Monday, November 22, 2010

I am thankful for tradition

I am a big fan of Thanksgiving.
My family is one of those that has traditions for almost every holiday. However, no holiday has more traditions than Thanksgiving.
For almost all of my life, we leave the Metroplex and travel to Tyler, Texas to a camp called Pine Cove. It is a family camp that offers a break from the world with no television, no computers and no running water. OK, there is running water and electricity, but other than that it is a refuge hidden in the woods of East Texas.
It is hard to believe that I am happy about a lack of television because it is one of my favorite things in the world. But there is usually nothing good on anyway, so it is easier to pry me away from my couch. I also get to play board games with my family — something rare in the days of movies, television and texting.
There are several families who travel to Pine Cove for Thanksgiving and we have developed friendships with many of them. We can find out about each other’s year and who is going to school, who is getting married and who is having a baby.
We also get to stuff our faces full of great food. The great thing about going to a camp for Thanksgiving is the amount of food. They are trying to feed a lot of people and they are always preparing more food than they actually need. That means I can get seconds — and 110ths. That works well for me.
We have always had a tradition of going into Tyler, finding the local bookstore and picking out a book. Everyone is allowed to pick one book and my father pays for them. Every year, however, I manage to find the one book my dad doesn’t want to pay for. It might be because he thinks it looks “weird” or “stupid” or say “that’s not a book, its a coloring book and you are married.”
Dads. They say the darndest things.
One of the best parts of the weekend is when we all start to travel back home. We always stop on Interstate 20 at a little Christmas tree farm and pick out which one will go home with us. Now, we cut down three trees for the three households — my parents, my brother and myself. In past years, however, it was just one tree and three saws.
Yes, that’s right, we cut down our own tree. In the past, the guys would trade off on cutting duties while everyone else critiqued them or told them to pull up their pants. Somehow, for about three years, every time the tree would finally give would be when I was on the opposite side saying, “Just a little more, you’re almost there.”
Then the tree would fall on my head.
Luckily, the tree was not that big, I am a pretty tough guy and there isn’t much in my head. Now, the tradition is for me to stand by the tree when it is about to fall and we take a photo mocking my past injuries. We then get hot chocolate, strap our trees to our cars and head home.
I can’t wait to do it again this year and years down the road, when I’ve got kids of my own to throw trees onto.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. The doctors said the only effect from the tree falling on him would be slight memory loss — he thinks. Something like that. He can be reached at

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Childhood games and block parties

I felt pretty happy with my life the other day.
I recently attended a block party in my neighborhood in Burleson. It was wonderful to get to meet and visit with several of my neighbors and see children actually playing outside and enjoying each other’s company.
All to often today I see kids who are staying in their house all day playing video games or watching a talking sponge on television. As an adult I do pretty much the same thing, but I earned it after years of not being able to watch television in the afternoons.
My parents were strict about our TV time, and I am happy they were. After a dose of Disney afternoon — complete with Tailspin, Darkwing Duck and DuckTales — I was not allowed to watch television, so my siblings and I were forced to play outside with the neighborhood children.
When you have to play outside every day, you have to try new games in order to entertain yourself or you will just end up scoring drugs and becoming a 8-year-old repeat offender.
One of the games discovered by my young compatriots and myself involved a large dirt mound on a construction site near the house. As a church-going youth, many of the games we played were Bible-based.
On this particular occasion, we looked at the large dirt mound and decided to play “David and Goliath.” Well, all of my friends and myself were of regular height, but Josh towered above us with the height of a middle-schooler.
It was quickly decided he would be Goliath. The goal of the game became Josh would try and climb the dirt mound while we stood on top and deterred him from doing so by throwing rocks at his head.
Needless to say, after about two minutes blood was shed and we had to go home. Also needless to say, Josh was more than happy to show me the pain he went through during the game.
My brother wasn’t the only sibling that had a hard time with the games of the neighborhood children. No, that title belonged to my little sister.
In one particularly not-nice game, we tied my little sister to a lightpole near our house and instructed her that it was her job to get free and come find us. My friend then offered to let us go to his house to play Sega, so off we went.
I would like to say we forgot about my sister, but we didn’t. We just figured she would eventually get out of her bindings and find her way home.
Well, she didn’t.
At our friend’s house, we heard the doorbell ring and his parents told us to come to the door. There stood my dad with my red-faced sister. Apparently, it is very hard to get yourself untied from a pole, but screaming your head off will bring a lot of attention from neighbors and, thus, gain your freedom.
My father then walked us home and I am fairly certain his belt was off before we were in the front door. We did not sit right for about a month.
Those are just a dose of the mischief we got into as children, but we have great memories because of those days on our street with the other neighborhood kids. I am glad I live in a neighborhood that has children playing with other children instead of video games.
I am glad I live in a city that makes people feel safe enough to allow their children to play on the neighborhood streets because people care about one another and watch out for each other. I am glad I live in Burleson and I am pretty happy with my life.

Luke Harris is the editor of the Burleson Star. In case you were feeling bad for his sister, she once hit him in the head with a baseball bat during a game. He had to get stitches. He can be reached at