Thursday, May 27, 2010

I recommend the Hawaiian Catfish Platter

We spend as many free weekends as we can at the lake.  Since there are a staggering 6736 lakes in the great state of Texas, I can see why you might wonder, Which lake, Sarah?  I'm talking about the lake, my lake.  Lake Cypress Springs.  East Texas, y'all.  We have a small cabin out there that we like to escape to whenever possible. At Lake Cypress Springs, there are tall pine trees, lapping waters, wildflowers, birds aplenty, and the serene sounds of nature. I can see Chris’ shoulders visibly relax in the car when we get within twenty miles of our little idyllic retreat.

It's a small little lake house and is pretty remote by Dallas standards. You could even say we are roughing it:  no, I repeat, no internet or cell phone service. Chris and I like to say we are off the grid when we go out there, and it really feels like it.  I mean, I got five bars of cell reception 1600 feet below sea level in Israel at the Dead Sea, and I can’t get it 100 miles outside of Dallas.

Because of that, it's an admittedly slower paced lifestyle out there.  One of these days, I'm going to write a travel guide to Lake Cypress Springs.  This is how it might read: 

On a map, the lake is in the town of Scroggins.  (When I say "town", you really need to use your imagination.  It consists of:  a post office, railroad tracks, and a Texaco.  That is not a typo - that's the end of the sentence.  A post office and a gas station.  Period.  Straight out of a Thornton Wilder play, people).  It has a population of 125, give or take the occasional farming equipment casualty, known in East Texas as, "natural causes".  It was established in 1850 and named after a local sawmill operator named Milt Scroggins. 

Here is an average Friday night out in Scroggins.  (For your information, Friday nights in Scroggins are a big deal).  There is a bluegrass band that plays at one of the local hotspots.  Hotspots, you ask?  When you have a choice between a gas station and a post office, which one is "hotter"?  Duh.  That's easy.  The Texaco, of course.  Note:  this is not to be missed! Whatever your Friday night plans are in E-Tex or western Louisiana, cancel them immediately and head on over to the Scroggins Texaco to immerse yourself in the local culture. It is an experience like no other.

So, Bluegrass band.  All the excitement begins about 5:30 pm.  They clear the bags of feed out of one corner (oh, did I mention that the gas station doubles as a feed-n-seed?) and the ensemble tunes up their instruments, which consist of:  a banjo, a guitar (please pronounce GIT-ar when you are in East Texas), a washboard (nope, not kidding), a keyboard, and a guitjo -  which, news to me, is the byproduct of the marriage between a banjo and a guitar.  Really. 

The live music begins.  One of the bandmembers - I kid you not - keeps his lit cigarette wedged in one of the gaps between his teeth.  However, as we all know, appearances aren't everything, and this band actually plays excellent music.  After awhile, you stop being distracted by the inch of ash on the fire hazard tar stick dangling from his lips which could ignite the multiple poorly packaged bags of feed at any second and we all might have to perish in a gas station, and you really get into the great music.   There's even dancing.  In a Texaco.  You do-si-do clockwise in circles around the cash register counter in the center of the store.  Beware the errant discount pocketknife, lotto card, can of potted meat, or prepackaged cherry pie, lest you lose your footing on the dance floor.  Mayhem.

Hungry?  Well, lucky for you, the people running this joint are known for their fried catfish platter.  It is served with sliced onions, tomatoes, and cornbread.  The catfish, I assume, are locally obtained from the nearby lake, but as a person who frolics frequently in said lake, I prefer to imagine the catfish do not inhabit our waters and are instead imported from far distant places, say, Hawaii.  Yeah, Hawaiian catfish.  Yum.  For dessert, choose from a number of fresh homemade pies.  I'll even let you in on a secret:  the coconut cream pie is da bomb.

If you play your cards right, the local celebrity, Miss Wooly Worm Festival 2009 will be your server and will take pictures with you to commemorate your visit.

Now, my description of the happening nightlife at the Texaco in Scroggins may sound somewhat satirical in its content.  But I promise, I promise, I am not mocking.  No mocking.  I do not mock.  In fact, I am very proud of the East Texas culture, and would recommend to anyone to please, please visit this place and bite off a slice of this Americana.  Experience for yourself a living, breathing, chain-smoking, guitjo-playing John Cougar Mellencamp song.  You will not regret it. 

Truly, though, what I want my take-home message in my hypothetical travel guide to be is, when you turn to the ScrogginsSlashLake Cypress Springs chapter (page, paragraph, blurb, sentence), I want you to read this:  It is a place  with some eccentricities, yes.  But also a place where my daughter can run barefoot through the grass and collect fireflies. She can look at minnows in a jar, get butterflies in her stomach swinging from the tree swing, swim with her cousins, jump off the dock with the dogs, run through the sprinklers, catch tadpoles in her net, nap in the hammock, rake leaves with her Mimi, pick wildflowers for the table, eat picnic lunches on the porch and kick what drops on the floor and doesn't get gobbled up by Cooper between the floorboards, sleep with the windows open, make s’mores by the bonfire, grow fresh tomatoes, sing songs with her beloved grandfather as he strums his banjo, and squaredance with her daddy across the dusty floor of a Texaco.

And all of this in one day. 

No wonder the kids sleep so well here.


  1. The lake is really this special! I absolutely love it! You forgot to mention the pileated woodpeckers and the red eared slider turtles. :)

  2. Sarah--- I love reading your blog. You have uch a cute little family !

    Kelli (Lister) Sullivan

  3. Awesome!!!

    I LOVE Aria's ponytails! :)