The Greenwood Jumbies

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 DSCN7329stuffed 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.

DSCN7377Barbecue at the End of the Road.

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.DSCN7344

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.

DSCN7345Our 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 DSCN7348car (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!

DSCN7354Before 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?DSCN7375

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.DSCN7363

Moko Jumbies.

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.DSCN7369

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.DSCN7371

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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21 Responses to The Greenwood Jumbies

  1. Brent says:

    Great post! You got it all: barbeques, jumbies, great pictures, and hubristic hunting infrastructure. How’s the weather today?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Nice tradition Walt. Glad to see that Peter is still hiking about. A big hello to him.
    I don’t remember the abandoned car. I recognized the picture of our old farm and was wondering where it was taken from.
    Nice to see that your family can all get together at years special occasions.
    We had all 4 kids with spouses and 9 grandchildren for the weekend. Beds, air mattresses and hammocks took care of the sleeping quarters.
    Hiked down to the Valatie kill and had a great gamtee of wiffle ball before sitting down for a great meal.
    Keep up the great blog and have a wonderful new year.

    • Hi Pete!
      I figured I might hear from you, since the old McKenna farm is pictured here. Yeah the photo is taken from the top of the opposite hillside, from the hunters’ road that’s also included here. And not far below the point of the old wreck inside the woods. Peter is still hiking around his neck of the forest. I’ll tell him you said Hello!
      Sounds like you had a fine family gathering over the holiday. A big crew. A wonderful army of relations!
      I’ll have to revisit the Valatie Kill someday and see how it compares to my boyhood fishing visits there at Niverville and Valatie.
      Thank you for the kind words, and we wish you and yours the best in 2016!

  3. Walt, I can’t explain the mystery of the written word, but you have managed to write about something that’s dear to me. Tradition and family. Thanks for a boot in the pants and Happy New Year!

  4. Bob Stanton says:

    It was a beautiful Christmas Eve night as I went for a run under a rising moon, although the weather is a bit disconcerting to one who dwells in an alleged template zone. I want to do some skiing, dammit! Happy 2016, Rivertop Rambles!

    • Happy New Year, Bob. We’ll look for some favorable skiing conditions for you. I used to x-country ski around here, a time that seems like the Good Olde Daze right now. And thanks, as always!

  5. Les Kish says:

    Happy 2016 Walt. Hopefully the pleasant hiking conditions will continue for you. I’d gladly take a sixty degree day, but the snow and cold are welcome too.

  6. John says:

    “We simply meet at the old industrial wreck, and get wrecked ourselves”. I appreciate that line and also think, to myself, what a wonderful tradition. Happy New Year to you Walt and may your rambles keep rambling.

    • Hey thank you, John, for the good wishes and the comment! A tradition such as this is helpful in a number of ways. An old wreck of a human body, as my own physical condition slowly approaches this Chevrolet’s outward form, can be reenergized for a while by “getting wrecked” temporarily, if that makes any sense at all. But just keeping on with the family and the world is a big step that we try to make at holidays, if not at other times of the year. So thanks again for the appreciation, and all the best to you and yours in this great turning of the seasonal wheel, and beyond!

  7. Don says:

    Walt, Thanks for another great year of Rivertop Rambles. Although I’m an Ohio boy, I consider the upper Genesee my home water. Your blog brings into focus all the great experiences and feelings I enjoy while fly fishing and just hanging out in your backyard. Following my retirement this year I look forward to spending more time there next year, with the hope I’ll finally have time to start exploring more of your rivertops. Don

    • Hello Don! Great to hear from you again, and thanks for the kind words and your support of the blog. I wish you the best for the new year and your upcoming retirement. Let me know when you have a chance to fish the home waters again because I’d like to shake your hand and maybe even share some of the river with you.

      • Don says:

        Walt, I’d like to meet and maybe fish a little as well. I’ll be in touch when the Hendricksons start popping in the spring! Don

  8. Anonymous says:

    Between the heavy rains, tornados and hot, yes hot humid weather we are having here in Alabama, I’m not surprised you guys are having crazy weather there. I wonder if the skeptics know what is headed our way in the near future? Sorry to get political but these weird weather patterns that keep occurring year after year make me nervous for future generations.
    Beautiful country you guys were hiking there, glad you were able to spend time with the family this holiday season. I know the New Year will be a rewarding one for you. Enjoyed the post!

  9. loydtruss says:

    Between the heavy rains, tornados and hot, yes hot humid weather we are having here in Alabama, I’m not surprised you guys are having crazy weather there. I wonder if the skeptics know what is headed our way in the near future? Sorry to get political but these weird weather patterns that keep occurring year after year make me nervous for future generations.
    Beautiful country you guys were hiking there, glad you were able to spend time with the family this holiday season. I know the New Year will be a rewarding one for you. Enjoyed the post!

    • Thank you, Bill. Of course, the weather patterns everywhere have me greatly concerned. Not that I’m surprised, necessarily, it just looks like one of the greatest fears I’ve had since the 1980s is becoming all too real. Like you, I’m worried more for the future generations than I am for us, although with the recent storms and tribulations in the South and elsewhere, there are plenty of us who are suffering with the overall environment. Well, let’s hope for a return to “normal” in 2016, whatever normal is, and have an awesome year on the water and with your family, as well.

  10. plaidcamper says:

    Walt, what a fine tradition you have there, hiking up to be a little wrecked by the wrecker. Excellent stuff. Although the weather might have been strangely pleasant, it should be cold and snowy…hmm.
    It’s been great fun to have made your acquaintance up on the Rivertops this year, and looking forward to all your adventures in 2016. No one writes it quite like you do!

    • Thank you, Mr. PlaidCamper. Hopefully you, too, have experienced some great holiday time so far and found yourself immersed in some fine traditions, as well. I must say, one of the great highlights of my blogging year was finding Old Plaid Camper and reading all about your wonderful place in the Canadian Rockies and seeing the sights of N. America as you photographed it and wrote of it so well. I certainly wish you all the best in blogging, teaching, and exploration in 2016!

  11. Don, I’ll look forward to the hatch!

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