The drive out to the ranch is always two things: long and worth it. Yesterday, when meetings ended, I bolted out the door like the building was on fire, hit up the grocery store for a few necessaries, and headed home to toss a few sweaters and some toothpaste in a bag before Sonja and I took off to grab the kids from daycare. I was grateful for the unseasonably warm temperature as I added air to the tires of our old Honda, and soon we were on the interstate.
By the numbers, we got to the ranch after…
…1 nasty diaper blowout,
…2 energy drinks,
…3 pit stops,
…4 phone calls to friends,
…5 rounds of Titus singing “Here comes Santa Claus”,
…and a partridge in a pear tree. Titus also took a dry-erase marker to his arm for about ten minutes before either of us noticed (in my defense, I was driving), and then declared “I am a tiger. Rawr!” — not a bad way to spend an afternoon. Not bad at all.
After a dinner of enchiladas, Spanish rice, and beans, we put the kids to bed. Grandpa read Titus a story while I rooted around in the pantry for the moonshine. (I found it.)
Thanksgiving day, while we waited for family to arrive, we took walks, took naps, ate gluten free cinnamon rolls, and shared the tricycle. These are the things I live for. I spend these holidays at the ranch fantasizing about living out here, free of cellular service, in complete solitude. I will replant the vineyards one day, adding a small stable of sheep to weed and fertilize, and a small herd of Great Pyrenees to dine upon the deer and scare away the coyotes. I will add wind machines to moderate temperatures, plant another windbreak, and dredge a lake in which to stock largemouth bass to catch on my fly rod. I will get a small herd of buffalo, eat some, and use the rest to make more buffalo, and I will run upon the prairie roads daily. Perhaps I can find a way to retire next year. If not, perhaps the year after. Or the year after that.
Two by two, my aunts and uncles arrived. It’s so wonderful to see them every time, and in my mind none of us has aged a single year since we first began meeting at the ranch for Thanksgiving, a favorite memory of my childhood and a tradition that predates me by at least half a dozen decades.
My mom made an amazing dinner of turkey, cranberries, beets, stuffing, and more. It was amazing. We paired a quaffable Argentine Malbec with the meal, but afterward I broke out something special.
My Aunt Judy had made her brownies, a treat I remember from my earliest days, and I offered this extraordinary bottle of Port to go with it. My relatives don’t tend to drink much, but we all shared a a taste — some of us a few additional tastes, of this excellent fortified wine. I told the story of Sonja and I first finding Prager in Napa, tucked away down an alley off of Highway 29, and I told them what I loved about the brothers who make it. Complex, rounded, rich, this wine competes with any ruby port I’ve had from Portugal in my years and years of tasting and writing. It paired brilliantly with Aunt Judy’s brownies, and then paired equally well for the hours that followed as we talked about everything from politics to fast cars to family history and more. By the time we had finished sitting around the table talking after Thanksgiving lunch, it was time for Thanksgiving dinner. Mom broke out the leftovers, and we found that the port paired just as well with a dark meat turkey sandwich and some cheese as it did with the rest of our day.
A regular reader of this blog, a man I like a lot, has mentioned to me more than once that I need to tell people where to get the wines I’m writing about. I’m trying. So here’s the news, and I’ll let you decide if it’s good or bad: I had a hand in getting this wine brought into the state of Nebraska, so I have a little insider information. Presently, there are three cases of this exceptional nectar available in the entire Cornhusker State. Most of that has been pieced out one bottle at a time to various restaurants in Omaha. The only retail shop I know that will be selling it is… wait for it… my mom and dad’s bookstore, The Plains Trading Company, in Valentine, Nebraska. At my urging, he bought a case of the stuff, though after my Aunt Linda took a bottle with her, he’s down to eleven bottles remaining. So swing in to the Plains Trading Company in Valentine, Nebraska, as soon as you can to pick up a bottle. Or, if you comment on the blog and want me to, you can call them and pay over the phone and I’ll bring a bottle back to you. You can reach my parent’s book shoppe at (800) 439-8640, or at plainstrading.com.
Thanksgiving is rapidly turning into one of my favorite holidays, and with all the fun we had at Halloween and all of the fun that Christmas promises to hold, I’m starting to think maybe the Autumn isn’t so bad after all. Let’s see how our Huskers do tomorrow and I’ll let you know how I officially feel about Fall. As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with loved ones.
Cheers to Giving Thanks,