We go on this annual camping trip to Vogel State Park in the Blue Ridge Mountains every year during the 4th of July week. Elaine and I have been going as a family since 1981 and her family went every year when they were growing up.
There are very few traditions in our lives that mean more to us than this annual trip to the mountains. There are so many memories of my daughters when they were growing up and those trips to Vogel. There is probably 25-30 families that we know and are friends with that all go this same week. All of our children have grown up together. It is like stepping into great memories every time we go.
We have had many dear friends that have passed on that were a part of Vogel. Real heroes in our lives. One person in particular was Bobby Brannon who passed away several years ago. He was the glue for our group of friends and he was bear of a man who when he saw you, you were going to be hugged whether you wanted it or not. When I refer the term “hug” that is maybe a little understatement. When Bobby Brannon hugged you, it was full double arm wrap and squeeze that left no doubt that you had been properly greeted.
One thing that has been a constant at Vogel is nightly softball games. Bobby was always the leader in organizing the games and after his passing the duty has fallen to Uncle Billy (as all the kids call him) and Alan (Billy’s brother in-law).
The term “coming out of your shoes” started with the nightly softball games. The early game is always with the little kids and then the adults get to play from 7-8pm each night. The distance from home plate to the creek is only 250 feet and easily reachable for a home run. That is until age begins to settle in and your body doesn’t react like your mind remembers. When we were all young we would get up to the plate in the adults game and literally swing so hard that on occasion we would come out of our shoes. In this game you did not hold back and you went for the creek or even the campsite on the other side of the creek if you really wanted to show your stuff. Uncle Billy, Charlie and Bert (Charlie’s son) were always the creek hitters. Me, I was hit or miss (literally) but on the rare occasion was rewarded with a creek ball.
These memories and these friends are priceless to me because I remember each year and the memories from each year and I can replay the mental video of those times. The older you get, the more mental videos we all have of Vogel and the sweeter they become.
When we would play softball, we would often play in loafers (I did), sneakers, flip-flops and whatever you had on but on the occasion you would see someone swing so hard that they would lose a shoe in the process. Sometimes in life you just have to give it your all and swing as hard at the ball (or life) as you can.
These memories of Vogel become more dear me to me the older I get. Traditions are a good thing for families and children because they help us find roots in who we are and where we came from. Don’t hold back when you swing at life and just maybe you will look behind you and see a shoe you lost. KT