Ah, the family reunion. Relatives you only see once a year gather in some predetermined spot to swap stories from the previous 12 months, eat deviled eggs and run over livestock in luxury cars.
Wait ... not every family does that?
Well, I guess this deserves a story then. For as long as I can remember, my father’s family meets in Perry County, Pa., for our reunion. For those of you unfamiliar with Perry County, picture the most rural section of Sussex County you can imagine, then mentally make that the bustling downtown of the surrounding area. Think of the movie “Deliverance” — then imagine the people in that film being a little less street-wise.
However, the event is always full of good times. The food is great, the company is precious and the alcohol flows like Lindsey Lohan just returned from being stranded in a desert. Plus, there always seems to be one story or another that stands out from each reunion.
Oh, the star of the story changes from year to year. One year, it was how myself and a handful of cousins disappeared from the reunion for a few hours, then returned a little bit too full of adult liquid spirit than teenagers should. Another year, it was an uncle tumbling down a hill outside the American Legion after hitting the reunion keg a little too hard.
This year was my father’s turn at bat.
My parents recently retired and moved their home from Denver to North Carolina. Excited that he no longer had to fly across the country to get to the reunion, my dad decided to make the nine-hour drive to Pennsylvania. He loaded up his iPod, set the GPS and drove north in his beloved Jaguar to enjoy his annual family fest.
And he didn’t have any problems the entire trip. No tickets. No accidents. No flat tires that he wouldn’t know how to fix if it happened.
Life was grand for the guy. He got to Pennsylvania in time for his cousin’s birthday party Friday night, was able to say hello to all the relatives he so enjoys seeing and he knew his little pride and joy (that’s me, if you didn’t know already) was coming up the next morning. The ride back from that party was where he encountered some problems — two of them, to be precise.
See, my dad hit two sheep with his car.
To be fair, all accounts from those in his car said the black sheep that had wandered into the dark country road were impossible to see until he hit them. And I’ve got it on pretty good authority that alcohol was not a contributing factor. Still, it’s not every day that you hear about a guy running his Jaguar into two black sheep.
The sheep ran off right after the accident, and a subsequent search of the area didn’t find them lying in a ditch or anything, so we’re assuming they’re fine. But my dad’s car had some pretty good damage on it, and a mechanic at a local garage also pointed out another bit of aesthetic damage to my dad’s car.
“That’s sheep (we’ll say “excrement” in this space),” pointed out the mechanic. “They got so scared when you hit them they released their bowels.”
“You might want to check out my seat then,” countered my dad. “I got pretty scared, too.”
Word soon got out about what had happened to my father, and the good times started rolling.
“You hit two sheep?” asked my cousin Randy. “You wiped out half the eligible women in Perry County!”
Men working the barbecue openly called for my father to supply the mutton, a few others suggested that my dad supplied the wool for the family’s winter sweaters and I simply told my dad there was nothing to be ashamed of — you know, no reason to act sheepish about the whole situation.
But dad took it all with a sense of humor, especially when he learned that his insurance would cover the damages. And, quite honestly, I’m hoping that he’s taking it just as well as he’s reading this online from North Carolina. Actually, I’m guessing his forehead is getting all red right now and he’s shaking his head in the Wilford Brimley-style that he so often does when he wants to grab one of his children by ...
But I digress.
The joy of this whole story to me is not as much about my dad’s exploits with the sheep as much as it is how this legend will grow over time. See, this year it was two sheep he hit with his car. Next year, it will be four sheep that he ran into while on a bicycle. In five reunions, the tale will be that my dad hit six sheep, four missionaries walking down the side of the road and a Big Foot while navigating his way down a windy road on a skateboard.
You just have to love family reunions.