Fourth of July picnic filled with music
When I was a teenager, I looked forward to our Fourth of July picnic, which was actually an all-day music event held just outside of town.
People came from miles around, bringing sack lunches and lawn chairs. A long, flatbed trailer was set up under a shade tree where the electrical connections were located, and well-known acts found their way to our stage.
Gospel acts including The Blackwood Brothers, The Statesmen Quartet, The Stamps Quartet, the Plainsmen, the Weatherford Quartet, The Chuck Wagon Gang and The Singing Wills Family performed for us over the years.
To balance out the day, there was a country music portion of the program.
I remember Johnny Horton singing The Battle of New Orleans. Johnny & Jack, Kitty Wells and Minnie Pearl were also there. Then there was a newcomer named Elvis Presley. Who could have imagined what kind of future he had ahead of him!
With so many big-name performers coming to our town on the Fourth of July, we didn't mind being outdoors under a hot, Texas sun.
If a summer shower came up, we would retreat to our cars, then go back to the stage area when it was over.
At night, there were usually fireworks, or a summer revival meeting nearby.
It's been many years since there's been a picnic in my hometown, but I still have wonderful memories of the gospel and country music that we enjoyed there.
Although I'm proud to be an American, I don't really celebrate the Fourth of July anymore. I do, however, still enjoy the fireworks display.
Brother arrives on Independence Day
My most memorable Independence Day happened 67 years ago, when I was almost 5 years old.
My younger sister and I had been put to bed upstairs, instead of in our usual downstairs bedroom.
We had already said goodbye to our favorite aunt and uncle, who were from out of state and planning to head home early the next morning.
After our dad bedded us down, he paused at the landing, and almost as an afterthought, said, 'If you stay up here all night, Dr. Lowe will bring you a baby brother.'
We came down the next morning and found that we had a new baby brother.
Our aunt and uncle were there, too. They decided to delay their departure so they could see our new arrival.
Since then, we have celebrated many Independence Days at our home in the country. I fondly remember my brother's birthday, even though he lives miles away and can't always be with us.
Family created own holiday celebration
When I was growing up in the 1940s, there were no public fireworks displays where I lived. We lived too far away from our neighbors to watch theirs, so we looked forward to our own fireworks display.
Grandpa would drive out from town to join us, and we always hoped harvest would be over by then, so Dad could be in early from the fields. Our meal was the same as usual - fried chicken and fresh garden vegetables.
If there was ample cream, we might have homemade ice cream, a treat usually reserved for Sundays.
As soon as it would get dark, the fireworks began. There was a box of sparklers for me, and firecrackers for my brother. The grand finale was a few Roman candles set off by my dad.
We all had a good time, except for our dog, who hid out in the barn until the next day.
Fall is a welcomed season. It's the beginning of cooler weather and the end of the season's harvest.
When you were growing up, did your community or neighborhood do anything special to celebrate the season? Did the community hold a fall festival for the families in the area? Were there gunnysack races and bobbing for apples? Was there a barn dance with live music? Maybe the community didn't have a celebration, but your neighbors got together for a potluck dinner and family fun.
Do you do anything these day to celebrate fall? How do your celebrations of today differ from those of days gone by?
Summer days are great for grilling steaks
The sizzling days of summer are perfect for serving up steaks on the grill. Whether your favorite is filet mignon or a strip sirloin, a juicy, grilled steak is sure to please your family's summertime appetites.
Filet Mignon with Compound Butter
4 filet mignons (8 oz. each)
2 tablespoons canola oil
Salt and pepper
Compound Butter, recipe follows
Rub steaks on all sides with oil; season with salt and pepper. Grill over direct medium-high heat for about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare, 6 to 7 minutes per side for medium, or to desired
Remove steaks from grill and let rest for a few minutes. Place a slice of compound butter on top of each steak and allow it to melt slightly before serving. Yields 4 servings.
To make Compound Butter:
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
Salt and pepper
Combine butter, shallot, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process to blend.
Transfer mixture to a sheet of plastic wrap. Roll into a log about 1½ inches thick; twist ends of plastic wrap to close.
Refrigerate for at least one hour, or until firm. Remove from refrigerator and cut into ½-inch slices when the steaks go on the grill.
Blackened Rib Eye Steak with Creamy Horseradish Sauce
4 rib eye steaks (10 to 14 oz. each)
¼ cup olive oil
8 teaspoons Blackening Seasoning, recipe follows
1 cup Creamy Horseradish Sauce, recipe follows
In a well-ventilated area, heat a cast-iron skillet until very hot. Brush steaks with olive oil. Coat each side of the steaks with 1 teaspoon blackening seasoning. Place steaks in hot skillet; flip halfway through cooking. To cook a 1-inch-thick steak medium-rare, cook for about 4 minutes on first side and 3 minutes on other side.
Spoon 2 tablespoons horseradish sauce on each of 4 plates, then top with a cooked steak. Yields 4 servings.
To make Blackening Seasoning:
3 tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt
¼ cup paprika
2 tablespoons cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dry oregano
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon fennel seed
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 tablespoon onion powder
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Yields about 1 cup.
To make Creamy Horseradish Sauce:
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely minced green onions
½ teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Yields about 1 cup.
Mustard-Glazed Top Sirloin
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons pineapple juice
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
Juice of 1 lime
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon garlic salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 top sirloins (4 oz. each), at room temperature
Preheat and oil the grill.
Whisk soy sauce, pineapple juice, mustard, lime juice, thyme, garlic salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
Brush steaks on both sides with the glaze. Grill over direct medium-high heat for 4 minutes. Turn and brush again with glaze; grill for 4 additional minutes for medium-rare, 5 to 6 additional minutes for medium, or to desired doneness.
Remove from grill and let rest for a few minutes before serving. Yields 4 servings.
A Letter from Kate:
My earliest memory of the Fourth of July is sitting in the front yard at my aunt and uncle's house. I remember my mom and my aunt sitting in their lawn chairs visiting, while we watched the men and the other children shooting off fireworks.
I also recall another Fourth of July when we went out of town to another uncle's house. I did my best to keep up with my siblings and cousins in the firework frenzy. I was afraid of firecrackers, but that didn't stop me from shooting them off.
Often my family and I were on vacation during the Independence Day holiday. I can remember shooting off fireworks at my grandparents' house, as well as at other relatives' houses.
Occasionally, we would take in a movie to escape the summer heat. Even as a child, I preferred the coolness of the movie theater to the sweltering sun.
Many years later, my brother and sister-in-law moved down the street from my parents. Every year, we gathered at their house to celebrate the holiday with a cookout and fireworks. When they moved away, the celebrations ended.
Even though I still enjoy watching a spectacular fireworks display, that's not what the holiday is about.
With each burst of color in the night sky, with each flag I see flying, with each note of a patriotic song, my heart swells with pride. I'm proud to be an American, and I'm thankful for a day to celebrate that.
I am eternally grateful to those who served and are currently serving our country, especially those who gave their lives for our freedom.
So often we take our freedom for granted, so it's good to have a day to be reminded of how blessed we are as Americans.
Together with God:
Happy Fourth of July! What a great holiday. Not only do we get to shoot off fireworks to celebrate being a united nation, but we also get backyard barbecues, parades, and if you're lucky, a pie-eating contest.
I love the Fourth of July, and I love living here more than anywhere else in the world. I know I am blessed to be an American.
When I was a little girl, this month meant I would take off my shoes to run barefoot in the grass, and my mother would caution me to watch out for yellow jackets.
I want to go to a town picnic and eat a slice of watermelon so juicy it drips down my chin and gets sticky in my neck line. I want the weather to be warm enough that the bleachers at the afternoon baseball game are full, but with a soft breeze blowing to cool the sweat.
This is a great country we live in, thanks in part to the men and women who serve in the military. They won't have their backyard grills going this year, and most won't be taking a dip in a pool. Yet, it's their sacrifice that gives us such a glorious holiday.
Father, thank You for this opportunity to celebrate our freedom and the pride we feel in being Americans. Thank You for blessing us with this great country. Be with the members of our military, and give them hope during their darkest moments and joy in their victories. Protect them and bring them home, so we may all celebrate our freedom together. Amen.
- D. Susan Rutz