We were sitting around – as senior citizens are wont to do – discussing the problems today’s younger generations face, while emphasizing how much better we would have handled things.
I’ll admit it. I love those conversations because the people I grew up with are good Americans. The sort of folks who have put much more in the nation’s coffers than they have removed.
We’ve lived enough life to have picked up a few scars but haven’t tipped the scales of justice too far the wrong way.
Things do have a way of getting out of hand when it comes to the stories. The length of a home run or the velocity of a fast ball might tend to have increased a bit. The size of a fish or the number of points on a deer’s antlers may have grown a touch. Time has its way. So when a tale floats down out of the blue that blows me off my seat, I have to toss up a white flag and demand the rest of the story.
The conversation had worked around to town characters. We had all agreed that the folks people find to be a little unusual today are a far cry from the rare birds we had roaming the streets 70 years ago.
You see, growing up in the 1950s was a special time. World War II was history – but recent history. Some of the men who had served our country were still going through tough times trying to adapt back into civilian life. Strangely, the souls who seemed to stand out the most in our minds were those who had never actually heard the sound of battle.
Growing up in a town of 500 put us in the center of almost everything. We might not have always been there at the time, but we usually knew someone who was. That’s why I never dismiss anything my old buddies might tell me. They very well may have the skinny on something that was too far out for even “Ripley’s Believe It or Not.”
At this particular time, we were discussing some of the town’s heavy imbibers — the ones who could take the consumption of alcohol and put it above and beyond the realm of possibility.
The usual stories had surfaced. The farmer who would sit in the tavern all day while his horse grazed nearby. How he would tie a case of beer behind the saddle when he left each night and return the next morning with it empty.
There was the story of the young man who had recently returned from training as a paratrooper. How the bartender had emptied a huge glass container, filled it with beer – the equivalent of 16 bottles. The bottomless airborne warrior drank it in a bit less than an hour.
Then the one, oft repeated, of the town drunk who, when he ran out of funds, had a habit of crawling under a car, opening the radiator petcock and drinking the alcohol coolant. A testimony to the amount of abuse the human body can endure.
Then came the story to end all stories. Seems there was a farmer from north of town who would come into the tavern on a regular schedule. He was a man with a mission: combine as many vices as possible. His favorite cocktail was a strange one. He would order a schooner of beer, take a full can of snuff, remove the tin cap and empty it into the beer. He would then drink the entire contents without taking it from his lips. Now that’s what I’d call a killer drink.
So there you have it. The kind of stuff old geezers talk about when there’s nothing better to discuss. They get pretty wild. But then again it could be worse. We could try to imitate our stories.
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.