Down off Route 2, take the cut-off at Cactus Corners Road and follow the winding dirt path through the Cedar trees and down into the depths of Crotch Creek Canyon. It’s a scenic Yuletide drive, with splotches of snow and crags of granite rocks that jut out of the hillsides overlooking the canyon below. It’s a postcard of God’s creation of purity and bliss.
This is what my girlfriend Candi Barr and I do once a year to escape the cubicles, the office Christmas party and the urban cocoon we live in. Skyscrapers, suits and silly citified people that maul the two of us from dusk to dawn until we need an antacid for the sickness of corporate culture. It’s crazy.
So me and my chick Candi trade in our politically correct lifestyles and our hybrid cars for the comfort of my old ‘67 VW Mini-Bus and escape out into the country to the tiny village of tranquility called Crapstone Junction. Our final destination? The Climax Falls Café.
Nestled below the cascading falls and on the banks of the roaring white water Climax River, the café has been a hideout for city slickers, country gentleman, Christmas carolers and the occasional Mama Bear leading her cubs across the river. The café has been there for a century and it’s owned by a crusty old coot everyone calls Cheese Curd. Me and Candi, down by the riverside, think his real name is Calvin, but everyone just calls him Cheese Curd, or Curd, for short. Open the weather beaten glass paned front door and the brass bell tinkles above the Mistletoe as you walk in. There’s a sickly looking Charlie Brown Christmas tree in the corner. Half the lights are out, the other half blink and the ornaments are covered with kitchen smoke and crud. The wooden swinging doors from the kitchen swing open and out walks the Big Curd. Short and stocky wearing full chef’s regalia.
“Welcome pilgrims.” His voice bellows through the café and Candi and I are home.
The Big Cheese Curd was not the center of attention in the café however. Behind the counter clad in a Christmas mini skirt and an elf ears visor is Crystal, your Holiday server with a smile on her face and a bump in her hair. Little Christmas tree earrings dangle from her ear lobes and her curves and crouton-like bosom shout out ‘Joy to the World’. Candi and I sit at the counter and count our Christmas blessings.
“I know. You want a menu, right?” She batted her curvaceous eyelashes and as she smiled, her teeth glistened in the Holiday lights.
“Yes ma’am.” I replied. Corny conversation with a captivating female was not my strong suit. Julio just cracked a smile. “How did you know?”
“I’m a bit of a clairvoyant. I can see the future. My name is Crystal.” We could see from her nametag that she was telling the truth.
Candi jumped in. “A psychic eh? With the clear spring water and the cascading falls outside, let me guess. Your last name wouldn’t happen to be ‘Clear’, would it?” Candi had a knack for chatting with the girls.
“No hon. She leaned on the counter and I had a clear view of her Christmas canyons. “’Clear’ is my middle name. My last name is ‘Waters.’” Bing Crosby crooned on the jukebox and suddenly my Christmas cheer had a new chalice of joy. “You dolls are ready to order, right?” She could tell the future.
“Yes!” I blurted it out, but I was captured by her celestial aura. “I’ll have the…”
“Wait!” She cowered as she cradled her temple with her index finger, “I am holding in my hand a piece of paper that has your exact order written on it.” She pressed the paper against a crinkle in her forehead as the Crescent Moon began to appear outside the icy window. “Have we ever met before?”
I cleverly called her out. “No ma’am.” I could tell she was carving up my carcass.
“You may place your order now.” She was clever and coyly playing me. I countered her counter banter.
“I’ll have the meatloaf and a bottle of Corona.”
“Wrong!” She courted a response from me as Cheese Curd waited behind the pass-through window for his cooking instructions. “Your order is Chef Curd’s Creole Catfish with a side of Cranberry Coleslaw.”
Crap, she was right. I did have a taste for fish and slaw.
Me and Candi finished up our dinner, the Big Curd had a way with catfish and coleslaw, and Candi concurred that this was one crazy Christmas encounter. I dropped a few dollars and cents on the counter, Candi left a couple of hundred Centavos, and we got up to head back to the city.
“No, wait!” She called. “You were going to leave me a ten-dollar tip.” I crouched and reached for more cribbage to leave her. She was psychic.
As we walked out into the snow packed parking lot toward the lime green VW Bus I stopped and looked deep into Candi's eyes. “Candi?” I couldn’t count the ways I called out for the Christmas spirit. We turned toward the café and stood motionless in the calm of the night. “Do you ’C’ what I ’C’?’
Candi turned to head back to the bus and cried, “Si.” We kissed under the moonlight and realized we weren’t going anywhere. The roads were shut down in the canyon.
It was another Christmas together. Check out the slideshow and video for some more highlights of the Rus & Candi 2013 Christmas.
Chef Curd’s Creole Catfish
1 Lb. Catfish Filets
¼ Cup Milk
¼ Cup Creole Mustard
3 Tbs. Corona Beer
1 Tbs. Tupelo Honey
½ Cup Flour
½ Cup Cornmeal
2 Tbs. Creole Seasoning
2 Tbs. Freshly Ground Black Pepper
In a bowl, combine the filets with the milk, mustard, beer and honey. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour. Combine the flour, cornmeal and seasonings and dredge each filet in the mixture, shaking off any excess. Drop the filets, one at a time into hot oil and fry until golden brown. Serve with lemon wedges.
1 Pkg. Prepared Slaw Mix
1 Granny Smith Apple, Peeled and Thinly Sliced
½ Cup Mayo
¼ Cup Milk, (Less if you don’t want it real creamy)
2 Tbs. Apple Cider Vinegar
2 Tbs. Creole Mustard
2 Tbs. Brown Sugar
2 Tbs. Celery Salt
½ Cup Dried Cranberries
Salt/Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl, cover and chill.
Have a calm, cheery and culinary Christmas everybody.