Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle, Reinterpreted

Who could resist Rip Van Winkle? And how did his knees stay so young after sleeping for 20 years?

 Rip Van Winkle is a favorite story of mine. Written by Washington Irving in 1819, it is set in the Catskill Mountains of Dirty Dancing fame. I can’t imagine respectable Rip dancing like that, although Irving did relate that Rip was a shiftless sort, who got to drinking with a Dutch bowling team and actually slept through the Revolutionary War.

I was excited when I first saw this postcard, but apparently slept through the online auction and missed the bidding process. Fortunately I got a second chance, and now Rip is mine, mine, mine! He just arrived in the mail today (which is always funny when people send postcards in envelopes), but turns out that’s because he was already sent by a lady from Hunter, N.Y., to a lady in Binghamton, N.Y., in 1908.

On the front of the card, a wistful Rip clasps his hands over his overgrown beard and casts a bewildered look around as if to say, “But what happened to the party?” Serves him right for helping that little Dutchman carry a vodka-filled watermelon up the mountain. We can only speculate that Rip’s pants were chewed off at the knee by wild dogs. And what’s up with those leather gaiters? They look suspiciously new. Did someone put those on him as a joke while he was sleeping?

On the back side of the postcard, along with a nice, green Ben Franklin one-cent stamp and an eagle-and-shield logo, there is a witty message penciled in at a jaunty angle:
“I see this feller quite often here.”

It is signed, “Lottie,” which is great because it sounds like something my Great Aunt Lottie would have said. Especially the “feller” part. We can only guess at what other private jokes these two women had. But I’m sure they never let poor Rip in on them – looking the way he did.

At the end of Washington Irving’s story, Rip’s adult daughter takes pity on him and lets him live in her house. But I’d like to think he’s still wandering around Hunter, NY, looking for a place where he can really Mambo.



  1. His knees are *remarkably* youthful, now that you mention it. I imagine he uses the old drag queen technique of wearing multiple pairs of cheap Woolworth's stockings at once. (Smoothes out the spider veins, conceals unsightly leg hair, and nary a run in sight.) Bravo!

  2. What does everyone do without Woolworths?!

  3. He is quite lovely...the next time I try to master the art of polymer clay transfer, I will make you a Rip Van Winkle pin.