OldJohn And The Story Of Christmas


He was always called OldJohn - not Old John, as that would have missed the slide of the pronunciation that defined the man.
OldJohn.
He lived on a path that lead to a dirt road that lead to a county road that lead to a state road that lead to the turnpike - so he was well located in SouthEast Pennsyltucky, where I grew up.
Some say that OldJohn is naught but a myth.
Most of those people are from Away.
I met him.
He was a great big burly grey haired man who seemed ancient to me when I was twelve - he looked probably as old then as I do now.
He lived alone, that much is true - but it is not true that he cooked and ate children - because he neither cooked, nor ate me.
I met him.
He was a nice man.
On the south side of town there was an expanse of trees uninterrupted by development and not thought fit for agriculture, which was the main activity of my small town.
It was called, "The Big Woods".
There were rumored to be several hermits living in those woods - and a few of those rumors were true.
There was Nature Boy, who chose to live his whole life naked, even though the Winter would make such a choice hard. Every once in a while he would run into the South End of town and cause a ruckus.
There was Charlie Harple, who was said to be so crazy that he could not ever go to town.
I lived three doors up from his Mom - I believed that.
Then, there was OldJohn - rumored to cook and eat children.
The Big Woods was owned by several families, as you would imagine.
The wonderful thing about it was that everyone was allowed to hunt and fish there. There were no warning signs to keep anyone off - which was not the case with most of the farm land around the town.
This was before we heard much of lawyers and insurance men. The truly scary people.
As a child, I could walk out of my house and be in hunting country in about fifteen minutes.
On a clear and cold November morning in 1962 I found myself off of the county road and onto the dirt road - and finally onto the path that lead to OldJohn's place.
I had a single shot Ithaca 12 Gauge with me, so I felt pretty safe - for a bit.
In those days we still hunted ruffed grouse, although they were losing their territory, even then. The unsophisticated among us hunted the Chinese imported pheasant, although I had no taste for them, even then.
I was an epicure of twelve years and only wanted a timberdoodle for my bag - the Woodcock - an elusive little bastard who favored bottomlands.
That is how I wound up in OldJohn's yard.
He lived along the only creek that ran through The Big Woods - and he had two buildings there.
On this day, in November of 1962, I was working the marsh lands that bordered the creek near OldJohn's domicile.
"Who is that?"
A voice cried while I stood, stock still, beside a Pin Oak.
"Who is that?"
Again. I had no sense of where the voice came from.
"It's Tom Watson, Sir, hunting woodcock."
"You'll get no woodcock here, young fella - they've been poisoned by the town."
"That's not true. I shot one here a week ago."
"Did you now - step out from behind that tree."
I didn't think myself to be behind a tree but I moved a short distance away from the Pin Oak.
"Was it a long beak?"
"Was it what?"
"Was it a long beak, child, or was it a female?
"Are you LongJohn?"
When he moved into my sight it was all of a sudden, as though he was not there one second and was the next.
"Was it a female, child?"
I was so much entranced by his bigness and his burliness and his greyness that I may have stepped back a bit.
"Yes, child, I am whom you call LongJohn."
I swear that I was not frightened - he seemed, on the face of it, such a pleasant looking man.
And then he laughed.
What a great and wonderful laugh. Not the careful and restrained laugh of my uncles - but something open and free and embracing.
The laugh of a truly happy man.
Was this the man who cooked and ate children?
"Port arms. boy - and why are you hunting woodcock with a twelve gauge."
He seemed so big, yet so full of good feeling.
"That's all I own, LongJohn."
"Well, that's good enough for me. Come to the hut, you look in need of a drink."
And so I walked to the hut of the child eating LongJohn, with a shotgun in my hand and nothing but curiosity in my heart.
"You are Tom?"
"Yes, Sir."
"You are Tom Watson's son?"
""His grandson, Sir."
"Well enough - I went to Grammar School with him."
"Yes, Sir."
"Is he well?"
"He's dead, Sir."
"He never ate well."
"No, Sir."
"Thomas, I am seventy eight years old and I have lived in these woods for more than fifty years."
"Yes, Sir."
"And every year there has been a young fellow like you who has walked into my woods to pick up my goods."
"Your goods, Sir?"
"My goods, indeed. Let's walk to the shop."
And so we did, into a shop such as I have never seen before or since.
OldJohn had harnessed up the little creek that ran through his place and set it to running as many slapwheels and jillywogs as you could see in the most modern Amish shop (although I learned later that OldJohn had been born and raised an Episcopalian) and on each and every table and each and every bench there were wooden toys and parts of toys sitting, either fully painted, or waiting for paint - in all the colors of Christmas - Red, Green and White.
He had two tablesaws and two bandsaws and three lathes and everything was spinning and working - with no apparent help from a living being.
It was obvious that the slapwheels ran continuously and their susserant slapping sound was of such volume and insistence that I felt that I must walk outside, to catch my bearings.
"Every late November, for more than fifty years, a young man such as yourself has come to my shop to take away my goods."
"Yes, Sir. But there are so many."
"Tom Watson. You are only twelve years old. Have you already lost your belief in magic?"
"Yes, Sir. I mean, no, Sir"
"Hold out your hand."
I did, but my eyes were closed, as I feared to look."
"Close your hand and open it when you get home."
"Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir.
And he was gone.
I walked directly back home - keeping my fist closed and paying as little attention the apparent laughter of the trees as I could.
When I was home and in my room, I let my hand open.
I swear that I saw a puff of frost of white and red and green - and full of laughter. And it was gone so fast that I wondered if I'd ever seen it.
I never saw LongJohn again. They say that those that see him only see him once.
When the newspaper came out the following Saturday, it said that, as usual, the Orphan's Home on the North side of town had been visited with a great lot of wooden toys, from an anonymous donor - just as it had been for more than fifty years.
You can say what you want.
But I swear that this is true.
(Merry Christmas)
"
Tom Watson - WoodDorker tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1/ (website)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Well done, Tom ... Thanks!
--
www.e-woodshop.net
Last update: 11/06/05
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Tue, 22 Nov 2005 22:19:55 -0500, with neither quill nor qualm, Tom

Um, why was he OldJohn until you met him naked and then he was LongJohn, or is that self-explanatory? ;)
Fun story, Tom. Kudos.
----------------------------------------------------------------- When I die, I'm leaving my body to science fiction. --Steven Wright ---------------------------- http://diversify.com Comprehensive Website Development
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Wed, 23 Nov 2005 06:11:40 -0800, Larry Jaques

One of these days I'll do a second draft of things, rather than just typing them out of my head and hitting Send.
Nah.
Tom Watson - WoodDorker tjwatson1ATcomcastDOTnet (email) http://home.comcast.net/~tjwatson1/ (website)
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Thu, 24 Nov 2005 06:52:42 -0500, with neither quill nor qualm, Tom

Ah, 'twas SomesHeimers. Got it. But you do yourself a disservice by not doing the first draft, correcting, and sending the second. Please remember that your stories are immortalized in Usenet, warts and all.
P.S: Fire your Continuity Manager, eh?
--
A: Because it messes up the order in which people normally read text.
Q: Why is it such a bad thing?
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
As is the case with many of your great stories, there are lessons for living throughout this one and an affirmation of the basic goodness of people (in spite of what's constantly told to us by The Media), young and old. It seems as though the young and old can find more common ground than they can with the In Betweens. It could be that the old and the young have the time to explore things and appreciate what they find. The In Betweens, well, they have their hands full most of the time, and when they do have some "spare time", often use it to just rest up for the next task.
Great story Tom.
charlie b
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Tue, 22 Nov 2005 22:19:55 -0500, Tom Watson wrote:

<snip of great story>

OK, was he LongJohn or was he OldJohn?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Close your eyes everyone and envision what it would be like listening to stories like these while sitting in Tom's shop, with a fire roaring in the old pot-belly stove that he most surely must have, pot of coffee sitting on top, lot's of snow outside and nowhere to go...
Bring the kids and we'll meet at Tom's place in Pennsyltucky, where he grew up for some Christmas stories and a wee bit of Holiday Cheer...
Your children may not realize it now Tom but these are the best years of their young lives and they will forever remember your stories and hopefully pass them along to their own children one day.
Wishing you all a great Thanksgiving and Holiday Season,
Bob S.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Enjoyed your story, don't ever stop.
Tom Cavanagh

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Thanks Tom - Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to ya from another Pennsylvanian from your neck of the woods.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Tom Watson wrote: > <SNIP>>

Tom:
As always, excellent.
~Mark.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

As a former Pennsyltuckian from Erie, I thank you Tom. It's sad that many of today's young people miss out on the joy of reading a good story. The imagination supplies visions that CGI will never attain.
Please don't stop posting these gems - they are a joy to read.
Happy Holidays,
Vic
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Yes. Superb.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Tom - Yet another home run.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
One of your better stories. Thanks. Happy Holidays from a boy next door (Ohio).
Tom Watson wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Tom Watson said:

Good Story, Tom. I had to set aside time to read it in it's entirety. One of these days you're going to have to share whatever it is you're smoking up there in Philly... <g>

It's a little early yet, kinda like seeing reindeer on the K-Mart before Halloween, but Merry Christmas to you as well. <g>
Greg G.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.