Old Woodenhead at Christmas.
It was time for Old Woodenhead to pick up the rod again. It was time to catch a fish at the waterfall and offer it to the frying pan of all his readers– if they weren’t already stuffed with cookies, candy canes and beer. Seeing the potential difficulty of offering a fish to those who followed and supported Rivertop Rambles through the months of 2015, he put his legal trout back into the stream and wished everyone the best for Solstice, Christmas, New Years 2016, and any other special day that fell in or near the typically dark days of December. He understood that, even though these times were tough for many people and hard to manage for a multitude of reasons, he would be a sport about it and keep his message short and sincere. In fact, Old Woodenhead’s message would’ve been even shorter than it is, but there just wasn’t enough time for him to make it brief– not in these, the shortest days of the year.
My son and daughter came home for the holidays. Alyssa flew up from her new home in the Virgin Islands, meeting Brent in Washington, D.C. for the last leg of a trip north to the woodlands of New York. Sorry Alyssa, there wouldn’t be any snow for you here, but we wouldn’t feel too sorely on your account. After all, you get Caribbean waters almost daily while we, in the far north, have to deal with potential snow and ice. Except that this year, so far, there’s been a sea change in the weather. Yeah, even here, in the relatively stable climate of the uplands– where the temperature climbed to the middle 60s on Christmas Eve.
To carry on a Christmas Eve tradition here, my son and I grabbed our walking sticks, a camera, flask of whiskey, etc., and hiked to the South Ridge to meet my brother on the hilltop as he climbed up to join us from his own home several miles away. As a threesome, we’ve been doing this holiday hike for at least 20 years, and my brother and I began it even farther back in the hoary headwaters of the past– say, 30 to 35 years ago.
Our plan has always been to rendezvous at an old car abandoned in the woods by someone in the 1960s. It helps to know a bit of local history for walks of this sort, but that’s not essential for having fun. We simply meet at the old industrial wreck, and get sort of wrecked ourselves. That is, we share the spirits and the stories that we’ve carried to the site and then allow the agents of mystification to “guide us” over the hallowed ground.
Before we descend to my brother’s home in farm country, we inspect the old abandoned car (one year an ermine poked its head from beneath the snowy framework of the vehicle), the woods, the fields, the hunting camp, the trout pond, and the acme of all deer-hunting towers posted near the summit. This particular hike, most often undertaken in cold winter conditions, has been getting milder of late as we get older. We used to hike in wind and snow and ice, but it seems that lately we’ve experienced more rain and fog and mud than in the early days. And hell, this year, the sun was out and the temperature was in the 60s!
Before we met at my brother’s house for food and drinks and celebration with Susan, Leighanne and Alyssa, we revelled in the wonders of man and nature on the Greenwood hills. At one point, my son got a humorous phone message from his mother who was driving over to Peter and Susan’s place. The text message said, Barbecue at the end of the road!
You had to be there to appreciate the unintentional humor of it. A message out of the blue and totally bereft of context. Was it metaphorical, a comment about the end of the hiker’s life? Was St. Peter dealing pulled-pork sandwiches at the pearly gates?
My wife’s an expert at throwing comments from left field, but later we would learn the meaning. Driving to my brother’s house, they had seen an outdoor barbecue occurring at the end of our road– a testament to the warm weather we were having here at Christmas time.
Alyssa had brought the spirit of the Moko Jumbies back with her from St. Croix. They were new to me but, yeah, they got under the skin of this old blogger. The Jumbies are colorful, masked dancers who parade around on stilts. Originally a West African tradition, the Moko Jumbies blew in to the U.S. Virgin Islands and other Caribbean sites and now function as celebratory protectors from evil. They protect the cities and villages and solitary revellers who adopt them in fun.
The Moko Jumbies have blown into the rivertops and have blessed this blog site for the new winter season. I’m hoping to return their blessing with a venture to their homegrounds in the spring. Maybe they’ll help me catch a tarpon or a bone. Meanwhile, here’s a Jumbie note for everyone reading this latest post: thank you, good luck, best wishes, and have a terrific new year.