Friday, October 31, 2008

Uncle Cran's First Big Drunk

Dionysus Enjoying a Brew!
100th anniversary of Qingdao Beer
(Image from Wikipedia)

Even my Uncle Cran the Preacher -- not so much fundamentalist as 'fun-the-mentalist' in this story -- had his dionysiac days of heavy drinking. Today's blog entry relates the tale of Uncle Cran the alcoholic, driven to drink by his older brother Brad.

Who happens to have been my father . . . but that's nearly irrelevant.

Anyway, here's what Uncle Cran has to say:
In reading the life story of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I noted that after each Little House book was published, she was deluged by thousands of children pleading, "Please Tell Us Another Story."
Well, I would have nipped that in the bud. I have enough difficulty coming up with stories for my own flesh-and-blood children!
I have received . . . not thousands, nor hundreds, nor dozens, nor many pleas for more stories. However, I did receive one from favorite nephew Jeffrey -- oops, favorite nephew Jeffery -- which, in my thinking, is equal to the multitude of childrens' pleas to Laura.
I'm gratified to be so highly valued as a 'multitude' but wonder at your inability to remember the correct spelling of my name first off.
After all, there are only a few PhD's in our family line. My youngest, Colonel James, has multiple master's degrees, graduating from the Air Force Academy (BS), Washington University (MS), George Washington University (BS), plus Command and General Staff College, and Air Force War College, causing his high school superintendent to say "James has more degrees than a thermometer."
Not to be quibble, Uncle Cran, but I count only one master's degree in that list. Most of what you've presented is just pure BS. And James has a high school superintendent? Is my cousin still in high school? Are the degrees honorary? At any rate, if he does have "more degrees than a thermometer," he's probably very useful at recording the temperature of the EU-US ambience in his role working for NATO's Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, which you obscurely allude to:
He is scheduled for another advanced Air Force school after his two-year tour with NATO.
Ah . . . I recall my own European tour, hanging out in the Swiss town of Fribourg, on the lovely Sarine River, border between German and French speakers, who helped me practice not only their languages but my own beer and wine drinking. Gruetzi and Salut to any of my former drinking partners who might be visiting. Those were the days, my friend.

But back to Uncle Cran's gripping story:
BUT WHO AM I TO BRAG, with my BA in Christian Education from a small Bible College? My children inherited my intelligence, sagacity, wisdom, leadership ability, and fiery temper . . . these qualities have all evaporated somewhere, anyway. My wife still has all these attributes, none have been lost.
I presume that this was all prefatory, but at least my thirst for your story has been increased by the long delay:
I remember this story as though it were yesterday, (which has slipped my mind)!

During the summer of my 15th birthday, big brother Bradley, my youthful protector, and sometimes tormentor, who occasionally said to me, "Quit bugging me, you little pest!", told me to get ready, we were going to the metropolis of Viola to see a movie. After begging some money from Mom, and the use of the old Model A Ford from stepdad Archie, we drove the six miles of gravel road, up and down hills and across two creeks, and arrived at Viola. Our town at this time had a population of about 150, three country stores, two cafes, one pool hall, one auto repair garage, a blacksmith shop, and a run-down building that showed cowboy movies on Saturday night.
'Longhorn' country hasn't changed a bit, I reckon. Viola still has about 150 people, doesn't it?
The country stores and blacksmith shop are gone but the population is about the same. Its history is similar to the home town of country singer Willie Nelson. He said in his home town in Texas the population never changes . . . whenever a baby is born, a man leaves town.
I guess it's either that, marry the lady, or be involuntarily run out on a rail. But back to Uncle Cran's repeatedly self-interrupted story:
After eating a hamburger, fries, and coke (25 cents), Brad gave me a dollar for a movie, and to play pool, as he and friend Dale (who's last name I won't mention) had someplace they wanted to go.
Twenty-five cents! In 1955? I presume that this was due to post-war inflation. Part and parcel of that infant inflation known as the baby boom, perhaps, which I was just barely to join two years later. But back to Uncle Cran's story again -- and note that the dollar would have paid for four movies! At least that wasn't inflated! But pool games were costly, it seems:
After the movie (25 cents), I took my remaining wealth to the pool hall (10 cents a game, inflation had reached there) and played pool until late in the evening, when Brother Bradley and Dale came in and said we were going to spend the night at Dale's house. They were laughing, and carrying on with foolish actions, kind of staggering, and their faces were flushed. We drove the three miles down the gravel highway, going south to the turn off to Dale's house. Brad stopped the Model A, shut off the engine, and said to Dale, "We had better finish off this beer and wine before we get to your house."
A wise decision, as I can vouch from painful experience, but hardly one to fool the grown-ups . . . as Uncle Cran's story implies:
We got out and sat down by the road. They opened up the last two beers, handed them to me, and said, "Here, Cran, take the poison off the top for us."

My first taste of booze! I was excited to try it, but was a little disappointed!

It was sour, and strong, I thought, but duly obeyed, taking a big swig out of each can, and handing it back.

Brad said, "That's enough for you." I never argued with a brother half again my size and twice my strength.
Another wise decision -- and one providing evidence that Uncle Cran's IQ truly is above 150.
Then they took out the cheap Sweet Lucy wine, and finished it off.
Sweet Lucy wine?! After the beer?!
Then they started telling each other how much they liked each other, and were friends for life.
Uh-huh, we'll see how long that lasts:
Next they got into a quarrel, and almost got into a fight.
I expected as much.
Finally, they started groaning, and saying, "I'm sick." Pretty soon they were throwing up, moaning, and praying, saying "Oh Lord, if I live, I'll never touch another drop as long as I live!"
These are the sincerest, most hearfelt of prayers, for they rise up from the depths of one's bowels. I know from repeated experience . . . and the Lord let me live each time.
All this took a little while, and I thought I heard footsteps coming down the road from Dale's house, but the steps soon stopped, as though someone was listening, then the footsteps receded toward the house.
Are you implying that the Lord was walking in the cool of the evening? Well, it's said that the Ozarks are God's country. Anyway, if the Lord was walking about, then he surely heard those two incipient drunkards pouring out their hearts:
When the big boys at last got it all out (literally), we drove on the hundred yards to the house, and slipped into Dale's bed. (Yep, all three of us . . . it was the only other bed there).
No comment. Let's fast forward:
Next morning, Dale's father, Jim Dawson said, "Boys, did you have a good time last night?" We all said, "Yes, we did." No more questions were asked. And we were homeward bound.
There are various ways to read this part of the story, but I urge folks to restrain their suspicious little hermeneutic hearts. Let's simply note that Dale's family name has been provided and then move on to the happy ending:
That was my first and last taste of booze until my Navy days, when I tried it a few times.
Beer again? Whiskey? Moonshine? I seem to recall an earlier confession pertaining to moonshine. Or is that a false memory?
But after I met my future wife, got out of the Navy, and married her, I have been a teetolaler ever since.
Precisely when you began to teetotal remains unclear, dear uncle.
And with this, one of my skeletons has been released from its closet.
It's free to roam the land, terrorizing the inhabitants this 31st of October!
Your turn, JK and Jeffery!
Pass. I've still got a career to protect. Maybe JK will take you up on the offer.

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At 5:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only way I can come close to "the amusiung quotient" of your story Cran is to tell you of a time in the not so distant past when I was also "pulled over" on a gravel road.

A fellow asked me, "How many beers have you had?"

I couldn't precisely answwer his question (due to some ambiguity) so I replied, "Hell I don't know, several thousands I reckon."

However, fortunately, these days I have an excuse my my wobbly walking and so, to the dismay of the fellow, when I blew into the portable breath alcohol content analyzer he had in the trunk of his car, it seemed (at least on that one occasion) I hadn't had enough to satisfy his obvious hoped for results.

He seemed almost (to borrow from a friend) "chopfallen."


At 5:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seem to be surrring my typing for some reason.


At 6:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The other MS was from George Washington University, Washington, DC. I always put in a few typos in my stories, as it brightens favorite nephew Jeff-ery's day to 'correct' his ancient, and formerly dissipated unkle.
Yes, I once smuggled a pintjar of White Lightning a shipmate brought back from Tennessee. He chickened out and left it in a locker at the bus terminal. I went on liberty in the evening, picked up the jar, stopped at a local fast food store, bought a pile of sandwiches, chips, etc, covering the jar with them, came back to the gate about 9:00 pm where a marine guard was waiting. I set down the box of stuff, and produced my liberty & ID cards. He asked what I had in the box. I said it was food for the night shift. He looked at it suspiciously and said, "You got anything there you shouldn't have?"
I replied, "There it is, stuff for the night shift." He stared at me for a moment, then said, "Go on in." I walked back to the ship, and the guys all took a sip of the stuff. I had decided if the guard reached in the box, I would grab the jar and hurl it as far as I could send it. That shows that my IQ was below l50 -- (143 to be exact) but on this night probably in the low 60's.
What a stupid thing to do! but when you are 19 years old......incidentally, I renounced such foolishness many years ago.


At 7:18 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, that's one of the funniest lines that I've ever heard.

I'm almost tempted to drive drunk just so I can get pulled over and spring that line on a police officer.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 7:21 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran confesses to having grown up:

"What a stupid thing to do! but when you are 19 years old . . . incidentally, I renounced such foolishness many years ago."

Thank God you've reformed! I entirely agree with your renunciation. Never ever toss away a jar of fine moonshine! Instead, offer to share some with the guard.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's actually best that you drink only the one beer. Safety concerns paramount you see. Of secondary concerns are that one is better able to come up with witty remarks, and it's rather preferable than having to spend the night with a bunch of other guys.

Despite what Cran may've indicated.


At 11:45 AM, Blogger Malcolm Pollack said...

What impresses me the most about about all of this is how much time Dionysus obviously finds for working out. I probably drink about as much as he does (and get a fair amount of training in as well), but I must say he looks downright fabulous for an old sot.

At 1:16 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I'll keep your advice in mind . . . unless I drink too much and forget.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 1:22 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Malcolm, the physique that we admire probably has something to do with the fact that Dionysus is a demigod.

Actually, the more traditional representations of Dionysus present him as somewhat effeminate.

The fellow standing before the Qingdao Beer Museum, by the way, looks rather like my father did in his prime. I'm nowhere near as powerful.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 3:39 AM, Blogger Malcolm Pollack said...

Yes, being an immortal deity probably helps. And he probably burns more calories cavorting with those Maenads of his than I do sitting at the computer.

(If our H.R. department would provide a few of those, it probably wouldn't boost productivity, but it would be great for morale.)

At 6:35 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Believe me, Malcolm, the H.R. department has your best interest at heart.

Any cavorting on your part would inevitably be followed by your being torn limb-by-limb apart like Pentheus . . . as soon as your lovely wife uncovered the truth.

Which would be very soon.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 8:47 AM, Blogger Bill said...

I'm still around, just haven't had the time to "comment" lately-until now.
Reading Un"k"le Cran's latest "humorfull" confession (exploit) makes this senior nephew wonder about additional skeletons/sins lurking in the closet corners.
I leave tomorrow to God's Country to see the family, so am seriously considering a one pint purchase in Baxter County, dropping a thimble full in Cran's soft drink to loosen him up, quiz him a little, and hope he would blurt out hidden memories of gluttony, dancing, lust (taped Baywatch shows?) or even the possibility of a seashore tattoo from the naval days. I'd have to drink the balance, thus dulling the senses so as to not repeat same to the world.
This revelation was as shocking to me as was his oldest brother's (my Dad) telling of his onetime drink(s) with Uncle Cleo. Dad, as you well know, also became a preacher.
Cuz Bill (always sober in somber Kansas)

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Cuz 'Quiet in Kansas' Bill, next time that we're both in Alcoholic Arkansas, we'll have to try that pint purchase together with Uncle Cran and listen to his even-wilder stories.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Do you ever sleep?

At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And now the tale is all over the internet, as other favorite nephew, whom I will call "Bill," (such being his name), but I won't mention his last name, even though his father is my next to oldest brother.
Nephew "Bill" just notified all the family to bring up your blogspot and read my confession.
Never spill all your guts in one fell swoop....leave something for future my motto.

At 10:05 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Bill, I do sleep, and actually slept six hours last night. I've been a bit under the weather lately, along with my entire family, so I've been getting up at four or five instead of three.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Forgot Uncle Cran might still be awake at 8:00 CST.
And also forgot, even though I mentioned Cleo, that Dad was the second oldest.
Old age here-well, my bedtime approaches soon.

At 10:10 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, the whole clan probably finds your tales amusing despite my distracting interpolations, and I doubt that anybody is judging you harshly over the details of your clearly penitent confession.

So . . . keep those confessions coming even if you have sin a bit more to come up with some new admissions.

For as the good book says, "Humor covers a multitude of sins." Or something like that. Anyway, our clan always laughs at such stories.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 10:14 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

For those who are reading from foreign countries, "CST" refers to "Cat-Skinning Time," a daily event that usually keeps even the most deaf awake . . . including deaf old Uncle Cran.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


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