Friday, July 13, 2018

The Gypsy Gene

I grew up in a Mississippi home with slightly older parents and brothers who were fourteen and sixteen years older. With brothers graduating high school at ages two and four, I spent most of my childhood and youth pretty much as only child would.

My parents loved to travel. I remember making long trips to visit Aunt Daisy in Iowa. On trips like that one, we usually stayed in motel rooms along the way.

The vacations we really enjoyed were spent camping. We started out in a tent when I was about five. We went to a family camp in the Kiamichi Mountains of Oklahoma. Mom and Dad found a spot on a hill near the bathhouse. It rained quite a bit that week. Our next camping trip was made in a pop-up camper. We stayed in that camper a year or two. It really only had room to sleep with maybe a tiny storage space. We cooked meals outside on a camp stove. We graduated from that to a Starcraft which had a table where we could be comfortable when it rained as well as an indoor stove and sink. We made trips to Bull Shoals Lake and Eureka Springs in Arkansas, to Guntersville Lake in Alabama, to the newly opened Walt Disney World in Florida, to the Smokies, to Virginia, and many other places I've long since forgotten. We took it to Sardis Lake just for the weekend many times. It took only two and a half hours to make that trip. 

Eventually the Starcraft was replaced with a Coachman travel trailer. I was probably in the last couple of years of middle school then. They replaced the Coachman with an Allegro motor home sometime when I was still in high school. It was a very large rig and more than they really needed so they downsized after I was in college. I think the first smaller motor home was a Midas. They finished their camping in a Minnie Winnie which they purchased on the road in Florence, South Carolina. I think there was one other motor home in between those. Dad who was two years older than mom retired at 62; she retired at 65. When she retired, they spent a lot of time camping. They often made long trips, being gone for several months at a time. They made a trip to New England and a trip out west. They made many other trips as well. They had campground memberships which made it very affordable. They only paid $1 to $5 a night, depending on the agreements between campgrounds. Their favorite camping spot was in the Smokies at their "home" campground, Mill Creek Resort in Pigeon Forge. 

I lived in Cincinnati part of the time and often drove down on weekends when they camped there.When I moved to East Tennessee, they rarely stayed at my house, preferring to stay in the RV in Pigeon Forge. As they grew older, Dad's comfort level driving diminished, so they did most of their travelling during my breaks so I could drive.

The Minnie Winnie parked at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in Florida

Mom and Dad at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in Florida

Mom called her love of camping and traveling "the gypsy gene." I remember telling her about all the places Levi Lantz lived. He was born in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. He moved to Wayne County, Ohio, where he married Barbara Yoder. They moved to Knox County, Ohio for a brief time before returning to Holmes County, Ohio, which adjoined Wayne, to care for some of her aging relatives. They moved near Oak Grove, McLean County, Illinois, where my grandfather Abraham met his wife Laura. Levi, however, moved on to Howard County, Indiana, where his wife died. He then moved to St. Joseph County, Michigan, back to Oak Grove in McLean County, Illinois, to Johnson County, Missouri, and eventually to McPherson County, Kansas where he died in 1887. After I'd recited all his moves, Mom declared, "That's where I got my gypsy gene."

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