassidy or watching the sun set over Waikiki Beach might be setting the bar a little high. Shucks, I would have settled for a trip to Rock City; or a ride across the Mississippi on the ferry at Tiptonville; or an afternoon at the state fair in Nashville.     

            The truth is I was traveling with a college football team when I spent my first night in a hotel. We flew into Dallas for a game against Austin College. Listen, Coach Carter made it perfectly clear that we weren’t “down here for no sight seeing”. I was so afraid of him I didn’t dare look around. I don’t know if we passed by the Alamo, Dealey Plaza or the Rio Grande! 

            I’ve always wanted to go to the Grand Canyon. The pictures are unbelievable! Nothing could be that deep or wide! I want to know if you can see the Colorado River from the top of the rim. I want to hear some old timer’s story about getting down in the bottom and not being able to get back out! I want to lean over the side and spit.

            I would love to see the Snake River. I don’t even know where it is; I think Montana or Wyoming. I don’t know one thing about it. Except it appears to be fairly crooked and Lewis and Clark used it on their trek to explore the Louisiana Purchase. I like the name. If it is close to Jackson Hole, I could kill two vacations with one stone.

            How about Alaska? I’ve been hankering to get there ever since John Wayne and Fabian found the gold “just a little southeast of Nome”. I want to see the northern lights and the caribou crawl. I want to mush a team of huskies through the snow. I want to pet White Fang. How great would it be to scratch that “call of the wild” itch! I think about Alaska a lot in July and August……

            There is a cornbread festival held every year in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. I don’t know what all they do there except sample the obvious but I’d like to check it out. When I tell them how much cornbread I’ve eaten over the years I figure I’d be in line for a judge’s role for sure! Of all my vacation plans and aspirations, this is the trip my wife shows the least interest in. As a matter of fact, if I can’t talk you in to going with me, I’ll catch this one by myself!  

            I would like to see the sun rise over Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. And climb Pike’s Peak. And drive across Hoover Dam. I’d like to take a month off and ride down route 66. I want to stare at those presidents’ heads someone thoughtfully cut out in the Dakotas. I’d like to retrace Custer’s last day. I would like to spend a football week-end in Oxford, Mississippi. Or ride in one of the hot air balloons at the festival in Albuquerque. The possibilities are endless……

            ’Course, when my boys came along, we took them home to visit their grandparents. I told them it was a vacation. As they grew older they grumbled a mite and suggested Disney World or that big fair in Knoxville. I explained to them “we WERE on a vacation!” It was a long ways to granny’s…..and we were sleeping in a different bed……