This column is a beloved favorite by many, including yours truly. Enjoy!!
“Surely,” thought Rip, “I have not slept here all night.”
–Washington Irving, “The Story of Rip Van Winkle,”1819.
My wife, Emmaline and I recently rented the old mountain cabin deep in the
Smoky Mountains where we’ve stayed nearly every year for the past 25 years.
Part of the reason we love going to the cabin is that it looks just as it did the first
time we stayed there back in 1989. It’s how we get away from the world. The
cabin is decades old. Beside the cabin flows a boulder-strewn stream that
begins somewhere high in the tree-covered Appalachians.
The front door of the long, narrow two-room cabin is always unlocked when we
arrive. A key, with a note from the landlady, is always on the table in the
kitchen/living room. After we have unloaded the car, unpacked the suitcases,
and hung clothes in the cabin’s only closet, Emmaline and I have our annual
encounter. It’s about who is going to go shopping.
In the early years I always drove the 10 miles back to the super market on the
main highway for groceries and supplies. Then sometime around the beginning
of the women’s lib movement, I spoke up. I said that grocery shopping should
be a shared activity. That led to negotiations that led to the creation of our
annual encounter. Each year Emmaline and I resolve the grocery-shopping –
duty-problem with a game of “Rocks, Paper, Scissors.”
I won this year’s encounter, and as Emmaline drove away, I headed for the
couch to take a nap. Less than 15 minutes later something woke me, and I
walked back to the bathroom.
I glanced in the mirror above the wash basin. and let out a yip. Instead of my
face in the mirror, there was an old man with a long beard. He wore a tri-corner
hat. He winked at me.
I fled to the living room.
There, standing on the table, was the same diminutive old Dutchman. He wore
an outlandish costume—like one that 18thcentury author Washington Irving
described in his famous short story, “Rip Van Winkle.” Here is Irving’s description
of the man I saw standing on the cabin table:
“He was a short square-built old fellow, with thick bushy hair, and a grizzled
beard. His dress was of the antique Dutch fashion – a cloth jerkin strapped round
the waist – several pair of breeches, the outer one of ample volume, decorated
with rows of buttons down the sides, and bunches at the knees.”
The little old Dutchman beckoned me to follow, hopped nimbly off the table,
and trotted out the front door
I stumbled out onto the wooden deck. The sun was still where it had been when
I lay down for my nap.
I heard what sounded like a gong from the river below, and walked to the edge
of the deck. There on the river bank was my knee-breeched, silver-buttoned
little Dutchman. And lined up along the bank were a dozen more little
Dutchmen, dressed just like him. Each held a small inflated inner tube and a
beer stein . Lying on the river bank was a big, inflated truck inner tube. On a flat
rock beside the inner tube stood a large beer stein.
I waved to the little Dutchmen, and they all raised their steins. I took the
stone stairs two at a time down to the river. I picked up my stein full of foamy
root beer, and hopped on the big inner tube. With a whoop, I pushed off into
My Dutchmen friends whooped, hopped onto their inner tubes, and
pushed off into the stream. Then we all lay on our backs, trailed our hands in the
water, and floated merrily, merrily down the stream.
I awoke on the couch—this time for real—to the sound of Emmaline
calling for me to help unload the groceries. Dazed, I made my way to the front
door and looked out. I half expected to see 25-years-younger Emmaline
standing beside our old brown 1987 Plymouth. But fortunately I saw my 2014
Emmaline—looking prettier than ever—walking toward the cabin carrying a bag
of groceries. Then, from far away, I heard the joyful whoops of little Dutchman
voices as my new found friends floated down the mystic stream. If you don’t
believe me, go ask Rip Van Winkle.
Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: www.daydreaming.co