I’m sitting in a cabin in the hollow listening to the rain beat a melancholy tune on the tin roof.
Outside my window, wild birds flock to the feeders hanging from the limbs of the giant white oak, gobbling up sunflower seeds and cracked corn faster than I can afford to buy it.
They’re feeding almost frantically, as if in anticipation of something bad brewing off to the west.
The little stream is tumbling down past the yard like a drunken driver on an obstacle course. The weatherman is talking on the radio about rain turning to sleet and snow.
The part about snow I take as good news. I love snow, especially when there’s a chance it will bring us a rare white Christmas.
Christmas! I still haven’t done my shopping. Friday after work I went to the mall with that in mind, but I couldn’t seem to get into the spirit of the thing.
In fact, I felt depression trying to sneak in. I wound up sitting on a bench and watching other shoppers stream hurriedly by. Some were smiling, others appeared to be worried.
It’s Christmastime, so why am I so blue?
Part of it stems from the ghost of Christmases past; part from trepidation of events to come.
THE RABBIT HUNTS
I remember the Christmas Day rabbit hunts I used to enjoy with my father, older brother, and uncles.
Before I was old enough to be trusted with carrying a loaded shotgun, I carried my Portsmouth Times paper bag over my shoulder to tote the rabbits my father lowered the boom on.
Now my father, his lung capacity reduced from 50 years of smoking straight Lucky Strikes (he’s quit now), sits in his easy chair and dreams of zig zagging rabbits and yelping beagles. The uncles are in the cemetery, and my brother and I seem so busy that we hardly have time to see each other.
Nostalgia: the down of the years that sprouts the wings of eagles.
I graduated from South Portsmouth High School and went off to Cedarville College so long ago that it now seems a part of ancient history.
Exactly how old am I? If I gave you a number, you couldn’t believe it. It’s the one thing I consistently lie about.
Others may grow old gracefully, but I intend to fight it to the grave.
That’s my mental makeup speaking. The physical part isn’t doing all that well.
The last grouse hunt I was on, I had decent shots at three different birds – and missed them all by half a mile.
It’s getting so that I have to put on my reading glasses in order to dial the numbers on the telephone.
And I’m as irritated with those who speak in low tones as they are of me and my invariable grunts of “Huh? … Huh?
But the years are nothing more than revolutions around the sun. And won’t they go on forever? Isn’t that answered in the central theme of the celebration of Christmas? A birth, a death, a resurrection, and, for those who place their trust in Him, the promise of life everlasting.
I watch events unfold in the Middle East and wonder about the status of future Christmases.
I see the former mayor of New York travel to Jerusalem to prove that it’s safe to visit the Holy Land, and he gets his head bloodied.
I wonder if the little dictator, Saddam Hussein, will get what’s coming to him in this five-day invasion – if we’ll return to the days of $16-a-barrell crude and the good times.
Or is this the time the ancient Scriptures speak of for the “latter days,” when Babylon (Baghdad) shall take Elam (Kuwait) captive, and the nations shall gather together with their war machines for the day when all hell will be unleashed?
As a drilling member of the Kentucky National Guard’s 201st Combat Engineering Battalion in Ashland, someone may decide for me that I will wind up over there.
But I hope not. They tell me there are no grouse or rabbits in the desert, but there are snakes and scorpions.
Somehow I’ve got to shake this gloom that’s settling in on me like a winter storm. Christmas is coming, a time for joy.
I have much to be thankful for. I’ve had cards and calls from old friends wishing me a Merry Christmas. I’ve got wife and family and a warm hearth.
And I now recall the words of that old church hymn:
“Count your many blessings,
Name than one by one.
Count your many blessings,
See what God has done.”
Christmas. I’ve got grandchildren waiting to see what’s under the tree.
I’m going shopping.
26 YEARS AGO
Readers have no doubt deduced by now that the events depicted above must have happened a good while ago.
This column appeared on Dec. 23, 1990. That was the year I leased the old log cabin in W-Hollow from Roy and Carol Abdon.
I was 56. Some simple arithmetic will tell you how old I am now.
But that’s OK. I’ve reached an age where I’ve quit lying about it and gone to bragging about it.
Reach G. SAM PIATT at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 932-3619.