A Catskill Catalog: December 28, 2011

First published here a year ago, “A Catskill Mountain Holiday Party” is a year-end greeting-card, as 2011 enters history, and 2012 becomes reality.

’Twas a mountain holiday party, and stockings were hung from the bluestone mantel of a Livingston.
Whether Robert of Clermont, or Robert the Judge,
or Chancellor Robert, doesn’t matter a fudge.
For a hundred years, they held in their hands
millions of acres of wilderness lands.
Whole Hardenbergh Patent, they’d bought it all square:
the view from their window to the west Delaware.
Money talks. Deeds matter. That is the reason
Livingstons are hosting our holiday season.

Over in the corner, pillow in his shirt
bearded John Burroughs “Ho ho ho’s” to alert
calico Indians, in costume, like elves,
pulling tin horns, for gifts, down from the shelves.
Oom John plays Santa, the way his beard looks,
but he only wants children to ask for his books.
First of the revelers: teacher James Oliver,
then Zena Travis; Frank Russell follows her.
In one-room schools, they taught and inspired.
Mr. Oliver, himself, was loved and admired
by both Santa Johnny and the next to walk in
(said to be richer than any Livingston)
Jay Gould, financier and railroad king.

Who’s waving at him, wearing all that bling?
It’s Madame Galli Curci. That’s her, all right,
hoping Gould will free her from Hervey White,
who talks, when he sees this, faster and faster.
Gould ignores both. Goes to his schoolmaster.
There’s General Armstrong and old Matthew Griffin.
Mr. Fleischmann’s arrival makes their necks stiffen.
Baron of yeast, in the Ohio state senate,
(bet he’ll talk fishing with Reginald Bennett)
his two sons are with him, Julius and Max,
who love to play baseball - these are the facts.
They’ve got an entourage, lots of hub-bub,
ballplayers of the Mountain Athletic Club.

The room’s filling up now, Catskill spirits are jolly.
(Watch that poinsettia! Don’t sit on that holly!)
There are drovers and smithies and farmers galore,
shopkeepers, mechanics, hoteliers, and more.
Gertrude Berg just walked into the room.
Who is she calling for, this Mrs. Bloom?
Look out the window. Is Natty Bumppo lurkin’?
Oh, no, he’s just talking to Bryan Burgin.
Out on the porch, party-bored, in a nod,
is Natty’s soul-brother, old Mike Todd.
For Mike, and for Natty, the party is lackin.’
Not so for the founder of Pakatakan.
J. Francis Murphy loves the attention
artistic fame brings - oh, did I mention
that doctors are here? If your health is in stress,
talk to Maurer or Palen, or Huggans or Hess.
Studer is standing on a stool. You know Norman,
declaiming his Mike Todd poem to big Jim Foreman,
who seems the only one paying any heed.

Others turn to the window, as if in sudden need.
A sound, low, rolling, had caught in their ears
seeming the sound of every one of the years
since Paleo-people first walked the hills
leaving stone tools by streams, flint points by rills.
The sound grew louder, slowly, like a rumble
all eyes on the window, like hands on a fumble.
No chatter. No laughter. No tinkle of glasses.
The rumble rolled louder, explosive, like gasses.
The partying-spirits feared hills blown asunder,
when Bob Russell announced, “That’s Catskill Mountain thunder!”

And who should appear on the lawn, as Bob ended
but eight little Dutchmen, who seem to have descended
from the height of the mountains, up in the cloud.
One of the Dutchmen, turned to the crowd –
he was tiny, red-cheeked, short-armed and thin –
and said, “Who wants to play a little nine-pin?”
Just as he said it, out of an old hollow log,
slinked a bedraggled, worn-out looking dog,
and behind him, straggling, at a near-stopped clip
a long-lost mountain neighbor – my gosh! It’s Rip!
Van Winkle, our brother, lost in the wood
two centuries past. There he stood.

The spirits rushed toward him, embraced their old friend.
“Oh, Rip, we missed you. Welcome home. Time to mend.”
Clarke Sanford wrote a story and Marian Connell took
photo after photo, which she hung in a nook
mountains-spirits could visit to pay their respects
to the Lord of the Catskills, Rip the Rex.
He slept away decades, closed eye and closed ear
but he woke to look forward, crying “Happy New Year!”