My wife, our kids and I traveled from our home in central Arkansas to the northwest corner of the state for Thanksgiving and had a great time.
The trip back was rainy, a bit cold and everyone was tired. We made it back just fine, however, and it's great to be home.
We always go to northwest Arkansas for Thanksgiving because that's the holiday when my wife's family all gets together. Some of them come from the Fort Worth, Texas, area for the holiday, in fact, and we always have a great time.
My family, on the other hand, tends to wander all over the place for Thanksgiving. Sadly, the holiday used to be a big deal in my family, but that's no longer the case. We all get together for Christmas, however.
I had a few random thoughts while away for the holiday, and I'll torment you good people with those right now:
1. Seeing old friends is great. We had dinner with a couple of old friends of mine and their families while in northwest Arkansas. One of them is with a company exploring oil and gas fields in the north central part of the state, while another is a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. I knew both of those fellows back when we all lived in Fayetteville and two of us were practicing law. The three of us drank like fish and raised a lot of hell back then. When on earth did we all get so responsible? It seems like just yesterday that we were up to no good. Now I'm married with two children, another one is married and the third has a wedding set for May.
Hitting our 30s seems to have forced all of us to settle down, get real jobs and stay out of bars. That's probably a good thing.
2. Family is important. On Thanksgiving, the emphasis is on visiting with family members, some of whom we don't see but once a year. I enjoy that "low pressure" holiday quite a bit. Yes, Christmas is still my favorite holiday, but there's something to be said for a day that's set aside when there are no presents to give and the only thing we're required to do is bring a pie and an appetite.
3. My brother-in-law makes the best smoked turkey in the world. That's no lie. I start craving that stuff around Halloween.
4. People who wake up at 3:30 a.m. to go shopping are insane. My wife, her mother, her sister and our niece all hit the black Friday sales. That's crazy. We got home to Benton around 4 p.m. that day and my wife was so tired that she went to bed after we had dinner and bought a few groceries for the week. What did I do? I stayed in bed until 9:30 a.m. while those maniacs went out shopping and I feel great.
5. Northwest Arkansas has grown a hell of a lot. I left northwest Arkansas and moved back home to Benton in 2004 and I barely recognize the area of the state where I lived for 13 years. A lot of the population growth is due to a boom in the Hispanic population. A lot of people gripe about the Hispanics in northwest Arkansas, but many of them fail to mention those folks were invited -- Tyson Foods (the largest poultry producer in the nation) starting looking to Mexico and beyond for their labor force almost two decades ago. The results were pretty predictable.
Besides, most of the Hispanics in the area work hard and want nothing more than to provide for their families. What in the world is wrong with that? Besides, northwest Arkansas is now home to some of the best Mexican restaurants outside of Texas. Hot dog!
6. There's a liquor store on U.S. 412 in Springdale that sells Lone Star Beer! That wonderful brew is hard to find in central Arkansas. I've got about half a case of the "National Beer of Texas" chilling in my refrigerator right now because I made sure to grab some beer on my way out of northwest Arkansas. I couldn't be happier.
7. Sometimes, the absolute wrong people get those "pro life" license plates. I was dealing with a jerk in a Ford Expedition that appeared to be intent on causing a wreck. He honestly drove like he was stinking drunk and barely knew where he was. I turned off the cruise control, let him get safely in front of me and noticed he had one of those Arkansas "Choose Life" license plates. Don't get a pro life license plate if your driving causes fellow motorists to wish your mother had aborted you. That's just stupid.
8. Wednesday and Saturday are the worst times to travel during the week of Thanksgiving. We traveled to northwest Arkansas on Tuesday and came back home on Friday. My wife planned it that way. I do adore that woman.
9. There really is no place like home. We had a great trip, but now I'm home sucking down a cold Lone Star, watching an old episode of Baa Baa Black Sheep and I've got one of my dogs cuddled up next to me. That, folks, is living.
I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. We're going to get a jump on the Christmas season in the morning by putting some lights on the house and three Christmas trees inside. We'll be busy.