I was seven years old. Times were as tough as they can be for a kid. My Dad was drinking more heavily than ever. Fights were a nightly occurrence. Finally, Mom had enough, and we moved. We were living in a tiny apartment, I was struggling to make friends, again. Grandpa Jack had an idea. He worked for Intermountain Farmers Association, and he had to run up to Burley, Idaho. I could come with him. Pulling into town, he stopped at the Snake River. We got out and he made me find the biggest, roundest rock I could find. On the count of three, we threw our rocks in the river together. In my mind, something about those rocks plunking into the calm water said everything was going to be all right. We stayed at the Ponderosa, a great old motel on a little golf course. The pool and built in cement water slide felt like Heaven to me, even with a scratched up backside.
The next year we came back. And the next, and the next. Each year more siblings, and then cousins would join us. Eventually we had children, and we brought them. With each trip, a new tradition was added to the mix. The Cassia County fair and rodeo, with it’s scones, cheesy carnival rides, corn-on-the-cob and smelly animals became a ritual for us. When the Ponderosa closed down, we moved across the street to the Best Western Burley Inn. The rectangle shaped hotel surrounding a pool, volleyball pit, sand box, shuffle board, and shady, grassy areas make the perfect playground for cousins to play and swim until they drop. We found “Al’s Pizza and Ice Cream Shop”, where they open the entire back of the restaurant for our clan. Kiddie rides (mostly broken), arcade games, pool tables, pizza and of course ice cream are ours for the taking, just us. We love it. And even though Grandma and Grandpa are no longer with us, we always stop at the Snake and throw rocks in.
Tonight, I am sitting by the pool, at the end of my 39th trip to Burley. Twenty five of us made the trip this year. My kids are getting in their last swim. Cousins have all gone home. We just got back from the Snake River, where I made all three find the biggest, roundest rocks they could find. With them rolling their eyes, we all counted to three and threw our rocks in. That’s for Grandpa Jack, I told them. And for tradition. And then I backed up and watched them, starting to enjoy the rock throwing. Something about those rocks plunking into the calm water says to me, even today, everything is going to be all right.
To check out the exciting pics from Burley, click here.