A recent column (January 9, “Columnist has an encounter with the hobbits of Eastfork”) generated a considerable number of comments about the events that transpired during my eight-mile hike at Eastfork State Park on New Year’s Day. If you haven’t read the Jan. 9 column, I encourage you to do so; otherwise, this column will make very little sense (not that it will make much sense if you do read that column.)
The most notable comment was not about the hobbits I encountered on the trail at Eastfork, but about my health and wellbeing. It seems a long time reader was genuinely concerned about whether I had recovered from jumping off a large tree trunk that had fallen over the trial and sinking neck deep into a pit of half frozen mud. Apparently the eulogy I imagined the editor of the Sun would write describing my demise only added to this dear reader’s concerns.
To put her mind at ease, I am pleased to report that any rumors which may be circulating about my death are greatly exaggerated. I am alive and well and hope to remain so for a very long time.
Publically sharing these apologetic thoughts is the main purpose of this column, but as long as I’m on the subject I might as well respond to the comments made by other readers. For the most part their comments were in the form of questions about the three hobbits that saved me from that quagmire of frozen mud and then gave me respite and repast in their humble subterranean home.
The question most frequently asked by these readers was if I would take them hiking at Eastfork, and I can only assume with the expectation they would get to see the hobbits. As younger readers of this paper may already know, hobbits are reclusive by nature; so, not wanting to invade their privacy, I decided the best thing to do would be to retrace my steps to their home to ask if they would mind having their secretive whereabouts disclosed.
I headed to Eastfork this past Sunday afternoon and soon found my way to the grove of cedar trees where the hobbits had turned from the trail after rescuing me from the mud pit. Before I had time to clear brush away to look for their door one of the hobbits emerged and greeted me in his raspy but distinctly clear voice, “Hello again, friend from the surface world. I see you are doing well.” He opened the door and his two hobbit friends welcomed me as I stooped and crawled inside.
Before I could explain the purpose of my visit, Grubs (I remembered he was the tallest of the three) said, “We read your column about us in The Clermont Sun.” Then, apparently anticipating my question, he continued, “We said we didn’t mind if you told your fellow earthlings about us because they probably wouldn’t believe you, but it seems they did because we’ve seen many more hikers than usual on the trails, and several even came into the cedar grove looking for us.
“I’m sorry. I really didn’t think my readers would believe me; they usually don’t believe my backpack stories,” I said.
“We understand, we’ve read your backpack stories, and we don’t believe them either,” Grubs said.
Then Smugs joined the conversation. “But there are three of your friends we would like to meet.”
“Oh,” I said, “Who would that be?”
All three hobbits now had big smiles on their faces, and Grubs exclaimed, “We’d like to meet Joel T. Wilson, Bob Proud, and the Ole Fisherman.”
“And their lovely wives too,” Pugs quickly added.
Now I was smiling with them. “I think I can arrange that, but why those three,” I asked?
Smugs spoke first. “Anytime Mr. Wilson holds an auction close by the Park we sneak out to hear him call bids. We love his voice because he sounds just like us.”
“I’m an auctioneer too,” I quickly pointed out. “Would you like to hear me do some bid calling?”
“I don’t mean any harm in saying this,” Smugs said. “But you’re still an apprentice auctioneer. Mr. Wilson is in the Auctioneer Hall of Fame.”
“Yes, I know,” I said, trying not to seem disappointed that they didn’t want to hear me call bids.
Pugs spoke next. “I really like Mr. Proud. He’s Irish, and our great-great grandpa was a leprechaun. I think we might be related to Mr. Proud. You know he’s related to just about everybody in the County…except maybe you,” Pugs added.
“Yes, everyone except me,” I said. “But I’m sure Commissioner Proud would love to meet you.”
Then turning to Grubs I said, “So I guess you are the one who wants to meet the Ole Fisherman.”
“Oh yes, we love Mr. Rooks and his beautiful wife, Ruth Ann. We use to follow him all over Eastfork when he was the Park manager; and his Ole Fisherman column is the best around.” Then fearing he might have hurt my feelings, Grubs quickly added, “We like your column too.”
“I understand,” I said.
For the next few minutes we made small talk about the weather and the condition of the trails, then I said, “Well, I’d better be going. I’ll get in touch with Joel T., Commissioner Proud, and the Ole Fisherman, but we might need to meet with them somewhere else in the Park because I don’t believe the Ole Fisherman will fit through your door.
I haven’t caught up with Joel T., Bob, and the Ole Fisherman yet, but I’m sure they will be as happy to meet the hobbits as the hobbits will be to meet them.
George Brown is a freelance writer. He and his wife, Yvonne. live in Jackson Township.