For the second time in three decades, I managed to lock myself out of the house. But neither that fact or the Saturday afternoon snow could put a damper on my otherwise productive day.

After a lumberjack’s breakfast, Colin and I headed to the wood pile and gathered logs for splitting to be used in the wood-burning stove. (Chris Tailer isn’t the only HCP columnist who has a wood-burning stove.)

With the temperature in the low 20s, it seemed appropriate to build a reasonable fire outside. I’ll always remember my dad’s definition of a “reasonable” fire, which was possibly gleaned from an old Zane Grey Western: “Indians (Native Americans, if you prefer) build a small fire and sit close to it. Cowboys (non-bovine young men on horseback, if you prefer) build a big fire and stand back.”

We built a big fire.

After a couple-three (“couple-three” being an Appalachian and economical term for two or three) hours of work, I decided it was time to get the Husqvarna chainsaw from the basement and make good-sized firewood out of several previously downed trees. There was just one minor problem.

Our recently installed new basement door was locked. So were three other doors and all windows.

Now, just how did this happen? The jury is still out on that verdict. However, all evidence points to this guy.

As my son reminded me, at some point after we’d been working for a while, I went back into the basement for another ax and let in our two dogs, Mocha and Turk. I may or may not have closed the door without checking the new lock.

After realizing we were locked out – and the dogs were locked in, we implored one of the dogs to open the door.

I seem to recall that Lassie – from the TV show “Lassie” – responded to phrases like “C’mon, Lassie, get help. Timmy’s in the well. Timmy’s in the well.” And sure enough, Lassie would return with half a dozen firemen and one of them would pull Timmy to safety.

Apparently, our dogs have never watched “Lassie” or “Rin Tin Tin,” for that matter. They made no effort whatsoever to unlock the door.

Have I ever mentioned that I do not own a cell phone? Well, I don’t.

But my college-educated son does.

I asked Colin if he had his cell phone (a not-so-smart phone) with him. One look answered that question.

Thus, for the first time since the last year of the Ronald Reagan presidency, I was officially locked out of the house. Colin and I walked to our wonderful neighbor’s house and explained the situation to Roger Thatcher, who thought the whole thing just a little bit amusing, as I blamed Colin, and Colin blamed me.

A quick call to my daughter and son-in-law and help was on the way. Thank you.

Stephen suggested that I tape a spare door key inside of one of the rarely used doghouses outside. “No one would ever look there,” he said.

Seems like a good idea. Please don’t tell anyone.

* * *

Speaking of the Reagan presidency, in 1984 President Reagan called the Army/Navy NCAA football game “a great American tradition” and “a football game for all Americans.”

This past Saturday, the game certainly was both.

The game has been played for more than 100 years, and on Dec. 9, the Black Knights of Army defeated the Midshipmen of Navy, 14-13, in a game in which Army completed just one pass all day on a snowy field in Philadelphia. In fact, the historic rivalry between the two academies featured 95 rushes and just three passes. It was good ol’ smash-mouth football.

Prior to kickoff, the choirs of the two service academies joined together to sing the national anthem. No one was taking a knee, either. (NFL, take note.)

With the win, Army secured the Commander In Chief's Trophy.

* * *

With Christmas just a few days away, let’s close with this message from when we had a real commander in chief in Ronald Reagan.

Nancy and I are very happy to send our warmest greetings and best wishes to all those who are celebrating Christmas. We join with Americans everywhere in recognizing the sense of renewed hope and comfort this joyous season brings to our nation and the world.

The Nativity story of nearly 20 centuries ago is known by all faiths as a hymn to the brotherhood of man. For Christians, it is the fulfillment of age-old prophecies and the reaffirmation of God's great love for all of us. Through a generous Heavenly Father's gift of His Son, hope and compassion entered a world weary with fear and despair and changed it for all time.

On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ with prayer, feasting and great merriment. But most of all, we experience it in our hearts. For, more than just a day, Christmas is a state of mind. It is found throughout the year whenever faith overcomes doubt, hope conquers despair, and love triumphs over hate. It is present when men of any creed bring love and understanding to the hearts of their fellow man.

The feeling is seen in the wondrous faces of children and in the hopeful eyes of the aged. It overflows the hearts of cheerful givers and the souls of the caring. And it is reflected in the brilliant colors, joyful sounds, and beauty of the winter season.

Let us resolve to honor this spirit of Christmas and strive to keep it throughout the year.

Nancy and I ask you to join us in a prayer that prudence, wisdom and understanding might descend on the people of all nations so that during the year ahead we may realize an ancient and wondrous dream: “Peace on earth, goodwill toward men.”


Indeed. Merry Christmas, everyone.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.