Tag Archives: stump spirit

Thanksgiving At The Ranch

Twenty-one years ago, Trudy and I changed our lives by leaving our professions and the city behind and moving on to becoming rural dwellers and ranchers. We felt strongly about developing our ranch as a future touchstone for family and friends. We hoped ,and time has confirmed, that our ranch has become a place for family and friends to gather, especially at our favorite time of year- Thanksgiving.

Trudy begins Thanksgiving planning by making the invitations, figuring out sleeping arrangements including borrowed bedrooms at our neighbor’s ranch, decorating the house and courtyard, and seeking help from family members and friends regarding not only the Thanksgiving meal but other meals over the long weekend. These contributions reduce the prospect of utter exhaustion for Trudy. We also have a custom of decorating “Stump Spirit” for Thanksgiving.

Stump Spirit is a stump beside our entry road, Blue Jay Way, and well known locally, and leads to our and several other ranches. The custom began modestly with a fake snake on the bare stump and has expanded to more elaborate decorations especially at Thanksgiving. Customarily people often under the cover of darkness steal down to the stump and provide decorations appropriate for the upcoming holiday. At other times we have had neighborhood gatherings and pot lucks at the stump, as it has become a site for occasional community gatherings.

Typical Ranch Thanksgivings consist of twenty-plus guests. The number may vary but always includes immediate family, extended family, and friends. Trudy’s family had the tradition of inviting additional folks who had no family of their own or had no other Thanksgiving plans, affectionately known within the family as “strays.” We have adopted this tradition of inviting strays to our Thanksgiving dinner as well.

The large number of people attending requires that we remove the furniture from the living room and set up rented long tables or place large pieces of plywood over saw horses. With tablecloths the rectangular table once decorated appears homey, stable, and welcoming.

The smells that exude from the kitchen tantalize our nostrils, the nostalgic soft music evokes memories of years past, and the yammer of background conversations before a crackling fire never fails to warm my heart. This for me is what Thanksgiving is all about.

Most people attending have particular tasks. Their jobs vary but include preparing a special dish, peeling potatoes and turning them into mashed potatoes and making the gravy (my task), making the cranberry sauce, preparing several types of turkey dressing (each family has its favorite), making the creamed peas or other savory vegetables, carving the turkeys, preparing salads and desserts, or clean up. Ample wine and champagne are consumed to wash down the feast. It is always a culinary bacchanalia.

Following the feast and with toasts completed, the tables are cleared, furniture returned, and Thanksgiving TV football begins. Other available activities include swimming or hot tub if the weather allows, yard games, hikes, hayrides, bird and deer watching, feeding of the horses and cattle, working collectively on a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle, scrabble, and most frequently post-Thanksgiving meal naps. It is a time to forget about work, kick back, and enjoy the outdoors, games and loved ones.

Below Granddaughter Ramsey working on her apple turkey and below that on her hotdog.

For me even more important than the food are the stories and conversations that crop up. Bringing people together for caring and sharing is what it is all about. Thanksgiving allows for the full expression of familial love. The importance of family bonding has become increasingly important I’ve gotten older. While the bonds have at times been tested, they have held firm throughout disagreements, divorces, illness, and political differences.

Love is really what life is all about. I ask my family, some of whom I may never know that are still in the future, to seriously consider continuing this family tradition. Life is really all about the love.

As an aside, years ago during a tornado warning and under a threatening sky, I herded Trudy, Katie, and the dogs inside an interior closet for safety while I went outside to further inspect the sky. (it’s a guy thing) After sitting awhile on the closet floor, Katie in all seriousness asked her Mother, “You don’t think this is another one of Dad’s famous family bonding exercises, do you?”

No Katie, the tornado warning and retreat to the safety of the closet was not a family bonding exercise staged by your father. Nevertheless, I am guilty as charged along with your Mother for having made the Thanksgiving Holiday the greatest a bonding experience we are capable of organizing.

Ranch Thanksgivings are my favorite holiday and my favorite time of year. At this time the ranch has been tucked in for winter, the hay has been stacked high in the barn, and the heavy ranch work has been completed. The daily work has been left behind by our family members and friends, as they wind their way to our ranch. This is truly a time for giving thanks for the amazing bounties received throughout the year. Greatest among those bounties are the love we share for our family members and good friends.

So as we say in our German community of Fredericksburg during our toasts at Thanksgiving, “Prosit!” May you forever enjoy your Thanksgivings with family and good friends. Wishing you great enjoyment on your Thanksgiving.

Stump Spirit Thanksgiving

While I’ve forgotten exactly when or even why the local tradition began, the residents living on Blue Jay Way years ago began to decorate a particular stump nearby our common road. We call it, Stump Spirit. Tradition has it that those Denizens of the Way who decorate the stump, do so when no one else is around, often after the sun sets behind the hills and mystical spirits leak out of the hills and hollows (or perhaps, after having been imbibed).

While the stump mysteriously becomes decorated for all major holidays and special occasions, Thanksgiving has always been especially well represented. Look closely below for the chicken figure partially hidden behind the “Eat Mor Chickin” sign and the turkeys in their bibs, holding their eating utensils.

A turkey theme carries over from a prior year when a turkey with bulging eyes suddenly spots a gun toting hunter who is lurking behind a tree with turkey-cide intent .

Thanksgiving for the Hutton clan is about family and giving thanks for our bounties and good fortunes. During the year of the Covid-19 Pandemic, these plans unfortunately have had to change. Our Thanksgiving table will host vastly reduced numbers of people this year. This is painful for us all, especially for my wife, Trudy. Hopefully next year we will return to the large, raucous celebrations of prior years. Think of a cross between a Medieval banquet and Animal House.

The above image was taken a number of years ago when our grandchildren, Graham and Ramsey, were much younger. Nevertheless, I just had to work in a picture of our beloved grandchildren visiting an earlier rendition of a Thanksgiving Stump Spirit. Our efforts are meant to fashion a sense of place for our grandchildren, as well as for the older denizens of Blue Jay Way.

The Denizens of the Way are wonderful neighbors. A lot of creativity goes into decorating Stump Spirit or about anything else that stays put for awhile. Such was the case when a hired man’s tractor broke down in my pasture. It sat, and sat, and sat some more, waiting for its inevitable repair. Finally Fall arrived and the following enhancements to the tractor showed up. Now this is real pasture art!

Other holidays get their due. Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Veterans Day are marked by decorating the stump and its surrounds with American flags and patriotic memorabilia. The stump on Labor Day receives hard hats and related tools.

Halloween gets recognition with ghouls, ghosts, and goblins.

The slow parts of the year represent a creative challenge. This is especially true for the hot, sultry days of late summer. But even the dog days of summer often sees an occasional theme appear as demonstrated below.

The result of the collective efforts of those who decorate the humble stump is to bind the neighbors together in a feat of whimsy and friendship. It is fun. It allows for creative expression. The world needs more of this.

Those of us at Medicine Spirit Ranch and the Denizens of the Way wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving. Please be safe and stay healthy. The vaccine is on its way. Let’s all buckle down and continue to wear masks, social distance, and wash our hands until immunity to this virus is attained. Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and continued good health!

Stump Spirit of Blue Jay Way

On moonless nights from the shadows they creep, carrying sundry items within black bags necessary for their nefarious task. Okay, okay maybe dressing up the stump is not quite that secretive or clandestine, but almost. It really is carried out in secret. Thought you mind be interested in the legend of the “Stump Spirit” of Blue Jay Way.

The origins for decorating the stump on Blue Jay Way, a private road serving five ranch families, began benignly enough. A neighbor boy one day left, perhaps by accident, a metal snake on the stump on the Norris property next to Blue Jay Way. Soon thereafter the snake disappeared and a pottery red bird appeared in its place no doubgt to signify the beginning of Spring. Before we knew it, prior to every holiday or season, the stump changed its appearance and the themes grew progressively more elaborate.

No one really knows who provides the decorating (well not unless you catch the sheepish perpetrator in the act–the neighbor in the headlights look). Nevertheless,  six or so times a year, our previous lowly nondescript oak stump becomes bedecked in new finaries, befitting the season or occasion. Below are a few examples:

Dog days stump spirit 08_0089

The one on the left celebrates the laid back “dog days” of summer with a cold drink and a hound dog with a baseball cap under an umbrella. The one on the right with pumpkins and a scarecrow appeared prior to Halloween.

Turkey ScarecrowDSC_0096Tksgvg hunter

Thanksgiving gives rise to a turkey, a pilgrim, and, a hunter. Christmas is the most elaborate usually and on rare occasions, the stump has even been lit up with twinkling Christmas decorations.

Now the real question to ask is why do the denizens of Blue jay Way do this? I really don’t know. Speculations run from the eccentric activities of the bored retired set, or you have to do something with all the stuff you find during Spring housecleaning, to perhaps a little bit too much of the grape! In any event, the decorating of the stump provides a collective activity for our small ranch neighborhood that brings us closer together.

It has even led to a semi-annual “Stumpfest” where we gather together for bonding, food, beverage, and music. What a way to get to know your neighbors. I have even suggested we don bedsheets and show up like druids on the summer and winter solstices. Needless to say, my wife, the eminent duck wrangler, shot this one down in a hurry. Oh well, not all my ideas are keepers.

So there it is, the Stump Spirit of Blue Jay Way. It is kind of fun and gets you out of the house on those moonless nights.