The sound of the doorbell interrupted the football game. A grizzled old man, shivering in the cold, stood at the door. He certainly wasn’t dressed for winter. He was wearing a pair of patched chest-high fishing waders and a fishing vest, and a beat-up old hat with bedraggled flies affixed to the felt crown.
“Hello. Umm, can I help you?” I said.
“Would you let me come in and get warm? I’ve been traveling a long time.” His voice was raspy, likely from too many years of bad cigars and cheap whiskey, and too many seasons rattling around Montana.
“Do I know you? I don’t think we’ve met, have we?”
“You should know me,” he replied a bit testily. “I came in last January 1, and we’ve traveled together the last 363 days. I don’t have much time left, so come on, take a little mercy on a tired old man.”
I invited him into the house, settling him into a comfortable chair in front of the fireplace and went into the kitchen to make a couple mugs of hot chocolate. He had dozed off but woke up with a smile as I handed him the steaming mug. “Ah, that’s good,” he sighed after sipping the rich chocolate, laced with a bit of rum.
There wasn’t resemblance in the old man’s face compared to that newborn baby of last New Year’s Day. He’d obviously seen a lot more than football games. “I hate to say this, old timer, but you look like you’ve had a hard time of it. You look almost as bad as Brett Favre did after last week’s game with the Bears. And, what’s with the fishing get-up? I thought you were supposed to be wearing long white robes and carrying a scythe.”
“Oh, that’s so 20th Century,” he said with a scornful frown. “Actually, I made a quick stop to make a few casts on the Big Hole but my favorite spot was frozen solid. I did find some open water, and then slipped and took a dunk in the river. Wow! I didn’t think it was possible to get that cold.” He gestured at the firewood. I took the hint and put another chunk of pine on the fire.
Sipping hot chocolate he began reminiscing as he warmed. “Well, it’s been quite a ride, going around the world every day. You see a lot of crazy people doing crazy things. Shucks, just the United States had enough going to keep any year busy. That Gulf oil spill, for one. What a mess. If you think I look pretty rough, that had a lot to it.
“And then there’s that war in Afghanistan. It happened before I came on board but that General McChrystal sure sold your president a bill of goods on expanding the war over there. And then he had the nerve to ‘dis’ him. I thought the president let him off easy, letting him retire. He should have busted him to private and put him in an infantry platoon. “
I had to interrupt him at this point. “Haven’t you had enough of politics and problems? Didn’t you have any fun on your trip?”
He thought a moment and smiled as he reminisced about flyfishing in Montana when he had a chance. Then he started laughing. “I had a lot of fun up in Alaska, watching Sarah Palin trying to shoot a caribou for that TV show. She emptied one gun shooting holes in the air. Hadn’t she ever heard of sighting in a rifle before hunting? And then that stupid caribou; he just kept running back and forth. Every chance I get I go to a computer and watch it on You Tube. What a phony!”
He finished his cocoa and reluctantly got back on his feet. “Much obliged for the chance to warm up, but time to get back on the road. A couple more trips and I can retire.”
“Do you have some advice for the new kid, 2011?”
“Nope. Just keep his head down when he’s in Alaska.”