One of the most memorable vacations of my childhood was a trip my family took to Oklahoma in 1968.  It seems so very long ago – and that’s because it was – fifty years, to be exact.  We made our journey in August, headed for the Kiamichi Mountain area.  Two parents, six children (ranging in age from thirteen-year-old me down to my youngest brother, who was almost four), plus luggage, a tent, and other camping and food supplies were loaded into a station wagon traveling west.

Dad and Mom took turns driving so we could keep going even after dark.  I can’t remember stopping anywhere through Tennessee (we left from the Knoxville area), but I do recall waking up somewhere in Arkansas and eating a picnic breakfast.  Later that morning, we visited the Jot ‘Em Down Store in Pine Ridge, made famous by the Lum and Abner radio show.

We reached our final destination that afternoon, which was a campground known as “Christ’s Forty Acres.”  Dad traveled there each May to attend the Kiamichi Men’s Clinic; however, the rest of the family had never been there.  A family session was held in August; that was the reason for our trip.  It was the first (and only) time my family went camping.  We helped Dad set up the tent, including bunk cots for the bigger kids.

Besides the teaching and preaching sessions we attended, there were lots of other things to do, especially during our free time in the afternoon.  Dad knew several people from the area, and we visited some of them in their homes.  I won’t forget the tarantulas we found in a playhouse at one of the places we went.  Another highlight was the Christian rodeo held during the week.  Thankfully, I was too old for the pig catching contest that my younger sisters entered.

There was an ice house on the grounds of the camp; besides large blocks of ice, it held watermelons.  Some of the melons had yellow flesh instead of the usual red.  It was the first time I had ever eaten a yellow watermelon, and I found that I preferred it to a red one.

When the camp was over, my family packed up to head home.  We had made new friends – my sister Terri wrote back and forth with a Native American boy for quite a long time afterward – and lots of good memories as well as some hilarious ones.

On our journey back, we stopped in the little town of Magazine, Arkansas, which was where Mom and Dad lived after Dad graduated from college.  He had preached at a church there, and Mom taught in a local school.  They managed to find several people that they had known during their tenure in Magazine, and were excited to be able to introduce them to their children.

Finally, it was time to head back east.  Two adults, six children, and a cat we kids had found roaming the streets of Magazine and hidden in the car made the trip back through Tennessee to home.  I have often thought I would like to go back to Oklahoma and revisit Christ’s Forty Acres just to see how much it has changed in fifty years.  Maybe one day I will get that chance.

Back in the present, tomatoes are beginning to ripen in my garden.  I tried a new recipe – Tomato Bacon Squares – and recommend it highly.  The rest of the recipes are good ones from past columns.


Tomato Bacon Squares

6 slices bacon

1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper

1/3 cup chopped onion

4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1 teaspoon dried basil

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 refrigerated pizza crust dough (or make your own)

3/4 cup shredded Swiss cheese

Preheat oven 375 degrees.

Fry bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels.

Crumble bacon into a medium-size mixing bowl. Mix in bell pepper, onion, tomatoes, and basil. In small bowl, combine mayonnaise and garlic.

Roll pizza crust into a 12-by-15-inch rectangular baking sheet. Spread mayonnaise mixture evenly over crust. Sprinkle bacon mixture over mayonnaise; top entire pizza with cheese.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until top is bubbly and crust is golden brown. Cool and cut into 24 squares.


Relish Salad

3 small, firm tomatoes (I used 6 Juliet tomatoes)

2 small cucumbers, peeled and sliced

1 small onion, sliced lengthwise and cut into slivers

2 medium carrots, scraped and cut into 3-inch lengths and julienned

3 stalks celery, cut into 3-inch lengths and julienned

1/2 cup white wine vinegar

1/3 cup water

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon dried basil, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons olive or canola oil

In a large bowl, gently toss vegetables together until blended.

Place vinegar, water, and sugar in a small saucepan.  Add tarragon, if desired.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally; reduce heat and let simmer for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat. Whisk basil, salt, pepper, and olive oil into vinegar mixture until well blended.

Pour vinegar mixture over vegetable mixture and toss to coat.  Cover and chill overnight (or at least 4 hours), stirring occasionally for best flavor.


Hill Country Salsa

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (11-ounce) can whole kernel corn, drained

4 large tomatoes, chopped

1 avocado, peeled and chopped

1 large green bell pepper, chopped

1 bunch green onions, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 large jalapeño pepper, chopped

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup fresh lime juice

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

Combine all ingredients; toss gently.  Cover and chill.

Yield: 7 cups


Bacon and Tomato Salad for Sandwiches

1/3 cup salad dressing or mayonnaise

3/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large or 2 small tomatoes, cored and diced

1/2 cup cooked and crumbled bacon

Lettuce leaves, optional

Combine first 3 ingredients in a small bowl.  Mix well.

Place tomatoes and bacon (see note) in a medium bowl; cover with salad dressing mixture.

Chill until ready to serve.

Serve with lettuce leaves, if desired, to be added to sandwiches as they are prepared.

Note: To keep bacon from getting soggy if there will be a long period of time before serving, wait to add it until just before the salad is served.