A holiday tale on behalf of the residents of Harriman to our neighbors in Monroe

| 22 Feb 2012 | 03:11

    Some of us Harriman residents are aware of a certain, unspoken attitude of superiority held by our neighbors in Monroe that, over the years, has been directed toward us. We sense that you think of us and our smaller-scale village as quaint, unmannerly and uncouth, perhaps because of our proximity to the untamed wilds of Harriman State Park to the east and Sterling Forest to the south. I wish to elucidate you on the reality of the situation. Once every year in Harriman, the Mayor processes to the village square where, at 11 p.m. on Dec. 21, or on whatever date the Winter Solstice falls, he blows thrice on a large ram’s horn that has been in the keeping of the village since before anyone can tell. Shortly thereafter, bears begin to make their way down from the mountains, and by midnight there is a dual assemblage: The residents of the village, standing in a line on the west side of the square, and the bruins forming a ragged, moving line on the east side. Then a large, roaring bonfire is lit in the middle of the intersection, the fire department standing by lest any cinder or spark cause any disastrous conflagration. The bears and citizens begin to circle the bonfire, hesitantly at first, but then, overcoming shyness on both sides, intermingling and shuffling. Finally all begin an impromptu dance that is something of a cross between the Latin meringue and Medieval mummery. Once things really get going, the firehouse doors are thrown open to reveal a sumptuous spread of blueberries, huckleberries, raw fish, fried fish, cold cuts and rolls donated by the Harriman Square Deli (which in previous years were donated by the now defunct Randy’s), punch and grog. The grog is concocted by members of the fire department, using an antique, secret recipe in their keeping and is generally the chief attraction, preferred by both species as it warms a body both inside and out. Finally, when all are thoroughly exhausted and stuffed with victuals to the point of indecency, the Mayor and the Chief Bear meet in the center of the square near the now-dying, smoldering fire. The other participants surround them in a tight circle. The Mayor and Chief Bear embrace in a hug symbolic of the unity between bear and Harrimanite. Then all wave and salute to all, wishing a Warm Yule and safe passage until the Spring. We hope that the citizens of Monroe recognize this celebration for what it is: The unity of man with nature. We stand ready on your eastern border to keep peace with the wildlands. We do not ask for thanks or gratitude, just for respect. Merry Christmas! Fred Schuepfer Harriman