One of the fascinating things
about the Trail is that everyone takes a Trail Name. If you don't take one, people will
give you one anyway - even if it is "No Name." I don't know how this started,
but you just have to have a name. George's is "George of the Jungle" and my name
is "Step By Step" but people seem to call me "The Dancer." More and
more through-hikers recognize me along the Trail. When they ask me if I am "The
Dancer," I take off my pack and dance the Trail Dance for them. They love it - whoop,
holler and dance along!
One day, having gone on ahead, I
was sitting on a rock waiting for George when four through-hikers came by. They said,
"You're Jacques d'Amboise." I said, "Yes, how did you know?" "I
danced with you! I've been hoping to meet you on the Trail. I was in Greenville School in
Westchester. You called me Dynamite!" one of the young men said. I looked at him and
suddenly remembered his name - "Evan! Dynamite! You were terrific!" Right then
and there both of us start singing "Extra! Extra! Read All About It" and dancing
the Newsboy Dance from NDI's Fat City. The other guys must have thought we were
nuts! Evan, Trail name "Slugger," who was a 'dynamite' newsboy in our show, grew
up to be a newspaper reporter. He is now rethinking his career path. "This Trail
everybody is changed by the Trail" he told me as he continued on his
way north with his friends "Bronco," "Second Wind" and
I'm still waiting for George when
another man comes by. He does not say my name - just "I have one picture left. I've
been saving it in hopes of meeting you. Will you have your picture taken with me?"
"Delighted, but there isn't anyone to take the photo," I reply. "No problem
- it is automatic" he says - takes off his pack, balances his camera on it and the
photo is taken. "What is your Trail name?" I ask. "Gentleman Jim," he
answers. He is an engineer from Massachusetts who decided to hike the Appalachian Trail
and take some time to think about things. His wife's best friend's husband is the arts
educator at The Milton Hershey School, which is hosting a STEP BY STEP TEACHING EVENT for
me as I pass by Hershey, Pennsylvania. Having heard all about my hike from him and hoping
to meet me on the Trail, he had saved his last picture for a week until he finally met me.
He told me, "I have a wife
and an 11 year-old son and they have been very supportive of me doing this." As he
starts to walk off he turns and says, "My son had to do a paper for school. It was on
heroes." And in a whisper he says, "He picked me."
"Good luck, I hope you make
it," I say. "I'm gonna make it," he responds with a firm little smile, and
he is gone.
It reminded me of George and me,
fathers and sons and fathers realizing the joys of 'fathering.'