I was so excited. We were going to MEXICO, an exotic country where you could buy a serape or something made of pottery. I’d always wanted a serape, though. I was seven years old and couldn’t believe my good fortune. Our family had just bought a new truck, and we were going on vacation; first to Mexico, then to the Hill Country of Texas, where we normally camped. We typically stayed there on the river for three weeks at a time in the summer. But this time was going to be different. Mexico. I was giddy.
So, I must have missed the itinerary discussions. Heck, I was only seven. I was never required to attend any of those meetings. Besides, I didn’t care HOW we got there, I was ecstatic with the fact that we were going. All I remember hearing was something mentioned of Laredo and Goose Island and Mexico. And I wasn’t up on the geography or logistics, being so young.
The first evening after my Daddy got off of work, we hooked up the trailer and finished the last minute packing, then we traveled for several hours. Did I mention I was excited? My sister and I populated the back of the truck, protected as we were by the aluminum camper shell. There was a small fan bolted up in the corner, the windows were able to crank open, we had snacks and sleeping bags on top of all the foam mattresses. The full eight foot bed of the truck was our domain.
Some time after dark, we pulled into a place to rest for the night, and we set about the tasks proscribed by the trail boss. Level the trailer, set the chocks, Daddy lit the pilot lights on the butane refrigerator and stove. We were set for the night. We ate a long forgotten meal and piled into our beds.
I don’t really remember being awakened, eating or even breaking camp. It was early in the morning, and the only memory that stays with me is the sight of the sun rising over the Intracoastal Waterway and the smell of the oak trees that surrounded us, and that smell mixing with the salt air. We then mounted our new steed and Daddy kicked it in the sides. We were again headed to Mexico.
We had been driving Southward along State Highway 35 for awhile and had even stopped for a restroom break. That was when my sister decided to ride in the cab of the truck. There was air conditioning up there, but I didn’t care. The cab of a pickup was not the place for four people to be on a long trip, air conditioned or not. It was too tight for me to be up there. Anyway, I was content in the back: I had my snacks, a radio, and a 300 sheet newsprint drawing pad. I spent time drawing and sketching, sketching and drawing.
An hour or so after my sister went to the cab, I began to wonder what our next stop would be. I tapped on the glass of the camper, trying to get someone’s attention. Tap, tap, tap. TAP TAP TAP…BANG! Tap tap tap tap tap taptaptap…then repeat.
Finally, my mother turned around and saw me gesturing and mouthing words and tapping on glass.
I mimed, “Where are we going?”
She replied with a puzzled look.
“WHERE ARE WE GOING?”
“WHERE ARE WE GO-ING?”, slower, louder.
“Wha—“, she countered.
At that point, though only 7 and a half, I decided that visual communications would be in order. I quickly grabbed my 300 sheet drawing pad, found a page without scribbles, and wrote out in large, clear headline text, “Where are we going, GOOSE ISLAND?”
It became appallingly clear that the message was received in its entirety. My loving Mother exploded in a fit of silent laughter, at least from my side of two panes of glass.
Confused by her outburst, I pulled the pad back to see if my message had included an unintentional joke. No. Yet there she sat, laughing.
I tapped the glass again, and replaced the paper to the surface. That (and my mother’s broken-by-hysteria explanation) attracted the attention of my sister, who in turn burst into soundless guffaws.
Which made me point harder, more earnestly and forcefully at the pad, while mouthing the words, over and over and over again, “Where are we going, GOOSE ISLAND?”
With every repetition, it was evident that all those in the cab were losing control. I finally gave up in disgust. If they weren’t going to tell me, I could just wait. I knew there was something up, but just what, I had no clue. I could tell, because just when the gales of laughter would subside, one of them would look back at my dour little face and it would begin anew.
Finally, they laughed so hard that one (or more) felt the undeniable pressure on the bladder, or was it a pang of guilt for making me the deaf brunt of their joke? When I got ready to exit the camper shell, they were all there to meet me with three quarters apology/explanation, one quarter “relive the glee”. Or was it the other way around. I never knew.
Then they explained the situation to me, in shifts between hee haws. It seems that the halcyon refuge where we had spent last night was none other than Goose Island State Park.
I was dumbfounded, and only wished they were as well. To this day, when the words “goose” and “island” appear in the same paragraph, 75% of those present find it funny to put them together behind the words, “Where we goin’?…”.