Tom was invited by Marilyn, a fellow employee at an Amazon warehouse.. She and her husband own four wooded acres near Dillsboro, Indiana, complete with large pond. It's twenty feet deep in the middle, cupped between the hills like it grew there naturally (though it was dug), with a zip line down the middle. It couldn't be a prettier spot for a gathering.
On our way from Cincinnati, I held the half page typed directions as Tom drove. "Please do not use GPS," Marilyn had written. "It will not get you there." For most of the ride we used the directions alone, until we needed to find "Station Hollow Road". I fired up my cell phone for that little feat. And yes, I used the GPS to get us back on track (but no more).
As we neared the location, we saw signs taped to trees. "Soup" it said ... hand-lettered and a sure sign that we were progressing. Finally, we turned into the correct driveway and found the sign shown above taped to a tree. "If you have anything heavy," Marilyn wrote, "just come down and we'll pick it up with a 4-wheeler".
Tom drove down the dirt lane until we saw other cars and a pond nestled deep among the trees.
Just arrived, Marilyn (l) shows Tom (center) around. That's a bunkhouse in the background.
Marilyn's invitation called the party "kid friendly ... games, fishing and more". True to her words, a number of kids had already taken to the old fashioned swimming hole. At the center of the above picture, one child rides the zip line across the pond.
Nearest the eating area, a number of small boats and canoes were provided. One, which held four, was paddled by foot.
Here's the zip line being prepared for another ride. It's a pretty ingenious system. The rider sits atop the orange plastic disk. When the ride is over, and the rider has dropped into the water near the pond's far edge, the apparatus is reeled back in with a fishing pole. It's a heavier duty model (salt water, I think Marilyn said). A mono-filament line runs out with the rider and provides the means to haul the apparatus back for the next ride. Great idea!
Here's how a ride begins ...
... while in the water a number of kids play on an overturned kayak.
Beside the iron cauldron where the soup bubbled was a piece of cardboard where the ingredients were listed as they were added. The list grew longer as the afternoon grew later. "It's always fun to see what the soup tastes like," said Marilyn. "It's never the same."
A homemade "bunk house" sits just up from the pond. What fun it must be to spend night here, in this dark hollow on a summer moonlit night, coyotes howling in the distance.
The soup bubbled in a large iron pot. It was heated by a wood fire.
Here's how the soup looked just after 2 pm, barely begun. The soup party ran from 2 pm to 6 pm.
Tom and I walked some of the trails on the property. This is from the opposite shore from the earlier shots, looking down through the woods at the pond.
Tom, a former botany major at Miami University, checks out some fungus growing on a downed tree. Tom pointed out sassafras trees (bushes, really ) to me. The leaves look like a mittened hand. He crushed a branch and let me smell the strong root beer scent.
Thought the afternoon, other guests arrived and the items they brought were added to the soup.
Marilyn's invitation said, "All we ask is that you bring a vegetable or seasoning for the soup." There was no fresh water at the pond so the vegetables had to be prepared in advance. Bowls, spoons and crackers were provided.
Rowing on the opposite shore. There were enough boats for everyone.
This young guy was manning the zip line reel-in station.
A dock provided a nice diving platform.
This mother carefully watches her daughter as she tries out a small pink boat. A perfect fit.
Her son couldn't get enough of the water, either. This is a Tom Sawyer/Huckleberry Finn setting if there ever was one.
These plastic boats filled often with water and became too heavy to drag on shore. It looks as though a couple of rubber stoppers could prevent that. But maybe the sinking of them is half the fun?
I'm not sure where the greenish mud came from - probably some spot on the pond's bottom - but a couple of boys took great pride in being covered with the slime.
We had to leave about 4:30 pm so I could get back to Farmersville by 7 pm. That prompted Tom to sample a bowl of the soup before he left.
... and this is what the final product looked like. Tom christened it "delicious". Being vegetarian, it's not something I was able to try as it contained squirrel, venison and groundhog. It also contained pork and beef. The final ingredient list is below:
Another view of the finished soup. It had been simmering for at least two and a half hours at this point.
Tom finishes up before we hit the road. What a nice way to spend the day. Marilyn and her family were extremely friendly and the setting was perfect for a gathering of this sort. Let's hope it's an annual event. Surely Tom and I aren't too old to bring swimming trunks next time.