Last month my wife, Emmaline and I rented the old mountain
cabin where we have stayed nearly every year for the past 27 years.
The cabin is located deep in the woods. This year we also rented the
cabin (capacity 12) next door. Our kids and grandkids joined us for a
family get together.
One of the reasons we love going to the cabin is that it looks
just as did when we first stayed there back in 1989. The cabin is miles
from town. It stands above a boulder-strewn river that begins
somewhere high in the tree-covered Appalachians. A wall-sized
outside window looks straight down from the cabin onto a narrow
river. The cabin is on a single floor with partitions for the livingroom
bedroom and bathroom, which is is at the far end of the cabin.
Emmaline had gone to get groceries. I was alone and it was in
the bathroom mirror that I saw, instead of my own face, the face of
the Little Dutchman—an old man with a long beard and a tricornered
hat. I panicked when I saw him. I ran back to the front
room. But there he was, standing on the kitchen table dressed in
antique Dutch garb—a cloth jerkin strapped several times around
the waist, breeches decorated with rows of buttons down the sides
and bunched at the knees. He looked like he had just stepped out
of the story of Rip Van Winkle. That’s when my first adventure with
Back then the Dutchman and his pals, with their beer steins
foaming, and I with my foaming stein of root beer, took a bumpy
ride down the river, floating on truck tire inner tubes.
I thought later that the whole episode was a figment of my
imagination. I told myself, “If you want to avoid dreaming about
bearded Rip Van Winkle characters, then don’t eat onions and bleu
cheese at bedtime.” Little did I guess.
Last month Emmaline and I and all the family made the trip
and gathered in the front room of the cabin. We wanted to toast the
cabin and our many happy visits there. We bought a whole bunch
of plastic wine glasses and two magnums of non-alcoholic
champagne. Just as we raised our glasses there was a knock at the
“There’s no one at the door.”
I had a premonition.
“Look down,” I said.
“It’s the Dutchman, right?”
“And all his pals.”
I handed Emmaline my glass and walked to the door. The Little
Dutchman and about a dozen others were on the porch gesturing
and pointing down the wooden stairs. Half a dozen inner tubes were
moored to the cement landing below. The Dutchmen wanted
everyone to join them on a float.
“Come in and have a drink, first,” I said. After a moment’s hesitation,
they all trooped inside and stood in a semi-circle. Someone handed
them glasses of ersatz champagne.
“To the cabin!” I said.
“To the cabin!”
“To the Dutchmen!”
“To the Dutchmen.”
The little Dutchman touched my thigh and gestured. I
recognized the gesture immediately.
“To the River!” I said.
“To the River!”
There being no fireplace, and the glasses being plastic,
everyone simply put them on the table and walked to the door.
“To the River!” someone shouted, in an entirely different
“Don’t trample the Dutchmen,” I yelled. But I needn’t have
worried. My nimble little pals were already half way to the landing.
Emmaline and I paused in the living room for a moment and
Dr. Larry Day is a retired KU J-School professor and author of Day Dreaming: Tales From the Forth Dementia available on Amazon.