A Ten Pound Bag
Chapter 27: A Proper Family Dinner
Copyright© 2020 by Emmeran
We rode down again, Michelle and I on horseback with Matilda and Sonya following behind in the dog cart. It was a nice late afternoon ride and we all passed the time quietly, simply enjoying the weather and taking in our surroundings. The dogs were full of energy and Matilda let them have a bit of a run; the cart was empty except for her and Sonya sitting tightly together on the passenger seat, and even with the two of them the sprung weight of that cart was really low. The went past us at a gallop; we had to canter to keep them in sight, and we didn’t catch up until the dogs had slowed to a walk. The dogs were panting with big smiles on their faces as we trotted past them and slowed to a walk to lead the way up the Millers’ drive.
Oscar and Ruth’s entire family was there; two sons, one daughter, one spouse, and two bouncy kids. The normal introduction protocol was put on hold as the kids sprinted over to the dog cart. Of course the dogs were in heaven: Rottweilers are kids themselves, and they adore children. We tried to restart the introductions when the oldest child, who must have been an elderly seven, came running up to ask if they could go for a ride. I saw a parental “maybe later” starting to come forth but interjected saying, “Those two ladies are Sonya and Matilda - ask them. I’m sure they’d love to give you each a short ride before dinner.”
Ruth kicked in with, “Use your manners now and ask politely”. The kid grinned as only a seven-year-old can, and off he went shouting something like “we can, we can” over and over. All the adults were wearing honest smiles.
That statement seemed to end all resistance from the parents; we watched for a moment, then started the introduction routine up again. It was more laid back after that interlude, and we immediately fell into casual discussion about the dog cart and our trip in general.
Ruth beckoned all the ladies, who followed her to the house to finish supper preparations, and the fellas started slowly meandering over towards the machine shed while we discussed my soon-to-be ranch. We eventually made it to the machine shed, which was a large barn where the tractors were stored and repaired. Lo and behold there in the corner was a refrigerator, circa 1965, chugging away. Oscar reached inside and pulled out an ice-cold beer for each of us. It turned out to be very good beer.
We spent a good hour shooting the breeze about the boys’ careers, my trip, and their farm; I do believe we even got around to our beloved college football team at some point. Eventually, a clanging came from the house and Oscar said, “That’ll be the dinner bell, we best get a move on or Ruth will get edgy.” Depositing our empty bottles in a recycling bin, we headed off for supper. It was only about 5 p.m., but supper comes early around these parts.
We washed up and discarded our boots in the mud room; then I was led through the kitchen to their formal dining room. If you’ve never been in a formal dining room it is a sight to see. It’s normally located near the kitchen and the servant’s quarters, as it was common practice for people to have servants - or even slaves, in these parts - back when this house was first built. In the Millers’, case the servant’s quarters appeared to have been converted into a sewing-and-crafts room for Ruth.
But we didn’t go that way. I was led through the sitting room and a set of magnificent french doors with elegant antique glass in each pane and found myself in a proper foyer with a grand front door to my right and a coat closet to my left. In front of me was another set of french doors.
We passed through the second set of french doors into the dining room, and it was a place of beauty. You would have thought you were transported to a European manor house when you stepped through those doors. From the outside of the house you couldn’t see anything different about this room, but on the inside the polished custom wood work and exacting furniture arrangement made you realize that this was once a very important home in the area, and perhaps even the state.
I asked Oscar who had built this and he replied, “My family did, sometime back around 1835 if I recall.”
I could only reply, “This is magnificent.”
Naturally, the dining table dominated the room and, looking at the chairs, I assumed it was incredible as well; but as piled with food and covered by settings as it was, I could hardly see the surface to be sure. There were huge windows on each wall, each well-appointed with elegant drapes and sheers; the front window had a settee underneath it, and the two side windows each had a wingback chair and what looked like a small gaming table between them.
There was a small door on the far end which had drapes as well; I suspected that this led to the servant’s quarters and, eventually, the kitchen. Next to that door was a very old and elegant upright piano. Next to the doors we had just come through was a small and beautiful wood stove to heat the room.
It was well appointed throughout with tasteful and beautiful paintings and knick-knacks; I would come to find later that each knick-knack had a family story behind it. Above the table was a simple yet elegant chandelier to light the center of the room, with sconces on the walls to provide edge lighting and give the place a welcoming glow.
On top of the table was cornucopia: two huge platters of fried chicken, bowls of mashed potatoes, green beans, peas, roasted onions and fresh salad abounded. Two baskets of biscuits were the icing on the cake. This was a meal.
Each setting had water, butter, a small boat of gravy and individual salt and pepper shakers; there were even bowls of sour cream, shredded cheese, chives and green onions available. I was speechless, utterly gob smacked.
Oscar casually said, “C’mon let’s set down”, and moved to the head of the table. Everyone was standing behind the chairs waiting and Oscar motioned to the seat on his right for me. His eldest son assumed the seat at the tail end of the table and everyone else was spread out accordingly. It was a huge table easily seating all twelve of us.