By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The crisp autumn mornings provide a picturesque setting for photographers as the fog rises from the cleanly cropped fields lined by trees whose tops are bursting into their brilliant orange, reds and yellows that signify the fall season.
The lake at the J. M. Feltner 4-H Camp on Ky. 229 provides a peaceful setting for fall photographers with its colorful trees and trails.
But the second weekend in October at this local resort is anything but quiet.
Each year on that particular weekend, a group of Millers converge to the site, celebrating their annual Miler Family Reunion that kicks off with a hot dog and marshmallow roast, followed by singing around the campfire.
Laughter drifts across the lake in the dark of Thursday evening, while the aroma of roasting hot dogs fills the air, followed by the melodious voices blending together in a harmony that can only be described as divine.
On Friday night, even more of this clan gather in the clubhouse to bask in the joy of family and feast on favorite foods. From chicken and dumplings, to meatloaf, all the fixings proper for a hungry bunch that love to eat are just the mainstream of the meal. Another table stretched along the side of the building offers tempting desserts that make the sugar level skyrocket and the taste buds melt with desire.
Mixing and mingling with family from near and far highlights the meal, complimented by games, an auction, and other activities. The most recent addition to this gathering of the Miller Family is the auction and country store that offers items from the past and present.
The silent auction (not always so silent) allows for memorabilia from those gone on to be distributed to the highest bidder by other family members. Last year proved to be an exciting showdown for certain items, but I was the winner of the old porcelain jug that my grandmother used as a door stop. Now, the jug is absolutely worthless moneywise, but had been given to another family member years ago. It was only right that once it went up for auction, it should return to the direct family line where it originated!
I launched a campaign with other bidders, telling them how valueless the item actually was in an effort to discourage running up the price. Whether that or pure sympathy prevailed is unknown, but I walked away with the little brown jug that my grandmother used, still bearing a piece of masking tape with my mother’s handwriting that warns: “Do not remove lid.”
That simple little jug, worth nothing in today’s selling market, is valueless sentimentally.
Items such as these are the basis of the auction that brings us back to our roots — the four children of Robert and Dicella Miller and the descendants that carry on their legacy. This year is the 24th annual family gathering, and although the names and faces have come and gone over the years, the meaning of family is what prevails throughout this celebration.
All those whom I called immediate family are gone now, at peace in a place where there is no pain or sorrow. But remaining a part of the family is what drives me to the 4-H camp each year and keeps those memories of my youth and my ancestors alive for future generations.