NOTHING IS more agreeable than to spend a snow-covered afternoon roaming all over Montrose Park with Elmer Jones. Jones is the gardener superintendent of the park and knows every beech, oak, ash, sycamore, box bush and azalea better than the back of his hand.
I had asked to meet him, so I had nobody to blame but myself and I looked as indoors as possible when he greeted me in his little brick building in the park.
It was a comfy 92 degrees in there, very little short of the excellent temperature God meant for us.
"Like to walk over the park?" he asked with great cheer.
We set out overland, like the Donner party, and wound up down at Rock Creek and gazed north over the Matterhorn to Massachusetts Avenue.
I still cannot believe there is so much to see in this 18-acre park, which is quite wild, actually, once you leave the beaten path. And Elmer Jones is a pioneer. He showed me the old rope walk, where 175 years ago they twisted rope to sell to the ships in Georgetown harbor, which the British burned in the War of 1812. He showed me the 210-year-old yellow poplar. He showed me the other yellow poplars as well, to say nothing of numerous oaks, ashes, locusts, honeysuckles, an old maze of boxwood, the branch in which the baby raccoons were born, the beech struck by lightning, etc.
I saw the old summer house, which Jones thinks was brought from elsewhere. I saw the place where old men used to play croquet in the days before Georgetown was so fancy.
"You getting too cold?" Jones asked.
"Cold?" I repeated, forcing my teeth to line up. "Of course not." Five days later we reached the little branch that leads into Rock Creek. Wild beasts such as crawfish still roam at large in that country.
The next year we managed to climb back up, crossing Lovers Lane, which used to be the road to Baltimore and now is a honeysuckle-bowered place.
Jones, who said we had only been a couple of hours, said it was too bad the trail that runs beneath Dumbarton Oaks Garden was so bad this time of year, and we better not try it.
"A shame," I said.
Some of us, as science has at last begun to notice, begin to die at 60 degrees.
I meant to ask Jones if he was a drill instructor or a master architect of obstacle courses before he came to Montrose Park 13 years ago.
Joggers, who have replaced the original nice mountain lions of this historic terrain, sailed by without effort and said hi as the months passed.
Jones paused often in the snow, so we could relish the full beauty of the scene.
I thought I saw a St. bernard dog on the horizon, but it was a jogger. It was, just as Jones said, almost totally beautiful there in the park. It was mighty nice of him to take off two years to show it to me. I would have missed Beech Tree No. 618 without a guide.
I began to feel exalted Rapture deglace. When we said goodbye, I thought Elmer Jones was one of the most likable fellows of the capital. And I can't remember when I was more glad to be alive. Everyone should see this lovely park in winter.
Old Tom, a great friend of mine and a notable authority on both football and golf, was as super-normal as anybody I ever heard of, but he was terrified of snakes.
Once somebody - some idiot - put a photograph of a snake in his desk and after a few months Tom discovered it and lept right up on top in sheer panic.
I have never forgotten his fear. I always wished he could be helped over it.
There is a sort of seminar now being planned by Dr. Ronald Shectman, assistant professor of psychology at Catholic UNiversity. People who are afraid of snakes are phoning him (635-5750) to ask about his free course (10 sessions of an hour each) to reduce their fear. He's done it before and it works like magic.
"We could just as easily have chosen fear of flying or fear of heights - the point is fear reduction," he said.
I once took care of 200 snakes in cages, and cannot see why anyone is afraid of them. Now if it were wasps - anybody has the right to go berserk at a wasp.
Once I was afraid of spiders, but got over it by reading several books about them. Dr. Shectman says that rarely works, however.
It is amazing that any fear so intense as my friend Tom's and which has gone on so many years, can often be made entirely manageable in so short a course. There is nothing amusing about it. If you happen to suffer from it, and I think it is better for the poor puff adders (I noticed people were especially afraid of them) if people stopped having fits.
I tremble to say this, because Radcliffe College is an august sort of place, and I know a chat with Matina Horner, its president, and with a bunch of old Radcliffe girls (if that is permissible) should produce something learned.
A magnifirent Italian Renaissance hall at Dumbarton Oaks was taken over by the Radcliffee folk this week for a reception honoring both Horner and Patricia King, director of Radcliffe's Schlesigner Library.
That library is the chief repository of the Lydia Pinkham papers, the annals of the Lydia Pinkham Medicine Co. This firm for years manufactured (or otherwise produced) an elixir said to be of great value to women. For years I have wondered whatever happend to the Lydia Pinkham archives and all the time they were at Radcliffe.
That library specializes in the history of women in America. They also have Susan B. Anthony's stuff, but she never revived anybody, whereas Lydia was efficacious in almost every case.