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The three of us were enjoying wine and conversation. Gail, using better judgement, retired to bed at a respectable hour, while Kenny and I stayed up later. Sitting out on the covered deck, we took advantage of the comfortable west Texas air on that Monday evening in mid-May. In just a couple weeks, Texas would begin her season of relentless summer heat; steamy hot days and sultry humid nights. But this night, the weather was beautiful and we intended to make good use of it.
With a bottle of wine, we talked about all sorts of topics; good and happy things and some universal issues of concern as well. There was no doubt in my mind, given a couple more hours and another bottle of wine, we would have had solutions for every problem in the world - and they were good, workable, common sense solutions. But the powers that be aren’t likely to take advice from a group such as myself, Kenny and Robert Mondavi.
Beyond the shelter of the roofline, I could see the Texas sky was full of stars, twinkling and dancing about. It was past midnight; the wine was taking its toll and we decided to call it a night.
The next morning, Gail had prepared a feast of scrambled eggs, bacon and toast. We ate well, enjoyed good coffee and more conversation. Then came that awkward moment; there was a sole strip of bacon left on the plate and three people sitting around the table. “Someone needs to eat that last piece of bacon.” Gail suggested.
“Go ahead.” I said to Gail, offering the plate her way.
She politely declined, “No thank you, I’ve had plenty. One of you two can have it.”
It can become a mind game when determining the fate of the last slice of that salted, fatty, smoke-flavored goodness. One contender was out already, it was down to me and Kenny. Using reverse psychology, I said, “Here Kenny, you have it.” While moving the plate from Gail to him.
“No, go ahead.” Kenny replied. I wondered, was he using the same tactic?
I quickly weighed my options and consequences. I wanted that last piece of bacon, but I also wanted to be invited back again. I thought quickly, “Okay,” I snapped the crisp bacon strip in two, taking half and told Kenny, “here, we’ll share it.”
But Kenny insisted, “No, you can have it.” I told Kenny I wasn’t going to eat it. If he didn’t eat it, that half-piece would be thrown away - wasted. “Well, we can’t let bacon go to waste.” He said, reaching toward the plate.
As soon as Kenny put the bacon in his mouth and started chewing, I threw a little guilt his way, “Thanks a lot Kenny. I really wanted that last piece.”
“Too bad.” Kenny said, with a look of contentment that anyone has while eating bacon, “You had your chance.” We shared a good laugh about that.
With the end of breakfast came the end of a very good visit with Uncle Kenny and Aunt Gail. They were generous hosts, as they always are. Both being good cooks, they shared the task, providing excellent meals and they allowed me to use their kitchen to bake a peach pie and some ginger crack cookies.
When I was about ready to go, Gail asked if I would like to take some things in my cooler for the long drive back to northern Minnesota. I told her I would be going to the grocery store, so packing a cooler wouldn’t be necessary. Then I remembered the lunch she had served the day before. “Would you happen to have any of that ham salad left over?” I asked.
“There’s probably just enough to make one more sandwich.” Gail replied, asking, “Would you like lettuce?” She took a couple containers from the refrigerator, grabbed the loaf of bread, laid out a sheet of waxed paper on the countertop and began making the sandwich.
Curious, I inquired, “Are you using the waxed paper as a prep surface, or are you going to wrap the sandwich in that?”
Gail stopped, “I was going to wrap the sandwich if that’s okay. Would you rather have plastic?”
“No, that’s perfect.” I said, smiling, “I haven’t seen anyone wrap a sandwich in waxed paper for years. I love it!”
When she was done making the sandwich, she brought the two longer sides of the rectangular wrap together at the top center of the bread. Folding the edges over, making about a one-inch overlap on the top, she pressed them together by running the paper between her thumb and index finger from one end to the other. She creased a seam, much like a tailor would do with fabric and a hot iron. Gail folded the seam flat on top of the sandwich, then carefully wrapped the left side underneath, followed by the right.
Watching her work, I reminisced about wrapping sandwiches exactly that way when I was a kid. This, of course, was before Glad Cling Wrap came along, followed by the Glad Sandwich Bag with the flap and fold top, and finally, today’s Ziploc bag. They’re always looking for a better way to keep a sandwich fresh, but I’m not sure you can beat good old-fashioned waxed paper.
Gail handed me the sandwich. I placed it in a small brown paper bag, along with a few homemade cookies and an apple. We said our farewells, then June and I headed up the road toward home.
Kenny had suggested a state route that would take us north, staying off I-35, until we got past Dallas-Fort Worth. Avoiding the metro traffic and congestion would save us a lot of time and anguish.
While driving the backroads, we enjoyed the countryside; large fields where Texas Longhorn steer grazed on luscious, tall green prairie grass beneath windmills that pumped well water into livestock troughs. Oil rigs throughout the fields were running, with their big iron heads rhythmically teetering up and down. The sky was blue with scattered cottony-white clouds that provided character. The scenery was perfect - this is west Texas.
A few hours into the trip, June and I pulled over to the side of the road. I grabbed my sack lunch and sat in the grass to eat. June wandered about through the wildflowers nearing the barbed wire fence. Being a border collie / blue healer, she took notice of the field of cattle that needed someone to herd them together.
She looked over her shoulder at me to see if I was paying attention, then crept toward the field. “Hey June, why don’t you just stay on this side of the fence before you find out what those steer can do with their long horns!”
I opened my brown bag, pulling out the sandwich that was gift-wrapped in waxed paper. I opened it and took a bite. “Wow.” I said to June. “This is every bit as good as it was yesterday - maybe even better.” I took another bite.
June, licking her lips while watching me eat, warned, “That ham salad is made with mayo. It’s been out of the refrigerator for three hours. Maybe you should feed it to the dog. I wouldn’t want you to take any chances of getting sick when we still have a thousand miles to go before getting home.”
“Nice try, June,” I chuckled, “but I don’t think so.” When I was a kid, I would take my sandwiches to school, leaving them in my locker until lunch time. Sometimes it was bologna, peanut butter, cheese or various other toppings - but it very often had mayo on it and they always sat unrefrigerated for a few hours. It didn’t kill me or make me sick back then and I doubt it’s going to today. It must be the waxed paper that keeps it so well.
After I finished eating, I gathered my brown bag, napkin and waxed paper. I left the apple core on the roadside, telling June, “Something will come along and eat it.”
We got back in the car to continue north. June sat in the front passenger seat. “I haven’t had a brown bag lunch like that in years.” I told her. Still quite salty over me not sharing my sandwich, June sat upright, staring straight out the front window, totally ignoring me.
I wadded the sandwich wrapper into a tight little ball and tossed it at June, beaning her right in the noggin. I laughed, “That’s another reason waxed paper is better than plastic. You can’t wad up a Ziploc bag and throw it like that!”
June glared at me, “Very funny, Dad. Just drive the car.” Then she gazed out the side window at all the cattle in the pastures. “I could’ve had them all rounded up, if you would have been paying more attention to the dog’s needs, instead of touting the benefits of waxed paper.”
I ruffled the fur on her head, “Maybe next time, June Bug.” She leaned over to my side of the car and gave me a kiss - well, I thought it was a kiss. Apparently, I had a few cookie crumbs on my cheek.