A Brown County Holiday

by Mark Blackwell
photo by George Bredewater

I took some time off from my day-job a couple of weeks ago and had a Brown County Holiday. When word got around that I was taking some vacation time, some of the folks at work got all exited and started coming up to me and asking where I was going to go. I replied, “Brown County.” Then they would get a funny look and say, “But, you live there.” And I would just smile and say, “Yup.” I can’t see going anywhere else when thousands of folks are just bustin’ to get down here this time of year. Going someplace other than my dear old home in the hills requires effort and discipline and strategy, all of which sort of defeats the purpose of a vacation in my book.

What is a “Brown County Holiday” you might wonder? Well, I’ll tell you, in the main it consists of careful planning. You’ve got to make lists. Lists of things that need to be done, things that you ought to do and things that other folks might want you to do. Then put those lists in a place where you won’t forget where you put them and then forget where you put them. The next step is about the hardest: don’t worry about the lists, just get up in the morning and follow your nose.

I know too many people who fret and worry about how they can cram lots of activities into their limited vacation time. They get out maps and plan the most efficient route. They schedule out how many miles they’re gonna drive in a day and how many stops they will make and the duration of the stops. These folks wind up with a regular timetable. It sounds like they’re runnin’ a railroad instead of taking time off.

Time off ought to be just that. I’ve got a good friend and neighbor who says, “If time is money then a day of no work is a day of pure profit.” I have never been tempted to argue it with him. I can only add that the fewer things a feller attempts the fewer things he screws up. So, right there you have the philosophical underpinnings of my theory of leisure time: take as much time off as you can and do as little as possible. But even with these guidelines you have to be careful because the whole program can be undermined with one good idea.

A good idea seems like a fairly benign sort of thing but it can be as dangerous as a bad idea. There are good good ideas like taking a walk or having a little campfire and there are bad ideas in sheep’s clothing, like learning to ballroom dance. Taking a walk is generally just that, you walk a ways and see some new things or see some old things in new ways and you come back to where you started—no harm done. There’s usually nothing wrong with sitting around a campfire either. You can roast wienies, toast a few marshmallows, poke the fire a while and then put it out. But learning to ballroom dance could be a dangerous proposition.

Sure, learnin’ a few fancy moves seems harmless but what if you got good at it and your dancing teacher talks you into entering a ballroom dancing competition? Well, then you got to go out and spend money on a fancy outfit and you would probably have to travel to some big city, over night, sleep on a suspect mattress. And it could get even worse if you were good enough to win. Then you would have to get another fancy outfit and travel even further, maybe even get on TV. Next thing you know you’re famous.

Then you have to have hairdressers and makeup people and managers all telling you what to do and when to do it. In self-defense you would probably develop an inflated ego and take on airs. Your friends and neighbors would get jealous and peevish. You couldn’t go anywhere without folks crowding you. Who knows where it would end? More than likely it would end in heartache and disappointment. That is why the importance of careful cogitation in considering all of the possible consequences of our decisions cannot be over-stated when it comes to good ideas. And that is the point of a Brown County Holiday, to quit doing too much and quit thinking too much.

So, what did I do on my “holiday”? Well, I made some lists of things I needed to do and then I hid the lists. I took some walks and built a couple of campfires and roasted some wienies and toasted some marshmallows. I saw some new things and I saw some old things in new ways and in general took the time to appreciate life in the hills.