ESSAY: The Aspen Springs Christmas Party

Sunday afternoon — Christmas Eve, 2017 — upstairs at the Turkey Springs Trading Post, the Christmas spirit was in the air!

My brother Ross and I wandered merrily down the hill to the rustic store on Highway 160 — the ‘hub’ of Aspen Springs. We climbed the stairs to the second floor where we were greeted by a large contingent of genteel party-goers. ‘Grand Dame’ Maria Olsen, one of the proprietors, immediately filled out name tags for us, “so we wouldn’t forget our names.”

Our hosts: David, Maria and Susan.

I knew a lot of the folks, others I’d seen before but had never met, and several new faces stood out in the throng. There were a lot of ‘Seasons Greetings’ proclaimed and the mood was decidedly joyful and jolly. Little kids, reminiscent of cute little elves, scurried around the older folks who were sitting and standing about the hall and old bar. Most were partaking in the lavish food and refreshments (of course BYOB) provided by Maria and her staff of Santa’s helpers, including Susan Sorce and Kelly Evans. A new group called the Front Porch Ladies did most of the yuletide decorating. Buffet tables had been set up and festooned with a wide variety of food including ham and turkey, and served in the back room.

“I’d been up cooking since eleven o’clock last night,” said Maria. Even with no sleep she looked very chipper, despite still recovering from her most recent surgeries. (Another reason to be thankful this merry season!)

Maria and a young friend.

David with his wife Maria and Susan posed for a picture in front of the splendid Christmas tree as more and more people joined the festivities.

Virtuoso guitar player Charlie Brannon and his Vietnamese wife Te (pronounced tea) were enjoying their plates in front of the tree. The two lovebirds had met while Charlie did a tour of duty in Nam around 1970. And after a long separation, he went back and reconnected, bringing Te back to Aspen Springs. They have an adult son living in New Jersey.

Charlie Brannon and wife Te.

My brother met a local character named Vincent who was from KcKeesport, PA, just south of Pittsburgh on the Monongahela River. Ross was excited about this information because our Grandpa Duncan was born there, and we were raised in nearby Beaver on the Ohio River.

I met a Marine vet from San Antonio named Joe. He and his wife had recently moved up to some land in Unit 1 he had purchased years ago. They were “happy to finally get out of San Antone. Too many people.” Welcome to “Outlaw Land,” friends!

I had a few laughs with David Olsen and my buddies Terry Micek and Ken Sorce. We were all complaining about our recent, frightening epiphany: that somehow we had gotten old!

David told me later that the shindig went on until sundown… and that everyone had had a great time visiting with their neighbors… and had left with visions of sugar plums in their head.

We’ll see you all next year at the Aspen Springs Community Christmas Party.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!


DC Duncan

DC has been a frustrated musician for over forty years, and now has decided to become a frustrated writer. Learn more at He’ll keep you posted.