The following blog is an account of how Renegade was started by the owner Garry Peacock. While I believe the blog is entertaining it is also quite provocative and should not be read by anyone under the legal age or by those who might find cussing or sexual situations offensive. This blog contains events about Garry and his life which lead to his belief system and how that affected the start of Renegade.
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In The Beginning
I am an alcoholic, so I assume that qualifies me to write about alcoholism although my thoughts about being an alcoholic are not at all in line with the accepted theories on alcoholism. First I don’t even like the term alcoholic because it is too elegant and refined to serve its defining purpose. I prefer drunk. Drunk is more to the point. An alcoholic has an overwhelming desire, which causes impulsive behavior. A drunk drinks too much. I drink too much. An alcoholic goes to meetings and brags about his drinking so he can stop his compulsive behavior. A drunk goes to bars and brags about his drinking and consumes more to prove his point. See the difference? Second, when a person accepts that he is an alcoholic he is then cajoled to condemn that part of his life in which he was partaking of the evil spirits as if it should be cast aside as a dark period and forever forgotten. Why would I spend three-quarters of my life doing something that I obviously enjoyed only to later condemn it? That drinking made me who I am today, besides I had a lot of good times whilst I was drinking. Many a time I have woken up next to a beautiful women that if not for the power of alcohol I wouldn’t have stood a chance in hell of bedding her down. Granted, maybe for her waking up next to me afforded her enough shock value that she was forced to admit that alcohol was evil and was causing her to do ungodly things but for me it was just another wonderful memory that I could credit to the joys of alcohol. I don’t want to give the impression that there has been no pain incurred by my drinking. Contrar. I have experienced depths of pain both physical and mental that few mortals have ever endured, but hasn’t our world been enlightened and improved by those great men and women that have lived through enormous amounts of pain. Beethoven, Rembrandt and Picasso just to name a few. Pain can be a great motivator, so even the ugly part of over-drinking can be looked at as a positive if you look at it from the right angle, besides that, in what other instance or situation in my life would I be able to compare myself to the likes of Beethoven. I’m also not saying that I don’t need to quit drinking. In fact I’m sure it is time that I hang up my shot glass and let the next generation of drunks have their fill. It’s not that I don’t enjoy my rendezvous with alcohol it’s just that I figure that the good Lord allots every man a certain amount of the intoxicating liquid during his life and by all measurements I have at the age of 47 drank my allotted share, even borrowing a few allotments from those poor souls that have never taken to the joys of alcohol.
To be a good alcoholic and enjoy the entitlements that it offers such as D.T’s, shakes, and vomiting one must first possess the ability to blame others. Many people will not understand your need to consume alcohol to the point of oblivion and they will chastise you and try to get you to stop, this is where you must learn to pass the buck. I was a natural but I extended it into an art form. Take note.
How I and others like me get to a point in our lives that we enjoy the effects of the fermented grape to the point of loosing control is a point of contention and great debate argued by minds not only much more adapt to thinking than my mind but also minds that have fewer pickled brain cells than mine does. That being the case I will try not to place blame of my drinking on genetics or any psychological effect of my upbringing. With that said let me say this “It was my parents fault”. My father was a drunk as was his father. His name was Ronnie Peacock and that’s about all I know about him because he and my mother were divorced when I was about two years old because of his drinking. His father, my grandfather was Jack Peacock and he too was a drunk but he was a rich man so he may have considered himself an alcoholic, I really couldn’t say because I didn’t know him either. I haven’t dug any deeper into my Peacock heritage to find out just how far back this drunken linage goes because I figure three generations deep was a good place to stop. I was born in Quincy Florida, A small town just outside of Tallahassee Florida. (The only Southern State Capital that didn’t fall in the civil war) Just in case you didn’t know that. Quincy was what is known in these parts as a hick town. Some folks say that Quincy was so far back in the woods that you couldn’t get Monday night football till Thursday. I grew up there in the late 60′s and early 70′s and there were some very poor people. A lot of homes didn’t even have indoor plumbing. I call them homes because people lived in them but they were really shacks. Its ironic that Quincy had so many poor people considering at one time it had more millionaires per ca-pita than any other city in the United States. The trickle down economic effect just didn’t trickle in Quincy. Quincy was a tobacco town in its early days and tobacco barns still dot the landscape today. A lot of people got very rich off the tobacco industry because at the time there was no minimum wage and you can work a hungry man for little of nothing. Though tobacco was an integral part of Quincy’s money it didn’t introduce the gargantuan amounts of money needed to build the Tara-styled mansions that are still standing in Quincy today. That was Coke, as in Coca Cola. As the story goes a banker in Quincy by the name of James Monroe believed that the new drink would be a great success so he invested a lot of the banks money into coke stock. He must have had second thoughts about his investment because it soon became legend that if any of the poor farmers needed to borrow money from the bank to plant their crops that they would also be required to purchase some of the Coca-Cola stock. Now no farmer worth a grain of salt would want to pay good money for a piece of paper stock but since they needed the crop-planting money they had to give in and get the stock too. Well the rest is history; a lot of the poor schmucks got very rich which brings me back to my paternal grandfather- Jack Peacock. He was neither a banker nor a farmer so he didn’t get in on the Coco-Cola deal but he did own the biggest car lot in town and with all that new money floating around he became very rich. He owned a few car lots and so life was good for him and my paternal grandmother Eva Lillian Peacock. They had four children Julie, Jack, Jerry and my farther Ronnie. Jack was killed in the Vietnam War. Ronnie was the black sheep of the family because he drank too much and couldn’t keep it covered up like my grandfather could. He was a disappointment to the Peacock clan. The last straw was when he married my mother who was the daughter of a poor sharecropper. The Peacocks considered that to be beneath his status and he was disowned which gave him plenty of excuses to drink even more. After being cut off from the family and because of his drinking my mother and he divorced and he broke all contact and I only saw him two more times in my life and at one of those meetings he was in a casket. He died broke and homeless and a very lonely man with only his bottle for company.
My mother was raised dirt poor. Her name is M.E. just like her mother- my grandmother was. M.E. didn’t stand for anything-just initials. She had six brothers and sisters and maybe they just ran out of names by the time she came around. My mother had a great impact on my life- like most mothers do and most of it good. She is the one person that I truly admire. After her divorce from my father she moved back home with my newborn sister and I. (Her name was Alvinia Gay Peacock and with a name like that maybe she should have been the drunk). I can barely remember my maternal grandfather but I called him Big Daddy. His name was Monroe Smith and I do recall that he use to take me on the tractor to the tobacco fields with him. Those days just didn’t last long enough. My grandfather was what us drunks affectionately call a teetotaler. He didn’t touch the stuff. My grandmother did though. Big Mama we called her. Now Big-Mama was the greatest person that has ever lived. She was something else. She kinda figured that there was nothing wrong with a little taste as long as nobody knew about it. When my mother was young my grandmother would send her down the road to pick up a mason jar with a brown or clear liquid in it. Big-Mama (The greatest person who ever lived) would never get drunk mind you but a little nip she reckoned didn’t hurt a thing. Seems that she was ahead of her time because research has shown that a single drink every day can be good for the blood and my grandmother was healthy well into her eighties. I remember that she could hit a softball slam to the garden and yell at us kids as she ran the bases to be sure and not step on her turnip greens as we hurdled rows of vegetables to get the ball.
My grandfather died and my mother remarried a few years later to a man named Earnest Barry and he was a drunk too. I was surrounded by drinkers which made it easy to blame others for my drinking habits even though I hadn’t started to over drink the ground work was being laid and it was sure to come.
Earnest worked for the Floridine Co., which made kitty litter. Earnest made good money. He wasn’t rich by any means but at that point in my mothers’ life having a husband that had any income was an improvement. They bought a trailer and parked it behind Big Mamas (The greatest person who ever lived) house. Now there are a lot of theories floating around about why a person becomes a drunk and I would like to officially introduce my trailer theory. Any home that you can move from one location to another because it has wheels on it is not the best place to raise children. The walls in a trailer are paper-thin so there is basically no privacy. You can hear everything that goes on in a trailer, from the bathroom to the bedroom. Now there are some things that a kid just doesn’t need to hear coming from his parents bedroom and upon hearing them he may be scared for life, besides a trailer creeks and cracks all night long and I spent many a sleepless night thinking that the boogieman was coming to get me. I remember the only comfort I got was when I placed my ear drum firmly against my pillow I could hear a marching sound that I pretended was soldiers that were coming to my bedroom to save me from the bad people that were making those creeping sounds, years later I realized that the marching sound was caused by the beating of my heart and I listened for the marching soldiers again but for a totally different reason.
The kitty litter business was booming in the early 70′s and my parents were able to move into a house just down the road from my grandmother. I was glad to leave the trailer and its thin walls but I didn’t like moving away from Big Mamas (The greatest person who ever lived) back door. I loved Big Mama. I loved Mama and Daddy too. I called Earnest Daddy because I thought he was my daddy. I knew nothing about Ronnie at this point in my life. Stepfathers in those days acted like real fathers. One of my last trailer memories was when I ask my mother one day why their last names were Barry and my sister and I were Peacocks. She told us the whole torrid story about my real father and how he was a drunk and that Earnest wasn’t my real dad. I was crushed. I cried all day. I hate houses on wheels.
At this point in my life no one would have ever guessed that I would have become a drunk because everything I knew about alcohol turned me away from the evil substance. I remember the very first time I was given some alcohol, it was given to me in the form of medicine. Hadacol – Now I’m sure most people don’t have a clue as to what Hadacol is unless you are an old-timer and you’re from the south. Truthfully, I don’t know what it is either except that it had a lot of alcohol in it and that it tasted horrible. Depending on whom you talked to Hadacol was the cure for just about everything including but not limited to fever, insomnia, warts, male pattern baldness and it was even known to drive off evil spirits to boot. I had seen the old bottle of hadacol in my grandmothers’ bathroom medicine cabinet for as long as I could remember. It was older than I was. Once when I was sick Big-Mama (the greatest person who ever lived) prescribed a good dose of hadacol. Now folks let me tell you, that was some nasty stuff. It was powerful too. I heard tell a story about a farmer that had a rooster that wouldn’t take care of his manly duties by topping the chickens and if he ain’t topping them chickens then he is ready for the chopping block. Well the farmer had become attached to the old rooster and wanted to give the ole boy one more chance so he ask a neighbor friend if there was anything he could do to make the rooster get his groove back. The neighbor suggested that he give the rooster a good shot of hadacol. So the farmer did just that putting a generous amount in the roosters’ drinking water. About a week later the neighbor ask the farmer if it had helped the situation and the farmer said indeed it had, as a matter of fact the last time he checked on the rooster he had topped all the chickens and two rows of cabbage. A legend was born- Hadacol. With alcohol being the main ingredient it was hard for a six year old boy to get it down especially with all the other unknown additives that it had, but I will tell you this – it worked, I was 23 years old before I told Big-Mama (The greatest person who ever lived) that I was sick. The only other thing that I knew about alcohol was that it made my step-father sick because before we moved to the bigger house I would hear him throwing up a lot, in the trailer – with its paper thin walls and all.
Moving into that new house opened my world up because it expanded my boundaries. Instead of having my yard to roam about I now had a whole neighborhood to try to get into mischief. My parents with all the extra room they had began to throw lavish parties. I use the word lavish quite loosely here. I don’t mean champagne and caviar lavish, I mean Old-Milwaukee lavish. We were still rednecks but we were rednecks with a bigger house. We even had room for a washer and a dryer and for us that was country gone to town. My sister and I would help my mother get ready for these parties. We cleaned the whole house and placed clean ashtrays throughout because in those days that’s what fancy folks did, they had really nice clean ashtrays. After getting everything ready for their company that was coming over my sister and I were allowed to have one small alcoholic drink, usually a daiquiri. My sister would swallow her drink and scamper off saying something about how good it was but I would act like I didn’t like it although I really thought it was the best thing I had ever tasted. I instinctively knew that I could not let others know how much I enjoyed it for fear I would be denied the chance to get more. That didn’t really matter though because as soon as my mother went to get ready for the party I always stole another drink just to insure that I got a good buzz. I did get a buzz, even if it took sneaking a third drink.
I grew up exposed to alcohol. A few of my Uncles were drunks but none more so than Uncle Virgil. Uncle Virgil was a painter and it is universal knowledge that all painters are drunks. Uncle Virgil was no exception he was the rule. As it was in those days everyone in the Smith clan had a day in which they would come to see Big-Mama (The greatest person who ever lived) to show their respect or to give her a few dollars to make it through the week. Uncle Virgils day was Friday and he always brought a fifth of liquor. Big-Mama was no drunk, she was a sipper. I never could understand sippers. She would pour herself one or two drinks at night and Carol Burnett or Jackie Gleason would be just a little bit funnier. Big Mama (The greatest person who ever lived) was in a good mood all the time but especially so when she had a little nip. Most of the time unless the bottle was especially low, I could count on a “totie” myself. I was about 12 or 13 when this started to become a tradition. Big-Mama would never give me a drink because she believed in the bible and according to her interpretation to give a child a drink of alcohol was a sin, but a little totie was different. A totie was only taken late at night after it was certain that visiting hours were over. It had to be drunk out of a small jelly glass because any glass that was bigger would have been defined as a drink. Anybody can fix a drink but it takes special care and ingredients to fix a totie. First you need the jelly jar and into it you add water, sugar, ice, liquor and a lot of love. Big-Mama (The greatest person who ever lived) had plenty of it all and she made the best toties in the whole world. If I had the willpower that Big-Mama had and I had only drank toties and I had never converted to drinking drinks then I never would have had a problem with drinking at all.
I wasn’t blessed with the ability to have restraint in anything I do and unfortunately that includes drinking. I remember the first time I officially got drunk. I was about 10 years old and I had a neighbor who was a few years older than me named Bobby Unell. Bobby was about 15 and he knew where he could get some beer. My parents were out of town and my sister and I were staying with Big-Mama (The greatest person that ever loved) for the weekend. Big-Mama (The greatest person that ever lived) wasn’t much of a disciplinarian, so we had the run of my parent’s house. My older cousins were there, Little Wilmer and Debra. Little Wilmer was called that because his daddy was Uncle Wilmer or Big Wilmer. We said, either Big Wilmer or Little Wilmer so’s we could tell them apart. That’s how you did it in those days. Well Debra and Little Wilmer were older than me and therefore more worldly and sophisticated so they new about getting drunk. They also new that some people got buzzed on pills or painkillers so they went into my mothers medicine cabinet and borrowed some of her pain killers, what they neglected to notice though was that it was her medication for her female problems such as cramps and stuff. Well, Debra slipped a few of the pills into my beer and I didn’t discover it until I got to the bottom of the can. Now I’m here to tell you that Paspt Blue Ribbon beer and female cramp medication doesn’t mix to well and I was one sick fella. I was throwing up everywhere. Bobby Unell and Little Wilmer were laughing at me. They said I couldn’t hold my beer. They even told me to be a man about it. It’s hard to be a man when you’re full of female cramp medication and Papst Blue Ribbon beer. I was sick all day but I never did get the cramps.
My DNA came from two completely different worlds and the only thing that they had in common was drinking. One family was very rich and the other family was very poor and as luck would have it the poor family was raising me. There was a point in my life that I began to resent this fact. I loved my mother and Big-Mama (The greatest person that ever lived) but I was jealous that just across town my cousins were going to the best schools and living in mansions while we were just scraping by. Earnest let his drinking get the best of him too and eventually he and my mother divorced so for a long time it was just my Sister, Big-Mama and me being taken care of by my mother who worked for minimum wage as a cashier. I worked in the lunch room so I could get my school lunch for free and I didn’t want to apply for free lunch because I was to embarrassed. I didn’t know any of the Peacocks personally because they didn’t hang around us poor folks, I just knew they were the rich people in town and that I was kin to them. I did get to see my Peacock grandmother (Eva-Lillian) because on our birthdays she would call Big-Mama (The greatest person who ever lived) and announce that she was coming by to give us a present. Big-Mama would make us get all cleaned up and we would be sitting on the front porch when Eva-Lillian’s Cadillac would pull up in the driveway. I remember thinking that royalty was coming over to see me. Eva-Lillian was very neat and exuded class. She wore huge earrings and always had on an enormous broach. A broach is a pin that is shaped like a flower or a gob of pearls that older women use to wear to show the world that they had money. Big-Mama (The greatest person that ever lived) never needed a Broach. Eva Lillian would give us a card with $5 in it and tell us that she loved us and then she was gone, until next year. I wasn’t sad to see her go. I didn’t know her. I wasn’t thrilled when she showed up either except maybe for the $5. I lived with one mother and no father but once a year I had two grandmothers, one that had a fancy car and a nice broach and one that could slap a baseball all the way to the garden and if you ask me that is worth more than the $5 any day.
When I started school I went to public school and in Quincy that meant I was in the minority since integration was enacted during my tenor. The world didn’t come to an end because white kids and black kids were going to school together as some had claimed but I had to learn to be tough. I had to grow a thick skin for a lot of different reasons and race was only one of them. When I first started school and I started to have to write it was discovered that I was left handed and I was told (By Earnest) that this was a very bad thing, because it meant I was possessed by the devil. While there are some people that will tell you that I am possessed I don’t think it was because I was left handed. At school the teachers made me use my left hand because they said it was my natural way to write. At home I was made to use my right hand so as to not give the devil a door into my soul. This confused me. I wanted to make my teachers happy but not at the cost of loosing my soul. I had a teacher tell me one day that I was ambidextrous, I thought she meant I couldn’t have kids. As simple as it may seem it was just another reason I didn’t fit in. I was different. A redneck white kid going to a predominately black school. I needed a click to join but there wasn’t one for me so I invented one. I took on the bad boy persona, complete with leather jacket and attitude. I would fight at the drop of a hat, call me a name and it was on (which happened a lot to a white kid with an attitude back then). I didn’t follow the bad crowd I was the bad crowd.
I eventually joined up with a loose group of bad boys known as the Qualls gang. They called themselves that because two of them were brothers and their last name was Qualls, Kenny and James. Bill McDaniel was the third member and he was the pretty boy and I took the role as brains of the outfit. That in itself should have been a warning that things wouldn’t go well for us. We had made a fort of sorts out of a old horse barn near the railroad tracks where we lived in which we would plan our adventures that in the beginning we innocent enough such as trying to shoot the windows out of cars as they passed by on the train. We would sneak liquor out of our parents’ house and bring it to the fort and get drunk or arrange BB gun wars with the other kids in the neighborhood. We were outlaws. Back then if you were a rebel it was necessary for you to smoke except for the fact I considered myself a jock and I thought smoking was dumb. It was dumb. Who would choose to smoke something that the very container that it came in had a warning on the side of it from the Surgeon General saying it was going to kill you. It would be a few more years before I finally became smart enough to ignore these warnings. The other members of the gang did smoke though and cigarette money was hard to come by even at 75 cents a pack. They always had cigarettes and one day I ask them how they could afford to buy them and they told me that they had taken to breaking into houses and stealing money and that it was pretty lucrative. I told them that they were crazy and that they were going to get caught and go to jail and all for a stupid cigarette but when they told me that you could get liquor too I said “count me in”. With all the houses in our neighborhood getting broke into it was obvious to the police who the culprits were. I was sitting in class when I heard Bill McDaniel’s name called over the intercom and soon thereafter the Qualls boys. It was only a matter of time before my name was called and sure enough I heard the dreaded demand, “Garry Peacock report to the principles office immediately”. When I walked in the police were there and they had the rest of the gang lined up against the wall. The police ask me to confess but I was to tough for that and I looked them in the eyes and told them that I didn’t know nothing. You ain’t gonna get me to “crack ” and I told the others to be quite too. It seemed to be working until they called our mothers down to the office and when they got there it all fell apart. It seems that during our break-ins to get money and liquor one of the gang members had also picked up a diamond ring and had given it to his mother for a birthday present and she had proudly wore it to the interrogation. I received probation. We all did. The Judge told me that the others would have gone away if I hadn’t been involved but he had to treat us the same. Fate wasn’t quite so kind to the other members of our little gang. Bill died of Cancer at the age of 33. James killed a woman in a DUI accident and went to prison for years and upon being released was killed in another DUI accident. Kenny shot himself in the leg with a shotgun in a suicide attempt (perhaps this is why he wasn’t the brains of our group) and later lost said leg after he was hit by a train while passed out on the railroad tracks. I just continued to drink.
My drinking went back to its normal routine after the outlaw gang got busted with my partaking of alcohol reduced to the occasional totie with Big-Mama (The greatest person who ever lived). I got a job at the grocery store where my mother worked and saved my money and eventually bought a motorcycle. I was only 13 or 14 and though I wasn’t old enough to ride it on the street I did ride it all over the neighborhood with a couple of friends who had their own scooters. I had again tried to conjure up an identity for myself and the leader of motorcycle gang worked perfectly for me. We were riding near the highway one day when a strange man stopped us and ask us if we knew where Mrs. Smith lived. We did, because Mrs. Smith was Big-Mama (The greatest person who ever lived). We told him where she lived and then promptly headed that way ourselves to see what this fellow wanted with her. I’m a good southern boy and southerners don’t like strangers and I got an uneasy feeling from this odd looking dude. When I got to Big Mama’s (The greatest person who ever lived) house the stranger was standing on the back porch with my grandmother and some other lady who I had never seen. I got off my motorcycle and headed up the steps when Big-Mama introduced me, “Garry, This is Ronnie, Your Father”, she said. He stepped forward and hugged me. The first words out of his mouth were “glad to meet you”. Now that was a hell of a note I thought. My father was glad to meet me at the ripe old age of 13. Perhaps we should have been introduced just a little sooner like maybe 13 years ago at the hospital. Up until this point I had always envisioned my real father as some Clint Eastwood type character who was just too rugged to be tied down by one woman and a family. Meeting Ronnie changed all that because he was in fact a bizarre character. A nerd even. He said “Fantastic” a lot. This was a crushing blow for a young man who was searching for his own identity to find out that the blood pulsing through his veins was donated by an obvious nerd. There has to be some mistake I thought, maybe I had picked up the wrong father at the hospital. The misery didn’t last long though because we soon learned that the strange lady with Ronnie was his new wife who had literally found Ronnie drunk in a ditch and was trying to nurse him back to life. She had made him come to meet his children as a step in his recovery. I must not have had too much of an impression on him either because it didn’t work for him as he soon went back to being a drunk. He left that night. As for me I spent the night with Big-Mama (The greatest person who ever lived). I needed a totie.
My education wasn’t what you would call top-notch, I graduated James A. Shanks high school in 1980 but it was a narrow escape. I entered school at the onset of integration, which meant the busing of kids across town so the black and the white kids could go to school together. Now while this is a lofty goal because the black students really weren’t getting a fair shake it didn’t have its desired affect in Quincy. Most of the white students, especially those whose parents had money just went to one of the Private schools that popped up all over town. In most of my classes I was the only white kid and I was also on the football team where I was 1 of only 2 players that was white. I adjusted pretty well though and I had a lot of black friends. The forced integration actually paid off for me because I was probably one of the first rednecks that could speak Ebonics. The blending of Southernonics and Ebonics created a pretty cool image for us white boys that were able to speak it fluently. My education was affected more by the great exodus of money by the upper white class than it ever was by the influx of black students. There were inevitably a few bumps along the way to getting my diploma but most of those bumps were caused by my laziness or the fact that I found partying more important than getting an education. If I had not been such a great con artist I would have never gotten that piece of paper. I was horrible at math. I still am. I simply can’t add. I received failing grades in math every 6 weeks. The only reason I was passed was because I had entered a declamation contest and had won 1st place by reciting a comedy routine made popular by Ray Stephens called the phone call from God. The routine was about a man that receives a call from God and tries to lie his was out of the questions that the Holy one asks him with disastrous results. My math teachers were older black females, which meant that they were very involved in their church. They invited me to come to their church and recite my version of the phone call from God, which I gladly did. Though I was usually hung over on most Sunday mornings I was able to take advantage of their offer for which I would receive a C on my report card instead of an F, which allowed me to graduate.
I had other close calls with not being able to graduate. While I hated math I loved science and history. I still do. I constantly watch The Science and History channels. I excelled in my science classes because I took interest in them. I did even better with the science fair projects that we had to do once every year. My science teacher Mr. Gaskin made me his student assistant my senior year so I could devote more time to my science projects. That probably wasn’t the best idea Mr. Gaskin ever had. My student assistant job was my third period class which was my last class and since Mr. Gaskin was teaching a class I usually skipped it and went to the bottom of the hill lounge and had a couple of drinks. One of my jobs as his student’s assistant was to inventory all of the chemicals that he kept in a special room, chemicals that he used to teach the wonders of science but also chemicals that could be dangerous if they fell into the wrong hands. Unbeknownst to Mr. Gaskin the chemicals had just fallen into the wrong hands. This was a much more innocent time, a time before terrorist, thieves and rogue student assistants and the chemicals that were stored in the lab closet were only separated from the rest of the world by a tiny lock in which I was given a key. One day I discovered a chemical called sodium oxide ( Na2O) and it was some pretty potent stuff. It seems for some reason sodium oxide reacts with H2O (That’s water for those who are good at math but not science) and it reacts violently as in it blows up and catches on fire, which burns on top of the water. I didn’t know the exact reason it did this I just knew that it looked really cool. This sodium oxide stuff was soft and clay like which made it easy to conceal so I just “borrowed” a big hunk if it and wrapped it in a paper towel and put it into my pocket because it looked harmless enough. It wasn’t. My first experiment with this unusual chemical took place in the boys’ restroom. I flushed it and the ensuing water display was quite entertaining. I felt like chemical man as I roamed the halls of school with my secret formula, which gave me super human powers that I could use to fight crime or start chaos wherever it was needed. When I got home that evening I decided to show Big-Mama (The greatest person that ever lived) my ill-gotten chemical and the wonders that it held. Now, short of Hadacol Big-Mama wasn’t to keen on chemicals, she kinda figured that a lot of things weren’t meant to be discovered because if the good Lord had wanted us to know about them then he wouldn’t have hid them in the first place. She tried her best to persuade me not to go through with my demonstration for her but as usual I didn’t listen. Life would have been a lot easier for me if I had listened to Big-Mama (The greatest person who ever lived). I cleared off the dining room table and placed a small saucer full of water in the middle of it. I broke off a tiny piece of the sodium oxide and placed the larger remaining chunk at the other end of the table out of harms way. We experienced scientist call this a controlled experiment. I simply and very delicately dropped the minute piece of clay into the saucer full of water and told Big-Mama to just watch. It fizzed like an Alka-Seltzer at first and when it was almost gone and she thought the show was over the Sodium-Oxide made its customary pop and that’s when the trouble started. That pop frightened her a little bit because she had seen Alka-Seltzer fizz before but it had never popped. It was the fire that was burning on top of the water that sent her into a frenzy. Big-Mama (The greatest person who ever lived) had been on this earth for over 75 years and she had never seen fire burning on top of water and she figured if it wasn’t suppose to happen then somehow or someway it must be the work of the devil. As hindsight would later show me I had picked a bad time of year to show Big-Mama my little experiment. It was winter and a rather cold one at that. A lone gas heater was heating the house. As anyone who has lived in a house with a gas heater that has an open flame can tell you it dries the air out. Placing a small metal tray in front of the flame on the heater and filling it with water, which upon evaporating would replenish the moisture in the air, usually solved this. As the metal tray was constantly running out of water Big-Mama had placed a large picture of water near the heater so she could fill the tray without having to go to the kitchen every time to get more water. This little coincidence proved to be a big problem because the table in which I was conducting my experiment was near the gas heater and the gas heater was near the picture of water and the picture of water was within arms reach of Big-Mama. Big-Mama (the greatest person who ever lived) was rather quick for her age (See Base Running) and before I could react she had grabbed the picture of water from the top of the heater and doused the evil looking flame that was still burning on top of the water in the saucer. The water – a picture full of water- splashed across the table and I helplessly watched it as it barreled its way toward the now gargantuan looking hunk of Sodium Oxide that was still sitting on the end of the table. The water engulfed the large piece and it started to fizz. Big-Mama was smiling because she had extinguished to devilish flame that was burning on top of the water in the saucer and she didn’t notice that we now had a bigger problem. It was about then that the large hunk of Sodium Oxide started to make its evil transformation from an innocent ball of clay into a crackling exploding bomb. I looked at Big-Mama and she looked at me, there was no time to talk because we only had seconds to act. It was every man for himself. I dove for cover behind a couch and Big-Mama was already there. I told you she was fast. (See water Picture) Just as soon as I hit the floor the living room started to sound like a Forth of July celebration. The Sodium Oxide was having its way with Big-Mamas dining room table. When the bombardment finally stopped we came out of our foxhole by lifting our heads and peeking out over the couch. Soot that looked like gray snowflakes was floating down to the floor all over the room and after checking each other to see if we were all right we surveyed the damage which was mostly soot and scattered paper, although the table didn’t fair to well either. While the table did have a fairly good-sized hole in it we decided that we could hide that fact with a tablecloth. We cleaned up the soot. After a few Toties we decided that we wouldn’t tell anyone about this and it would be our little secret. (Big-Mama was the greatest person that ever lived)
During my high school years my mother ask me if I would mind if they sent my sister to one of the private schools in town because they couldn’t afford to send us both. I of course said I didn’t care and I really didn’t. The private school had ask myself and a couple of other good “white” athletes if we were interested in going to the private school on a scholarship and so we tried out and made their football team but their school board voted down spending the money. I kind of wanted to go to the private school because I would have finally been able to go to the school that the other “Peacocks” were going to. I would have been for the first time in my life able to do something that I thought was high class. I wasn’t crushed though when we found out that we could not go because I had a girlfriend who really didn’t want me to leave the public school and at the time my head wasn’t really the body part that was doing most of my thinking for me. I had it made at the public school anyway. I was considered the cool kid and I got along pretty good with the black kids because they respected me because I played football and I would fight at the drop of a hat. I wasn’t the smartest kid in the world because I never fought anyone smaller than me; I always seemed to fight someone that was bigger than me. One day at football practice a player by the name of Marzell Hill did something I didn’t like and I jumped him. Problem was he was three times my size. His father was a professional football player and mine was a nerd. He beat the hell out of me. When the coach (he was black too) broke us up he told me he didn’t know if I was crazy or not but that he knew that I had grit. Times were a little crazy back then and especially so for us white kids who went to the mostly black school because we were getting it from both sides. We got it from the black students and teachers because they considered us to be privileged kids (if we were privilege we would have been at a private school) and we got it from the white kids and parents who actually were privileged because we were friends with the black kids. Wiggers we were called. White Niggers. Most white kids choose sides and by that I mean they either took on the dress and personality of the black kids or they rejected it and became full-fledged rednecks. I did both. I could roll with either crowd. A personality trait that would pay off for me later in more ways than one. While I was proud to be white I felt rejected by the very “white” people that had brought me into this world. I wanted so much to be accepted by the rich white folk that were my relatives but they didn’t even know I existed. I also felt the pain that the black kids felt. I remember going to other towns to play all white schools during football season and after the game when we got on the bus we had to lay down on the floor until we got out of town just in case the bus was shot at. I had to lie down just like everybody else on the bus not because I was black but because I was a “wigger”.
My mother remarried when I was about 15 to a fella named Harry, she was trying to give my sister and I a stable home. Harry had three kids too; they were Harriet, Chip and Tamsi. Harriet was a couple years older than the rest of us kids and she was a lot more mature. She was determined to go to college and get a degree and she did. Chip and I were cut from the same cloth, as he was a party animal too. Gay was good at sports and had an entrepreneurial spirit. Tamsi was the baby. Harry was a good man and he and my mother made a good life for us. For the first time we really didn’t have to worry about money, not that Harry was rich because he wasn’t even close to having money but he went to work everyday and he didn’t blow it on drinking at the end of the week. My mother is a very strong woman. She had kept things going for a long time by seeing to it that Gay and I and Big-Mama had a roof over our heads and something to eat. “Mama” I called her had been paying all the bills for two households on a cashier’s salary but had somehow always made sure that we had a Christmas and we always had new cloths at the beginning of the school year. I admire my mother. She worked hard and I know even though we were poor, because of her we had it better than a lot of people. My problem was that even though we had all the essentials we needed I still had those relatives that lived across town that had all that money and their mothers didn’t have to work from sun up to sun down just to make ends meet and I was determined to get even. I knew that If I had just half of my mothers grit I could accomplish this one day, unfortunately before I could do that I had to discover that I had a lot of Ronnie in me too.
After I graduated my drinking really picked up a lot. I had already been going to bars since the age of 16 even though the age at the time to legally drink was 19. I was dating a young lady whom I thought I was going to marry and she and I broke up and as they say, that sent me over the edge. Big-Mama’s (The greatest person who ever lived) bottle didn’t last her a week anymore because I was sneaking drinks from it whenever I had the chance. My drinking even ruined Big-Mamas ability to have a totie now and then because when she began to notice that I was over-drinking she told Uncle Virgil to stop bringing her a bottle. She quit. Just like that. She never touched another drop. I never understood people like that. I guess it was her way of repenting forever giving me a Totie in the first place. She shouldn’t have felt like that cause like I said, “Toties were different”. I was going to bars and dragging in at 2 o’clock in the morning every night but Big-Mama was always waiting up for me. Mama and Harry sold the house that they lived in and they moved to a little farm he owned about 25 miles away out in the middle of nowhere. I lived with Big-Mama as I had for some time now and I really didn’t have anybody that could make me tow the line. My drinking got so out of hand that everybody decided that I should move out of Big-Mama’s house and move in with Mama and Harry. It was a collective agreement between Mama, Big Mama and a few of my Uncles who felt that I was doing Big-Mama (The greatest person that ever lived) more harm than good. They were right. I worried her all the time. I can’t even imagine all the hours she logged on those nights that I was out until dawn peeking out the window to see if I was pulling into the driveway. A conscience is something that a drunk can’t afford to have. Big-Mama began to stay at Uncle Petes house on the weekend because that is when I really got out of control. I was warned by everybody to not go the Big-Mamas house because she wouldn’t be there and the house would be locked up out of fear that me being there by myself and being drunk I would burn it down and kill myself in the process. They were setting boundaries for me. Tough love they call it. Sure as clockwork on Friday night I would be drunk and I would go to Big-Mama’s house only to find it locked and I would have been without a place to pass out except for the fact that Big-Mama always left a bedroom window open just in case. My sister (Gay) once found me hanging halfway out of the window where I had gotten stuck because I was to drunk to make it in and so I just spent the night there halfway in and halfway out. Everybody figured that my mother could better control me because her style was much more aggressive that Big-Mama’s. To say the least. I can’t count the times she tried to knock some sense into me. It’s called child abuse in some parts of the world, its called child rearing here. Mama didn’t mind rearing her child. After I moved out of Big-Mamas and moved into the farmhouse with Mama and Harry I continued to drink. It is amazing to me how others think that a change of location is going to miraculously cause one to stop doing something that they obviously intend to do. At the farm my room was upstairs and I would sneak bottles up to my room and drink all night. I wasn’t drinking toties either. To get rid of the evidence I tossed the empty bottles into the attic of the old house. Years later when they were having the house remodeled, the roof was torn off to reveal the attic and the workers found a sea of empty liquor bottles. Nothing was going to stop me from my calling. If I didn’t have access to a car to get to the liquor store I would saddle up a horse and ride him the 10 miles to the nearest liquor store to get myself a bottle. I quickly learned where all the black jukes were within striking distance of the farm and relying on my ability to fit in anywhere I became a regular. I was always welcome there because they new I had a few bucks in my pocket. All jukes in those days had a license to sell beer but liquor was sold on the down low. I would buy a bottle or two and share it with everyone including the guy who sold it to me. Sometimes it would be in the form of buck which is liquor made from a homemade still. Most of the time though the liquor was poured from a gallon jug -that the owner had purchased from a real liquor store- into a pint or half pint bottle that you were required to bring with you. The price was high but well worth every penny. I liked black jukes. At black jukes folks didn’t seem to mind my or anybody else’s state of drunkenness, In a Black Juke if you pass out everybody just steps over you. I liked that. There ain’t many rules in a Juke. “Cracker” is suppose to be a derogative term used to describe a white person but that was the nickname they gave me and I didn’t take it as an insult. They could have called me anything as long as it was over a drink, besides I felt like it was an improvement over being called a “wigger”.
I eventually got a DUI and it was decided that I needed to move to South Florida so I could be counseled by one of my Uncles who had been a drunk but who had stopped drinking and had become a very successful barber. I moved to Sarasota Florida, which is near Venice where my Uncle Sidney and Aunt Shirley lived. It was a collective agreement that I needed to be relocated as I had ruined my reputation here in Quincy because of my drinking but also because I was drinking with black folk, which was a cardinal sin. White folks around here were not bad people and they accepted integration pretty well with a few stipulations of course. While Southern white people were in agreement that black folks were not being given a fair chance and that this needed to be changed there were a couple of areas that were off limits. Church for instance. Everyone knows that the bible says to love your fellowman but it don’t say nothing about having to go to church with them if they was colored. Marriage was another. This one was a given and the bible was used by many a preacher to prove that the races should not mix. Neighborhoods, schools, and last but not least bars were other areas that whites and blacks were encouraged not to mix. Yes, we were equal but we needed to be equal on different parts of town. I broke the bar rule because I went to black Jukes. I also took my black friends to white bars. This was akin to blasphemy so I was promptly ask to leave not only the bar but North Florida. Sarasota was the obvious choice because there were no black people living there at the time but they did have liquor stores and it didn’t take long for me to find them. Uncle Sidney and Aunt Shirley tried their best to help me, even setting me up in an apartment and getting me a job. I worked at a septic tank company pouring cement all day making septic tanks. I blew my money quickly. I needed some money one time and I called Big-Mama (The greatest person that ever lived) and she promptly sent me $800. I remember the amount to this day. Mama found the canceled check and paid her back for me because Big-Mama didn’t have that kind of money to be giving it away. She never owned a broach in her life. While there were not any black people in Sarasota for me to hang out with I did manage to hook up with what some folks describe as “white trash”. I had been called “white Trash” before because of my affiliations and because of my drinking tendencies and I never thought it was a fair description. I must say that the term was quite appropriate though for these characters that I had taken up with during my time in Sarasota and therefore it was fitting for me as well. I don’t even remember their names and I guess that’s not important anyway because unless they have made a transformation since the time I knew them they were not likely to leave much of an impression in this life anyway. I had taken my bad boy image with me to South Florida but I didn’t hold a candle to these guys. They were a rough group. The group consisted of about eight men and four females that were passed around like property and like the group from the Helter Skelter “family” they lived in an old dilapidated house. I had the apartment that Uncle Sidney had gotten for me but I started to hang around the gangs’ headquarters more and more because of the obvious benefits, liquor. We stayed drunk a lot, well all the time. It was from this group of misfits that I learned the cure for the hangover; never stop drinking and you never have a hangover. I learned a lot from this group, most of it not good but they also taught me one lesson that I will never forget. None of these characters worked and after staying drunk everyday I found myself without a job too. So as to avoid the impeding hangovers we needed money to stay drunk and they had already figured out how to accomplish this. They robbed people. Usually they would break into some ones house and take what they needed but they were not above putting a gun in some ones face and demanding it either. They had a system too; a system up until now had been foolproof. Their living quarters was in Nokomis Florida, which is a small town just outside of Sarasota so they had concocted a plan to go to the big city and rob people and then return to the safety of the hideout to enjoy the bounty. I was the newest member of this group and therefore I wasn’t given any details of their battle plan. My job was to sit at the hideout with the ladies and wait to see if everything went all right. We were sometimes given the job of going behind the hideout and walking to a cow pasture about a mile away and picking mushrooms for the party. “Shroons” they were called and that was not really my thing, as I didn’t know if I was picking something that was going to make them high or if it was going to kill them. I picked them; I just didn’t partake in eating them. The gang would boil the Shroons and make a tea out of it and drink it to get a high that they said would send them on a “trip”. The only proof that I had that I had picked the “good” shroons and not the deadly ones was the fact that no one started to convulse and go into seizures as the night ran on. I did watch the shroon drinkers closely throughout the night in case someone did have a bad reaction, not so I could help them but so I could get the hell out of there before they blamed me for poisoning them. That would have meant the death penalty. When they finally returned it was my job to go and get the liquor, as they needed to be off the streets until we found out if anyone was looking for them. The ladies and I would walk to a nearby liquor store and return with enough booze to keep the party going. One night I was finally allowed to graduate from my “bitches” role as they called it an allowed to go on the moneymaking job with them. They drove a van and I was not given the details until we got into the vehicle and started out toward Sarasota. Their foolproof plan? Rolling Fags they called it. You see back then if a person was gay it was usually kept secret, especially from their family. This little fact made it open season on closet gay people and the best place to find them was at gay bars. It was explained to me on the way to the bar that three of us would go inside and act gay and pick up a victim and bring him back to the van where the others would be waiting. When the door was opened everyone would grab the gay dude and pull him into the van where he would be robbed. The idea was for the van to drive around and make the victim undress and then kick him out of the van. The victim could not report the robbery because the ensuing investigation would reveal that he was at a gay bar we would be in the clear. It had worked for them for quite a while as no one had reported being robbed from the gay bars. I was given the role of going in and finding a victim. I went inside as did two others and the first thing I did was get myself a few shots to get my nerve up. I got a buzz and I approached a group of obviously gay guys. I put on my best gay routine; I was swishing my hips and talking with a lisp and everything but to no avail. I might have over played my hand just a little. Rejection is a terrible thing. I had been rejected by women before, but just getting them a little drunker usually solved that. This was a damn shame. I couldn’t even get picked up by a man. My feelings were hurt. I did the next best thing I continued to drink. I soon lost sight of the other fellows that had come in with me to try and pick up a potential victim. I assumed that they were having as much trouble getting picked up as I was. They weren’t. I got really drunk and decided to park myself at the bar when a nice looking man approached me and ask if he could buy me a drink. I told him sure. We talked for a while and he seemed to be a nice guy but I had a mission to accomplish so I ask him if he wanted to go outside for a walk as I was going to take him to the van so my accomplices could pounce on him. We went outside and I couldn’t find the van or any of the other guys that had come with me. The sorry bastards had left me. It seems that they had already found a couple of victims and did not need me or mine. How in the hell was I going to get home? The gay dude that I had been talking to told me not to worry that he would take me home even though I explained to him that it was at least 30 miles one way. I decided that it was in my best interest to let this gay dude think that he was going to get lucky until we got closer to my house. It was after two in the morning when we pulled out of the gay bar. I concluded that I had indeed been able to pick up a “date” after all it just took me longer than it took the other fellows but they had more experience at this sort of thing. It was two o’clock in the morning when we left the gay bar. We talked on the way home and the conversation never did delve into the more incarnate things that you would have expected from a “gay conversation”. This gay dude was just a nice guy and he was doing me a big favor by taking me home. I waited until we got within walking distance of my house before I told him that I wasn’t gay just in case he had a change of attitude and kicked me out of the car. He told me he knew that. “It was obvious,” he said. He said that he figured I was one of the curious guys that hadn’t made up my mind to go gay yet and he wanted to make sure he was nice to me and that there was no pressure. Besides he said that he had heard that there was a group of punks that were robbing people from the bar and since I was so drunk he didn’t want me to fall into their hands. He was just looking out. He dropped me off and said good night and left. I never saw him again. Here I was trying to set this guy up to get knocked in the head and he was going out of his way to look out for me, a stranger. I learned something that night. I thought I wasn’t prejudiced because of my relationship with African Americans but I believe on that night my ability to hate someone for being different just completely eroded. I would eventually be a better person because of that night. I was lucky in another way as well. It seems that the gay individual that the “white trash” gang picked up was the son of the county prosecutor and he was not in the closet so to speak, therefore he didn’t have to hide the fact that he was robbed and beat up for being gay. In less than a week they had the whole gang round up. Present company excluded. He identified everyone that robbed him and they were arrested. I got arrested about a week later for DUI and was in the same county jail with them. I was made a trustee and I saw every one of them on a daily basis. They warned me not to talk and said that if I did that they would see to it that I was silenced. As their trial got closer they heard through the usual jailhouse rumors that the state had a witness; they thought it was I. It wasn’t. It was the victim. I was told through the same rumor mill that a “hit” had been put out on me. I got my butt back to Quincy. They got 12 years each.
I always had a job because I have never been scared of work. Just like most drunks I always impressed everyone when I first got there but eventually I would start missing work or coming in late. When I wasn’t late I was usually hung over. I worked at I.G.A., Winn Dixie, Publix, Inland Gas, and I sold Vacuum cleaners and furniture. I also worked on a farm and drove a tractor. I lost all those jobs in one way or another to my inability to control my drinking. I got a job at a welding company and I held it for about three years. I learned how to weld and I got pretty good at it. The job and the people that worked there were a perfect match for me because they drank too much also. I guess the painters’ theory applies to welders also. I saw a guy get fired one day because he came back from lunch so drunk that when he ran into the coke machine he turned around and said, “Excuse me dude”. I was in my element. I wouldn’t say I was happy but I was content. I made enough money to put gas in my car and buy myself something to drink. Everything was about to change though. I found God. I lost Big-Mama. One morning on the way to work something told me to turn my car around and go by Big-Mamas house. I did. I found her on the floor where she had fell during the night and was not able to get up. She lay there all night. I can’t tell you the guilt I carried for years knowing that if I wasn’t such a drunk that I would have been there to help her. I broke into the front door and called for help. She never left the hospital. I was there the day they pulled the plug and she passed away. Luckily for her before she passed away she had seen a major change in me because I had found God. After Big-Mama died I lost him again.
Every good drinker needs someone else to blame for his (or her) drinking. It adds to the dramatic effect that I am the victim here. Any future drunk that wishes to perfect his (or her) craft should take note that the ability to blame others is first and foremost the most important aspect of drinking. (Slightly behind the actual drinking of course) As I have stated earlier I perfected this ability and here I will explain how others caused my inability to control my behavior. The scares run deep. The pain unbearable. The evil culprits that took no pity on my delicate and fragile Psyche? Women. (Or men if you are a woman, or women if you are a women who prefers women, or men if you are a man who likes men or both if you are either that likes either (bi) or both if your are a transgender person and if you’re a transsexual I don’t have a clue. Anyway in my case it was women. I can not pinpoint the actual day that women began to warp my sense of well being, perhaps while I was still in the womb my cognitive reasoning was upset by short circuits in my brain wave patterns toward my perception of women, either that or it was Melissa Melvin’s fault. Melissa was quite popular with the boys in fifth grade. She was known as the student body, not really in a sexual way but in an almost sexual way. (We were too young to go all the way cause we didn’t know how…Yet) Melissa was always good for a kiss and if you were lucky you might get to touch an area that would soon be turning into a breast. Melissa was the second girl I ever kissed, the first girl was Patty Pickels but we both had our eyes open and she laughed so I don’t think that one really counts. Melissa spent the night with my sister and after my parents went to bed us kids stayed up for the late late show. Lucky for me my sister fell asleep leaving only myself awake to entertain Melissa. I was happy to oblige. Our lips met and I heard rockets and after a few minutes of this Melissa being a tad more experienced than I was ask me if I wanted to French kiss. I said “sure only I didn’t know how to French kiss”. She taught me. Now this was all well and good at the time, my heart was racing and my head was spinning because this beautiful girl had her tongue in my mouth. I didn’t understand what we were doing but I knew I liked it. All was great until Monday morning when we returned to school. Just as luck would have it on that day at school a nurse had come to our school to give us a lecture on V.D. (Venereal Disease). As we watched the slides and were told that this dreadful disease could in fact cause your body parts to fall, and at that very moment all off my Christian upbringing came back to me. This was a sign from above that I was about to be punished for letting that girl put her tongue in my mouth. Big-Mama (the greatest person that ever lived) had warned me about this. That evil scarlet had infected me. I was scared. I wanted to ask the nurse if I was gonna die but I was to embarrassed with all my classmates there. What could I do? I had to know if I was going to die and being the artsy manipulator that I already was, I quickly came up with a plan. I would get Ernie Comb to ask the nurse for me. Ernie was a nut. Simply put he was crazy and he would do anything. Actually he wasn’t quite right as they use to say, he was a few bricks short of a full load. Once someone dared him to ride his bike up a homemade ramp and jump over a car. He didn’t make it. The resulting accident messed him up pretty bad and left him not only hair lipped but with a very high pitched voice too. If Ernie asked the nurse then no one would know that the question was for me. When I had a chance I pulled Ernie aside and told him to ask the nurse a question for me. He was happy to oblige. His hand shot up and soon the nurse called on him to ask his question. In his loud shrieking tongued tied voice he screamed,” Narry wants to know if you can get V.D. from French kissing”. “Garry wants to know”, the nurse asks back. “Yes Ma’mn, Narry wants to know cause him and Melissa done been French kissin”. I was crushed. That very incident may have been just enough to crush my psyche and drive me to drinking. I don’t blame Ernie cause like I said he just wasn’t right, it was her fault cause she put her tongue in my mouth.
I do not base my female theory on this one single case. Barbara lived up the road a piece from me. Up the road is what you say when the road is made of dirt. Up the street is what you say when the road is paved. “A piece” is what you say when the distance is less than a mile “A spell” is the correct term for a distance of more than a mile. Translated, Barbara lived on a dirt road less than a mile form me. Actually it was walking distance. Barbara was the daughter of a preacher, a Holiness preacher at that. Holiness preachers are the worst kind, by that I mean they are full of fire and brimstone. With Holiness preacher there is no room for error. Barbara wasn’t exactly beautiful, she wasn’t even cute, O.K. She was ugly. She was the daughter of a preacher though and I had heard about preacher’s daughters and how deep down inside they wanted to do things. Dirty things. I wanted to find out if this was true. I set out to get her to come down the road to my house by herself, which was in itself not an easy task because she had about 6 sisters. (For some reason the more hardcore a preacher is the more kids he has) Finally one day after I told her we were boyfriend and girlfriend she slipped away and came over to our house. She let me touch things what I had never touched before. I was deeply moved. I felt her up and I felt her down and then I felt her up again. It was a great experience for a 12-year-old country boy. It would have ended there except for the fact that on the next Sunday at church Barbara got convicted about being felt up. When someone gets convicted in church it means the good Lord or a particular good sermon has placed the burden of guilt on them. They must confess their transgressions. Barbara cleansed her soul by confessing to the whole church that I had felt places on her what I wasn’t suppose to feel. Her father being well versed on the bible and its powerful abilities placed a curse on me. Something from Deuteronomy. I didn’t get the details but I think he turned me into a drunk. It scared the hell out of me and to this day I have never felt up another preachers ugly daughter.
It should be coming abundantly clear as to how I came to the realization that women are to blame for my dreadful behavior but in case there is any doubt left with great courage and resolve I present the next piece of evidence. The names have been changed to protect the innocent, in particular myself. Mrs. Gladis and my mother were friends. I call her Mrs. Gladis because she was older that me. I was 13 and she was at least 25 or 26. She was a neighbor of ours and this one day she came over to lay out by our new pool that my parents had just had put in. My mother was at work but being the good host that I was I told her to go ahead that I was sure that my parents wouldn’t mind. I had just finished cutting the grass and I was ready for a dip myself. I will admit that my intentions were not necessarily pure at heart, I really wanted to see this full figured lady in the bright yellow bikini sprawled out in a deck chair because I had calculated that if I positioned myself at just the right angle I might get to see a breast or two. It worked out better than I thought. The human body is perfect in its design as I was witnessing at that very moment but for the small fact that one cannot put sun tan lotion on their own back. Mrs. Gladis ask me if I would be so kind as to give her a hand and spread some of the oily liquid on her shoulders and back. I responded that I would be happy to oblige, being a good host and all. I proceeded to spread the coconut smelling lotion across her back, which was already a bronze tan from her previous outings. She moaned and told me that she didn’t like tan lines and ask me to untie her top. My heart began to flutter knowing that there was nothing holding her bikini top on. This was going better than I expected. She continued to moan as I rubbed the lotion in, telling me that I had good hands. I didn’t know that I had good hands, that was nice to hear. A drop of lotion rolled off her back and slid down her side toward her breast and as I reached to retrieve it I inadvertently touched it, her breast I mean. Mrs. Gladis giggled and ask, “do you like them” . “Do I like what”, I replied. “My Breast”, She Stated. I responded that I thought they were perfect. She rolled over onto her back leaving the bikini top behind and looking right into my eyes she ask, “Do you want to touch them”. It was about that time that I began to think that maybe she was flirting with me. I didn’t say a thing I was just staring at her breast. Again she asks, ” Do you want to touch them”. “I’d like that very much”, I responded. Well she told me that she was heading home to get out of her swimsuit and if I thought that I could come over to her house and knock on the back door that she probably could arrange it so that I could feel them. She said to make sure that I came to the back door because we wouldn’t want the neighbors to see me coming over since she was married and all. Now I might not be the sharpest tack in the box but I knew that this was one trip that I wanted to make so I said, “Yes ma’mn Mrs. Gladis, Come to the back door”. ‘”You don’t have to call me Mrs. Gladis,” she said. This was getting better by the minute. The field behind her house was grown up in weeds, briars and brush. I didn’t care if I had to invade the jungles of Africa I was going on this little adventure. With the stealthiest of an Indian Warrior and the courage of a Gladiator I hit the woods. I jumped, shuffled and twisted my way through the weeds and stickers and not once did I suffer a single prick. In what would have taken the average man hours to forage I conquered in only a matter of minutes. I jumped over her fence with the grace of Jessie Owens and glided to the door as smooth as the Fonz. Oh yea, it was on now. I knocked. The door opened by itself and I heard her yelling for me to come on in. It was a small house and I entered what was a kitchen. From her bathroom I could hear the shower running and she said for me to make myself at home. I left the kitchen and entered her living room sitting on the edge of a couch. I was a bit nervous but determined to look cool when she entered the room so I practiced my cool sitting poses settling on the head tilted to the left, legs crossed, elbows on the sofa arm look. She exited the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her and went strait to her bedroom, missing my really cool sitting pose. She told me to come here. I new then this was it. I was finally gonna get to do the nasty. I entered her room confident in my abilities to meet whatever challenge lay ahead. She was still wearing her towel and told me I would be a lot more comfortable if I got undressed too. I wanted to be comfortable. Comfort is a very important thing. The world would be a better place if more people were comfortable. I shed my cloths in a matter of seconds (she was right I was more comfortable) and as she lay down on the bed she let the towel drop to the floor and she invited me to join her. I did. We kissed and before I knew it the room was spinning and I was screaming like a little girl. When the room finally stopped spinning she kissed me on the forehead and said, “That was you’re first time wasn’t it”? I don’t know how she knew that but I said, ” I gotta go”. I find it hard to believe that nations have been built and nations have fell because of this little ritual that last only mere seconds. It’s also amazing how one can instantly be transformed from a smooth “player” to a bumbling idiot. I jumped from the bed and fell on the floor; I put my shorts on backwards and stubbed my toe while trying to get into my pants. “What’s wrong”, she ask. “Nothing” I responded, “I just gotta go”. “Why” she wondered? ” I got something I forgot to do”, I said. “Will you come back sometime”, she ask? “I don’t know”, was my answer, as I hit the back door. I fell down the back steps ripping my pants; I didn’t care because I had to get out of here before the raft of God hit this place. Why did I do it? I had to get home. I instantly knew that what I had just done had to be categorized as a sin somewhere in the bible. It felt to good to not be a sin. I ran across her yard and that short little fence now looked like the Great Wall of China. I struggled to the top and threw myself over ripping my pants in the process. The weeds and briar’s now looked intimidating as I ran through them but this time without the stealthiest I had before. I may have come here like Rambo but I left like a jackrabbit. It was the second time today that the rabbit analogy would have been an appropriate description of my actions. When I got home I was a bloody mess. I had cuts and bruises all over my arms and my legs. I dropped to my knees and prayed that I wouldn’t get V.D. I promised that I wouldn’t ever do it again. I did though. In fact before the summer was over I had created a path behind her house through all those bushes and briar’s. The internal struggle that she caused me to have may have been just the spark that started my drinking problem.
A Big Favor
I have many a reason to blame women for my faults. Mrs. Gladis had lead me down a path of unrighteousness and the women that entered my life thereafter only compounded this unintended trait that I had assumed. Phillis was one of those women. I was a little more careful about my relationships with women for a while and everything went a little smoother until I was about 17 and I met the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. Phillis. This woman was the sexiest, hottest thing in the south and everybody wanted her but the problem was she was married. I know, I know, I should have already learned this lesson but that is a common trait of a drunk, to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. Phillis was married to a druggie and he was abusive. Phillis was model material. She was voluptuous. I had gotten a job at the local I.G.A. grocery store and I worked in produce, Phillis worked in the bakery. Phillis and I flirted a lot, we had seen each other out at bars before and we new about each other’s tendency to be a little wild. Our working together and this flirting game we played opened the door for me to call her bluff. One day she joked about what she could do for me if I thought I could handle it and I promptly told her that she needed to quit playing because on of these days I was gonna take her up on it and rock her world. I really expected her to laugh it off but instead she said, “O.K. then, Meet me at the Old Town Inn at 3:00 tomorrow and we will see what you got. The Old Town Inn was located in the big city and it was where folks went when they didn’t want to get caught doing things that they ought not to be doing with somebody they ought not to be doing it with. I got there at 3:00 just like I was told, she was already there. Phillis knew she was beautiful and because of that she figured that she didn’t need charm, as soon as I entered the room she started giving me orders. “Wash your hands”, she barked. I looked at this gorgeous creature lying in the bed with a sheet pulled up just past her breast and I did what any red-blooded man would do. I washed my hands. Philis and I did what people do and at this point in my life it did not upset me one bit that I was having an affair with a married woman because that threshold had done been crossed and I had suffered no ill affects. It was what happened as a result of our becoming very close to love that would have that affect. Phillis and I carried on our secret romance for a couple of months until one faithful night when it all came to an end. I had just gotten ready to go to bed one night when Phillis called me and said that she really needed to see me, She stated that she wanted to talk to me about something and if I was in the mood she wanted to get in a quickie too. When it came to Phillis I was always in the mood. We usually met at a hotel but on such short notice we decided to just meet in the wood. Phillis was lovely as usual and we climbed into the back seat and took care of business. When we were finished Phillis said, “I have something very important to ask you”. I assumed it was gonna be for money so she could get away from her marriage or maybe she was going to tell me that she was in love with me. I was starting to fall in love with her but neither of us had said it because of the situation. “Go ahead and ask “, I said. “I need you to kill my husband for me “, She said. I was really gonna miss Phillis.
Jane and I went parking one night for a quickie, we jumped into the back seat and had gotten undressed when we heard a siren and saw a blue light behind us. I dove back into the front seat leaving Jane in the back. I flung her cloths to her, which she scampered to put on and I jumped into mine. I cranked the car and the blue light and the siren went off so I backed the car out of the woods and left the area happy to see that the law wasn’t behind us. Needless to say the mood had passed and we were both very shaken up so on the way home I stopped for a cold beer at what I thought was a country store. A country store is something that is unique to the south. A country store can pop up anywhere; anyone that has a home near a road can throw up a country store. Country stores sell a lot of cigarettes and beer. All country stores have 1 or maybe 2 gas pumps and a few food items such as bread and sodas. There is usually an old dog lying around, a bell on the door and a pothole in the parking lot. Country store have character. I jumped out of the car while Jane waited, I ran into the store, I flung the door open and to my surprise it wasn’t a country store at all, it was a Mexican Juke. Jukes are unique in the South too. Jukes are wanna-be bars. They are usually converted into Jukes from old country stores. You just get rid of the bread and the food items, add a pool table or 2, hang a sign, sell some beer and wait for a fight to break out and as soon as it does you got yourself a juke. Jukes get their name from the fact that they have Jukeboxes that play a variety of tunes that you choose after depositing a quarter into them. Jukes are famous for fights and I had just walked smack dab into one, a Mexican Juke at that. You see Jukes are not famous for being Islands of diversity. Desegregation is discouraged here usually by an ass whooping. All jukes fall into 1 of 3 categories in the south. Black Jukes, Mexican Jukes and Redneck Jukes. I should have taken notice to all of the Spanish signs that were hanging around the outside of the Juke but in my haste to get a beer I didn’t stop to read them. I froze when I saw the pool tables and the bandanna clad hombres that filled the room. I wondered what I should do. I could turn around and run but about that time I saw a cooler full of beer. I contemplated my next move for a second and the beer won out. I entered the pool hall just like I belonged there throwing my chest out and heading strait to the beer cooler, that’s the only way to tackle something like this, show no fear. The pool hall was basically just one large room and there were about 15 or 20 Mexican men playing pool and drinking beer. The chatter that they were engaged in dropped to a whisper when I entered the room. I do recall hearing the word Gringo though. I don’t speak Spanish but I know what a Gringo is. Mexicans and Rednecks don’t get along at all. It wasn’t really the Mexicans fault either. Southerners don’t like strangers and we especially don’t like strangers that refuse to speak English. Mexicans are considered outsiders around here and plainly put that meant they just were not welcome. When you think about it the Mexicans not being welcome just didn’t make a whole lot of sense, because they were here to pick tomatoes, a crop that we southerners planted and when they grew up we refused to pick’em. It is common belief that if someone is speaking in a foreign tongue they are doing so because they have something to hide. They most likely are talking about you and at this particular moment I knew they were talking about me because I was the only Gringo in the room. I reached the beer cooler and surveyed the beer selection when I noticed the whole room was staring at me and not one to be intimidated I choose one medium sized fellow and I stared right back at him until he gave up and looked down at my feet. I figured I had intimidated him so I calmly selected my brew and turned to leave with my walk up to the register counter now a strut. I scanned the room and noticed everyone was looking down at my feet and I concluded very quickly that it probably wasn’t very likely that I had intimidated a whole room full of drunken Mexican tomato pickers. I glanced down to see what everyone was looking at and low and behold I saw that my underwear (fruit of the looms) were sticking half way out of my pants leg and were dragging the floor right behind me, hanging on to my right pants leg by a thread. I had gotten dressed so quickly earlier that I didn’t even have my underwear on and here I was advertising that fact in a Mexican Juke. If the money that these fellows make wasn’t a good enough reason for them to hike across the Rio Grand to America then maybe the display of a cocky little 18-year-old redneck pulling his underwear behind him must have been because the whole room burst into laughter. Spanish laughter even. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse it did, the underwear let go and that presented another problem, do I stop and pick them up or do I continue on to the register as if I didn’t know what happened and let someone else deal with their removal. I continued on to the register. As I paid for the beer a few of the more intoxicated Mexican fellows gathered around my shorts and started pointing at them, as they lay helpless on the floor. The drunk Mexicans were laughing and after I received my change for the beer I decided to rescue my undies. I walked matter-of-factly right back to the spot where my shorts lay and brushing by the growing crowd of underwear gawkers I scooped them up and tucked them into my back pocket and headed for the door. The Mexicans were not ready to let it go at that and they and followed me outside into the parking lot continuing to laugh in Spanish the whole way. I reached the car in a dash and jumped inside as quickly as I could, handing Jane the bag of beer. She turned and saw all the tomato pickers laughing and waving at us and as I peeled off she said, “They seem like a nice bunch of Mexicans”. “Si” I said, I never did tell her about the underware.
Finding my Bottom
Every drunk has a story to tell most of them just can’t remember it. In said story there is always a moment where you can pinpoint the exact time in which you lost control. My story is no different. If someone were to look at my life through a microscope to determine the exact time that I crossed over from being just an average drinker to graduating up to drunk status, I’m sure the moment would have had something to do with Jane Mayo (See excuses). While I will admit that the groundwork was already laid for me to become a drunk (See Peacock History) the fire burning in me was a small one and my relationship with Jane just added fuel to that fire. Let me explain. I was crazy about the girl and she loved her family. Her dad especially. Unfortunately for me he was a drunk too and he already had his degree in drinking. It became clear to me that in order for my relationship with Jane to continue to grow that I needed to impress him. This was easy at first because I was respectful and I was making pretty good money. Lets go back and we will find that exact moment that I lost control of my drinking. I was Produce Manager at I.G.A., which was the largest grocery store in Quincy at the time. Every night that I got off I went over to Janes and had a few beers with her family. I liked the buzz. Her parents smoked and I found that my buzz was enhanced if I took a hit off of a cigarette so I started to smoke completely ignoring those Surgeon General warnings I spoke of earlier. I was grown now and so much smarter or so I thought. Janes father was named Bob and he was a mans man. Bob was one tough Son-of-A-Bitch and I wanted to be just like him. He drank every day so I started to drink every day. With a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other I felt taller. Up until this point I had always tried to conjure up a reputation for myself as being a bad boy but I wasn’t what you would call mean. I was learning fast. One night Jane and I had gone bowling with some friends of ours and we had a little to much to drink. As I was driving home from the bowling alley Jane decided that I had flirted too much with some of the other women there (I probably had) and she started to raise hell. Her tantrum got worse and worse and before I knew it she slapped me. I hit the dashboard of my car and busted it, screaming that she better not ever do that again. So, she slapped me again. This presented a problem. What would a real man do? Hit her back or just take it. All sorts of things ran through my head. If I hit her back and her daddy found out that would be the end of me. If I didn’t hit her back she would think I was a wimp. I was living in the moment so I slapped her back. I had never hit a woman as I had seen Earnest beat the hell out of my mama when he got drunk and I swore that I would never do that but I was breaking all kind of promises to all kinds of people so breaking one to myself probably wouldn’t hurt. I didn’t get the reaction that I had expected. A look of shock came across Janes face and a single tear ran down her cheek. “You hit me”, She said. I remained quite waiting to find out what the repercussions were going to be. “I never saw that side of you”, she said. “I like it”, she purred as she slide closer to me and started to give me the reward that real men sometimes get. Note to self, this was good. Sometimes you just got to whip a little ass to be a real man.
This journey into being a real man and a real drunk got another boost a few weeks later when Janes dad and I went out together one night to do a little gambling and drinking. We went to the Jai-lia fronton that some rich folks from Miami had built here in North Florida right smack dab in the middle of a cow pasture. I guess the plan was to get even richer by taking us country hicks money two dollars at the time. The owner of the Jai-li establishment didn’t fare so well when it came to me. Don’t know what it is but I have always had a knack for money. My problem never has been making it my problem has been keeping it. Even with me being a drunk and spending money by the barrel full I have always been able rebound and make more money. Jai-li was no different. Bob and I went on this particular night to see if we could win enough money for him to be able to pay his rent on the house they were living in. Bob lost all he had. I hit it big, winning about $800 dollars. A reasonable person would have celebrated a little and taken the rest of the winnings home to pay the rent with. Our problem was the celebrating got in the way of being reasonable. Bob was a binge drinker. A binge drinker is someone that will drink for day’s even weeks until they either get arrested or they run completely out of options in obtaining another drink. We went on a binge. My first one. It was fun. There are no rules when you are on a binge drunk. No set time to go to bed. No set time to get up. On a binge drunk sleep is accomplished by passing out and this can be done anywhere. Bob and I went to Tallahassee that night and closed all the bars as they shut down at 2’oclock in the morning. Mr. Mayo being quite proficient in this kind of drinking knew of some white jukes in a the neighboring counties that would stay open all night, allowing the celebration to continue. We visited them all. It seemed that Mr. Mayo was quite popular with the ladies too and even more so since he had a pocket full of money in which I gladly supplied him with. I convinced myself that my stock would go up with Jane because I was bonding with her father and if that meant entertaining a few of these older ladies that Mr. Mayo introduced me to, then all the better. In the end though this binge drunk that I had with Bob was actually the downfall of mine and Janes relationship because I had not taken into account the influence that Mrs. Mayo had over this whole situation. Bob and I eventually ran out of money and we drove all the way back to Quincy to get a check from my house that we would cash and go back to Jai-li to replenish our funds. That was the plan anyway. As we pulled up to my house we ran into Jane and her mother Alma, who was looking for us. Our options were about to run out. Mrs. Mayo was not happy with us at all. Jane wasn’t mad one bit because she had grown up seeing this kind of behavior from her Dad and as far as she was concerned it was just a right of passage that real men were allowed. It kind of made her look up to me. Mrs. Mayo begged Bob to not go back out and so he made the decision that we would end our little binge-drinking episode. While Mrs. Mayo pleaded with Mr. Mayo, she did not take the same course of action with me. She cussed me up one side and down the other. She emphatically told me that her daughter would not marry me because she would see to it that Jane would not be subjected to a life of having to live with a drunk as she had done. I didn’t help the situation because a few weeks’ later Janes brother and I went out one night and we did not come home until the next morning, and this allowed Mrs. Mayo to point out to Jane that I was the common denominator. She was right. I tried to get back into the good graces with Mrs. Mayo, I bought Jane a car and I helped the Mayo’s out by giving them money when they needed it, a light bill here and beer money there, but to no avail. Over time she turned Mr. Mayo against me too and that was the beginning of the end for Jane and I. Mr. Mayo came over to my house drunk one night to kick my ass for some reason or another and we wound up getting into a fight. My cousin who was a police officer was there and he arrested Mr. Mayo. This was not a good thing in Janes eyes of course and for the next few weeks she had to listen to her parents tell her that I was no good. They were right. I wasn’t. I want to take this opportunity to do something that completely goes against the character of a drunk. I want to take responsibility. For a long time I blamed Jane parents for breaking us up but the truth be told it was nobody’s fault but mine. I have already revealed how I cheated on her and how I drank all the time. The Phyllis episode happened while Jane and I were dating too. Once Phyllis put a hickey on my neck and Jane saw it the next day. I convinced Jane that she was the one that did it. I was the bad guy here. I got the big head and thought I was Gods-gift-to-women. I even hit on her sister, Kathy. Kathy was not as popular as Jane but she had humongous ta–tas. Jane didn’t. I just stopped by Kathys house one night while I was drunk and told her that we needed to hook up. We could keep it our secret. She wanted to think about it. Jane eventually found out about all of this and presented me with an ultimatum. We get married so she could get away from her house or we break up. I wasn’t ready to slow down with my party life and get married so I told her that we should break up. I thought she was bluffing. She wasn’t. Jane was engaged to be married to someone else in less that a month. I was crushed. I hit the deep end and this is the moment that I put everything I had learned about drinking to good use. It was own now.
It wasn’t long before I had a reputation as being the town drunk. Well Jr. drunk anyway. The title of town drunk belonged to a married couple that everyone in town everyone called Six-pack and Half-pint. They walked the streets and begged for change. In Quincy they were a fixture, kind of like Otis of Mayberry fame. They were made fun of and looked down on. Six-pack and Half-pint were quite pitiful and I looked down on them too, which is kind of ironic since they were only making a path that I would walk down myself. I quit working at the I.G.A. and got a job at a gas station mostly to get away from Jane since she still worked at the grocery store. Besides pumping gas is a much more appropriate job for a drunk than being a produce Manager. The hours at the gas station fit my drinking schedule much better anyway as I didn’t have to be at work until 2’oclock in the afternoon and was off at 10’oclock that night which was just in time to go out drinking again. I was closing the bars every night and getting so drunk I could barely walk. It got to the point that I didn’t want to stop drinking when the white bars closed, so this is where I discovered the fact that blacks jukes would be open all night and that I could get a bottle. The law in Gadsden County stated that all establishments that sold alcohol had to be closed at 2’oclock in the morning but this was during the early 1980’s when crack cocaine had invaded the landscape and the black jukes were making a handsome profit off of its sale and when you are selling crack cocaine getting caught for selling liquor after hours is not a big concern. Racism played a huge part in this situation as well. The County Sheriff was white, W.A. Woodham was his name and he pretty much had the feeling that he wasn’t going to send his men down to them black jukes into harms way to stop their illegal behavior because as long as them folks were just killing each other it was no concern of the decent folks. I am not saying the Mr. Woodham was a racist, he was a politician and in many cases that can be a lot worse. In order for me to be able to continue to drink I was going to a place that even the police thought was to dangerous at 3’oclock in the morning. I had friends here; people that I had went to school with who had either became drunks too or had made selling crack cocaine a career choice. Like I said I have always had a knack for making money and this situation presented itself with unique opportunity for me to make some cash in which I could continue to party with. I was to scared to sell crack besides being the only white dude out here this late at night it would not have taken long for someone to just take my supply from me so I recognized another way to cash in. There was a loose network of Jukes that sold crack and after hours liquor here in Gadsden County, Busy B, Bookwoods and The Blue Moon Lounge just to name a few. I discovered that none of the dealers understood the concept of price versus demand. I could fill that void and make a few dollars so I could keep drinking. If the dealers at one of the Jukes ran out of product I would load them up in my car and take them across town to another Juke where they could purchase more of the drug and then I would bring them back to their starving clientele where they could charge twice the price they had just paid. I would do this for a small charge of course, which I would quickly exchange for another bottle of liquor. Everybody was happy.
After a few years of this my reputation as the town drunk was fully intact. My mama would hear about my late night adventures and she was embarrassed. She worked at the same grocery store that she had worked at for years and people would come in and tell her in front of everybody how they had seen me falling down drunk. Mama is not only a hardworking woman but she is proud too. She tried everything she could to stop me from drinking but all she could do was watch my downward spiral. Eventually my drinking caused me to loose job after job and my drinking had gotten so out of hand that it was out of the question for me to live at home. Mama helped me get a trailer at Holmes Trailer Park and I would say that this was the low point in my life except there were to many low points to give that distinction to just one period. For a variety of reasons this little place became my own personal little hell. For one, the locks on the doors did not work and therefore there was absolutely no security and when you are a drunk and you are living in an environment full of drunks then security is a must. Adding to my purgatory was the fact that Mrs. Mayo was now my next door neighbor and every time I stumbled out the door of my house she was there to remind me that she had predicted that I was going to be nothing but a drunk. Mr. Mayo had been killed in a car accident on the Florida Skyway Bridge and Mrs. Mayo had taken up with another fellow who lived in the trailer park. I didn’t help matters with her because I went fishing with another son of hers one day and while at the pond I ran out of liquor whereas I borrowed his car to go and get some more and I completely totaled it, which gave Mrs. Mayo another reason to hate me. I lost my license for that wreck so I had to walk everywhere I went including work. The park was located next to a railroad track and so I would hit the tracks everyday to walk to wherever I needed to go. I was quite aware that everybody saw me walking the tracks and that they were developing an opinion about me and my fall from being the most popular guy in school. I was now the town hobo. My drinking soon outpaced my common sense but it probably wasn’t much of a race to begin with. I drank heavy every day and I drank hard liquor. Drinking alcohol in itself never really presented itself as a problem; running out of alcohol was the problem. Withdrawal it’s called. Regular drinkers have what is called a hangover but I had long bypassed the simple hangover and now when I was forced to stop drinking by finances my body would crave the alcohol that it had become so accustomed to and my inability to replenish it sent my nervous system into a frenzy. I would be in the bed in my trailer going through the sweets and the shakes as my body tried its best to detoxify itself. Night was the worst time of all because that meant sleep, which doesn’t come easy during withdrawal. Every time I would manage to drop off to sleep I would see demons and ghost coming to get me. For the first time in my life I experienced fear. Most of the demons were imagined but in fact some of them were real because as the locks on my doors did not work and I had become a pushover to the other neighborhood drunks my house was invaded many a time whenever a fellow drunk needed a toilet or bed or something else to drink. I would wake up covered in sweet as the alcohol was finding a way out of my body through my pores only to find that the demon in which I was dreaming about was only an illusion but just as likely the it was another drunk who had let himself into my quarters to cuss me out for one reason or another. It would take days for me to recover from these bouts with alcohol and the less interaction I had with other humans the better I liked it. On more than one occasion my mama rushed me to the hospital because she had happened by and she thought I was going to die. The hospital would hook me up with an IV that would replenish my body with the nutrients that the alcohol had robbed from it due to my drinking for weeks at the time. I remember one time as the nurse was standing over me she said to another nurse that she didn’t know why they even bothered keeping me alive. She wondered out loud that it would probably be better it they just put alcohol in the IV and let me stay drunk because that seemed to be what I wanted to do. Now I’m sure that she meant that as a put down but I remember thinking, “Can we do that”?
My time at the trailer park was short lived because my mama hated to see me be a victim as I was on most days. I had taken over from Six-pack and Half-pint the position of town drunk and I understood how they felt being treated as less than human. My physical condition was such that I did not have the ability to defend my honor or myself so mama moved me back to the trailer behind Big Mama’s house (The greatest person who ever lived). Mama had inherited Big Mama’s place after she passed away and she figured I would be as safe there as anywhere and at least I would have a roof over my head. It was a convenient arrangement for me because the property was only 5 doors down from a liquor store. I didn’t have a job but mama kept food in my cupboards and the lights on in the trailer and with the bar so close by I had all I needed. I made money by doing odd jobs around the neighborhood and if I was on a really good drunk I wasn’t against selling the steaks and pork chops from the freezer that mama had supplied me with. One day I needed a drink real bad in order to postpone the withdrawals but I had no money. I walked up to the liquor store in hopes of finding someone who would I could beg a couple of bucks from so I could buy myself a half-pint. I approached a fellow that I thought was a good candidate to borrow from and ask him if I could get two dollars from so I could get rid of this hangover. I recognized him as a man named Bruce but I couldn’t recall his last name. He was younger than me but I called him sir anyway because I needed him at this particular moment. Bruce was headed into the liquor store so I had just figured that he would understand my desire to avoid a hangover and he would gladly deposit two dollars into my hand. It didn’t go down quite like I had expected. Bruce may have drank on occasion but I soon found out that he didn’t particularly like full time drunks like me and he proceeded to tell me so calling me every name in the book including but not limited to white trash. I knew I was white trash, I didn’t need to be reminded of that, what I needed was two dollars so like a wiped puppy I turned to walk away and that is when Bruce did something that makes this story worth repeating. He spat on me. You don’t have to be from the South to know that spitting on someone is the ultimate insult because I believe it is an international putdown but around here it is cause for an ass whooping. I just didn’t have the energy. I needed a drink. Liquid courage. A man, whom I didn’t even know, saw the whole in incident and told me to come here. He ask me what I wanted and I explained that I just needed a half-pint of liquor to rid myself of this terrible hangover. He bought me a pint. Nice fellow he was. It all worked out anyway. As for Bruce our paths would cross a few years latter but the circumstances would be quite different.
Like I have said, I always gave 100% in whatever I was doing and that included baseball or any sport activity I was participating in. I was pretty good at the sport in my day (That in itself is a shame that a 23-year-old would say in my day) and this is important because as luck would have it the Faceville Independent Baptist church was looking for a baseball coach. I was bouncing back and forth between living in the trailer I grew up in that was parked behind Big Mama’s (The greatest person who ever lived) old house and living with my mom and step-father, Harry. They lived on a small farm in the edge of Georgia, a stone’s throw from the Florida line, literally. Some people would argue that the Good Lord intervened and provided the church for me but I would be more likely to give the credit to Mrs. Agnes Prince. (A fair compromise would be to say the Good Lord sent Agnes to intervene on my behalf) Agnes was the matriarch of this small block country church which was located just inside the State of Georgia and she was on a mission to save souls. I think my soul offered her something of a challenge. An invitation was extended to me to come and start a softball team at the church that could participate in the local church league. I accepted the position because I still considered myself to be pro material. After I spent a good deal of time organizing the team Mrs. Agnes informed me that I needed to attend church every Sunday if I wanted to keep my position as head coach.. Mrs. Agnes was a small framed older lady who didn’t mince words. She was married to a tough leather-skinned farmer named Toby who mostly stood in the background and occasionally offered his opinion which usually consisted of “You better do as she says”. Toby and Agnes had found the Lord because some 30 odd years earlier they had lost a daughter in a farming accident when she was riding with Toby on a tractor and fell off and was run over. They were intent on seeing her again in Heaven and Agnes wanted to approach the golden gates with an army of souls that she had single handily converted. Mrs. Agnes saw me less of Softball coach and more of a soldier. Though I attended church every Sunday that didn’t stop me from partaking in my rough neck activities because I would still stay out all hours of the night and to take the edge off before church I usually visited one of the black Jukes that offered the alcohol my body desperately needed. At church I thanked God that the black Jukes opened early.
Little did I know at the time but through these doors I would find a path to heaven but first I had to go through hell. I met two young ladies here the first Sunday I went to church. One of the young ladies was a bit flirtatious and she didn’t mind letting everyone know that she was willing to provide you with her own version of heaven. O.K. she was a whore. Yes, there are whores in church. I think the bible even has a whore or two in it. The other young lady was exactly the opposite. I don’t remember the first young ladies name which should be a warning to all loose women but the second young ladies name was Tina. The first time I saw Tina she was singing in the choir and man could this lady sing. I remember having an instant attraction to her and for the first time in my life I had thoughts about a female that weren’t carnal. I wanted to be around her because she was everything I wasn’t. Pure. There was nothing fake about her and when she spoke to you she didn’t have a motive in what she was saying. Everybody has motives in what they want from you, even the Princes. They needed my soul. Tina didn’t. Like I said, “Pure”. Tina McDaniel was her name and she did have her faults with the leading one being that she was naïve. Easy for me to exploit. It wasn’t long before we were dating. Dating redefined of course. Dating to me meant that my girl and I went to bars and got drunk. This wasn’t going to happen with Tina. Our first date we went to church together and even then some of her relatives were sitting behind us just to make sure we were where we were supposed to be. I needed Tina. Up until this point in my life I always made sure that the girl on my arm was beautiful. I wore them like a new pair of jeans. I felt like my having a beautiful girl said something about me. Tina was not only beautiful but she was also legit. Tina was respected. Respect was something that I did not have because I had spent any respect I was born with at the liquor store. Eventually Tina’s parents let us go to the occasional movie together but I had to have her home by nine o’clock, which was fine with me because as soon as I dropped her off I would head straight to the Horseshoe lounge for a night of partying. I kept the two worlds separated as much as I could with the only evidence against me was that on Sunday morning at church I usually smelled like a fifth of liquor. Church folk and the Bar hoppers do not mingle together very much so keeping my two lives separated was a pretty easy balancing act. I had everybody fooled. Everybody except Willie McDaniel. Willie was Tina’s father and he wasn’t easily fooled. He had figured out my game from the beginning but he was giving me and Tina just enough rope to hang ourselves. Mr. McDaniel was one of those rare people who knew you couldn’t tell somebody not to do something stupid; you had to let them find out for themselves. Mr. Mac had advised Tina that I was up to no good but he was willing to let her make her own mistakes. I was that mistake. His point was proven one night when I took Tina out on a date and I had a bottle hidden under the seat that I would take a gulp from whenever opportunity presented itself. Smell and behavior gave me away and Tina asked me to take her home which I promptly did. As we sit in her driveway she told me that she knew that I had been drinking and she didn’t appreciate me driving with her in the car while I was drunk. Being the real man who I was I informed her that nobody was going to tell me not to drink. Nobody. With that I reached under the seat and pulled out the pint that I had been sipping from and promptly downed the whole bottle. I wiped my mouth and told Tina that she wanted a real man and that’s how real men drink. I cranked up the car with my plans being to head to the bar for a good night of drinking. Tina ran into the house crying. I ran into the ditch. Mr. McDaniel heard all the commotion and called the police. My car was upside down in a culvert when the officer arrived and it should have been an easy D.U.I. for him but for some reason after he talked to Mr. McDaniel the officer called a wrecker to pull my car out of the ditch and he took me home. Mr. Mac had seen enough, he told Tina she was no longer allowed to see me.
Mama and Harry (Mostly mama) had moved me back to the trailer full-time as they had tired of my drinking. I didn’t have a job but I did have a piece of a car. I was now officially a full-time drunk. I did odd jobs around the neighborhood for money to keep drinking. Between the jobs and my ability to hustle I could stay pretty drunk. When my money ran completely out I always had plan B. Actually I had plan B and C. That was Tina and Mama. Mama would keep me in food because like I said she worked at a grocery store and she would bring me plenty of food to keep in the fridge, When my funds got low enough I would sell the food to buy what I felt was more important-liquor. Tina had not taken the advice of her father and she’d sneak around and see me and she would “loan” me money or I would catch her not looking and I would help myself to her wallet. I had a phone only because she paid the bill so we could still talk because our time together was limited since she was told to no longer see me. I would occasionally see Mr. McDaniel drive by my house looking for her but he never did catch her there. The creeks and strange sounds that a trailer makes that frightened me as a child now scared the hell out of me because I was most of the time in the state of withdrawal. Everybody thought I was crazy. Hell I thought I was crazy. I remember one day mama and I were sitting at my (her) dinner table at the trailer and she was trying to understand why drank like I did. I was hung over with the shakes as usual and for some reason or another we were trying to remember a phone number. The number popped into my head and with great pride I told mama what it was. She started to cry. It was tears of joy. She was overcome with a revelation that I wasn’t crazy after all. I wasn’t so sure. There were plenty of examples as to why I could be deemed as crazy. Senator Pat Thomas lived a couple of houses down from me and one day while I was in particular need of a drink I got into my car and drove to his house. I rang the doorbell and Mrs. Thomas answered. That’s not who I wanted to see. I liked Mr. Thomas and I knew Mrs. Thomas didn’t like me ever since I kicked her sons ass in a neighborhood brawl. Oh and the fact that I was the neighborhood drunk probably didn’t help either. I cut straight to the chase telling her that I needed a drink so I ask her if she would “loan” me a few dollars. Ironically Mrs. Thomas gave me five dollars but told me I had better not drive to the liquor store which was right beside her house. She said if I did that she would call the police. I concluded that I would be long gone before the sheriff could respond so I took the money and drove to the liquor store. In calculating my escape I neglected to evaluate the fact that the sheriff department was getting a call about me from the wife of a State Senator which I now know carries higher call to action than a call from a regular Mrs. Joe. I did make it home before the deputy arrived so I just hid in the closet until he left and I continued to drink but they were on the look for me. Later that night while I was in a drunken stupor I called 911 and told them that they better not come back to my house again or else I would blow a hole in one of them. They came anyway. The officer who responded was Tina’s first cousin, Jeff and he wasn’t too fond of me from the get go. He fired his gun outside to scare away my dog who didn’t like them being there any more than I did and then promptly kicked in my back door. I was thrown-or fell, depending on whose version you believe-out the back door landing on my face. The officers took me to jail in my underwear and called the High Sheriff who told them to take me to P.A.T.H. which is an acronym for the crazy house. When I got home the next day Tina was there. That’s all I got to say about that. Tina was still there.
This carried on for about three or four years with plenty of reasons for Mama and Tina to give up on me especially since I had given up on myself but they never did. I had gotten another DUI and was sentenced to six months in a treatment center in Westville Florida in which Tina would sneak around and come see me. This was my second treatment center as I had already done 30 days in Avon Park. Westville Treatment Center was more of a work farm and less of a treatment center. The whole facility consisted of a cook shed and a double wide trailer. For some reason I just couldn’t get away from houses on wheels. The facilitator of this treatment center was a woman in her late 50’s and if she knew anything about staying sober she should have used it on herself because every time I met with her she was drunk. We spent most of our days either working in her garden or manicuring her yard. There were 10 to 15 grown men stacked on top of one another in this trailer but we weren’t complaining because almost every night one of us would sneak out and bring back something to drink. After about three months of this circus I had finally had enough and so one day I called some higher-ups and told them just how bad the situation was. The next day I was handcuffed and sent back before the Judge who sentenced me to six months. He asked me if I was cured. I told him, “Yes Sir, I was”. I wasn’t.
I headed back to my trailer and to my old ways with Mama and Tina the only people left in the world that still believed in me. Why they stuck with me is a question better ask of them because to this day I still couldn’t tell you. I went back to my old ways of staying drunk and of making money by running the crack dealers around so they could fetch their merchandise. I wouldn’t say that I ever got addicted to crack. I wouldn’t say I ever even tried it but the fact that I woke up many a morning and with a television missing or a whole in the wall where an air conditioner use to be suggested that I probably did. In those particular cases my black-outs came in rather handy. I did have moments of brilliance though like the night I took a guy up to the drug hole to buy some crack and when the dealer ran up to my side of the car I flashed a twenty-dollar bill to let him know I was a customer. The dealer snatched the money out of my hands and ran off into the darkness. I quickly weighed my options and decided that a white boy chasing a black drug dealer at an all black juke probably wasn’t my best option. Though that particular deduction was a pretty good decision I would make and even better one before the night was over. You see, this drug dealer had not only taken my money but since there was about three of us in the car he had also bruised my pride in front of my boys. That was unforgivable. I said nothing as I cranked up my car and drove all the way back to the trailer whereby I went inside and retrieved my 12 gauge shotgun. I drove back to the juke and circled the block until I saw the son-of-a-bitch that had stolen my money and my pride. I told all three of the other guys to get into the front seat and I lay down in the back with the barrel of the gun pointed out of the window. I had loaded the gun with a slug and if you don’t know what a slug is, I’ll just say that it was sufficient enough to do more than twenty dollars worth of damage to his ass. I leveled my gun and placed the sight dead on the drug dealer’s chest and then I pulled back the hammer. He never saw me. He was too busy hitting his crack pipe that was full of the drug that I had just purchased for him. I watched as he blew out a plum of white smoke and a look of euphoria came across his face. I could change that feeling in less than a second by just squeezing the trigger. I just sat there watching him. The guys in the front seat were whispering, “Do it”, and “Shoot Him”, but I just sat there. Finally I allowed my thumb to ease the hammer back into the safety position and that is when I had that brilliant decision I alluded to. A decision that saved two people’s lives that night. I said, “Let’s go home”.
I had held down a welding job for quite a while but eventually lost it because one day when I was a tad more drunk than usual I almost flipped a forklift that I was driving too fast on inside the shop. Mama and Tina held it together for me by keeping a roof over my head and love in their hearts for me. Finally one day Mama had enough and she came by the trailer and she was on a mission. She said that she had a plan for me. Mama told me that she was going broke trying to get me strait and it was time that I helped out in some way and she figured that since I couldn’t hold a job that I needed to file for food stamps and disability or welfare or something so I could contribute to the cause. I was taken aback. I was just too proud to be on food stamps. I threw a fit. What would people think if they found out I was on disability? What would they think if they saw me using foods stamps? Mama never one to bite her tongue said, “They probably wouldn’t say anything any worse than they say when they see you laying drunk in the ditch. She had a good point. I gave her my best arguments but to no avail. You see when someone is paying your way you are obliged to do pretty much whatever they tell you to do, especially when it affords you with the ability to stay drunk. I saw this as the first time that she was putting her foot down and making me do something for myself. She had spent years paying my way and bailing me out of jail and trying to keep me out of trouble. Finally she was trying to get me to do something for myself. I guess she figured me being a burden to society would at least shift some of the burden off of her. It didn’t quite work out though. The food stamp office gave me $10 dollars and the Social Security office where I applied for disability turned me down. That was the best damn thing that ever happened to me.
Eventually mama came up with a plan that she would pay for me to go to barber school. I was 24 years old at the time and I had no future and my past wasn’t much to speak of either. I had two uncles that had done well in the barber business and they owned their own shop in Venice Florida. She did pay for the first semester of barber school but I soon found out through the campus gossip mill that since I was on food stamps I could easily qualify for a grant that would not only pay for my tuition to barber school but it would also provide me with a stipend of about $350 per semester. I could have used the money to pay Mama back since she had done so much for me. Seriously? I partied my ass off once a month. Actually I partied the whole time I was in barber school but with the grant money I was able to tie a really good one on. This whole time Tina was still there. She still believed in me. Tina is the only person in the whole world who has been able to talk to me without saying a word. Her eyes have always said to me that she believed in me. Even when I didn’t deserve it.
Every drunk has a story to tell some are just better than others. I have quite a few. These stories range from the time that I first started drinking until I was a full-blown drunk. My intention is to show how alcohol can not only do the obvious which is make you drunk but that it can also change who you are. I am an optimist at heart and I have never had a negative attitude about anything. Alcohol was changing that. I didn’t want to feel so I drank and doing things that went against my natural outlook on life was just a side effect that I had to accept. Others had to accept it too. A lot of people got unnecessarily hurt during my drinking days especially women. I considered it collateral damage.
I was watching T.V. one night with Big-Mama (The greatest person who ever lived) and as usual I was drinking .I was dating Jane and normally I would have been over at her house but on this particular evening for some reason I had decided to spend it with Big-Mama. We were watching the 11:00 news because this was before cable and that was about all that was on television at that time of night. The local news was reporting that at about 12:00 there would be a shower of falling stars in the northern sky. They advised the viewers that anyone that was interested in watching this celestial display should sit in a clear area and look toward the north heavens and they would be entertained by this natural display. I was drunk and I wanted to be entertained so I did just that, I went outside and found an area that I considered an advantageous viewing point and I turned toward the north sky and waited. Nothing. 12:15, Nothing. 12:30 still nothing. Not that my time was wasted because while I was waiting on this heavenly show I did manage to down about a pint of liquor. As I became more intoxicated I also became angrier at that no-good T.V. station for wasting my valuable time and I decided to call them and give them a piece of my mind. In all honesty I must admit that by the time I had drank all that liquor I couldn’t have told you up from down much less North from South so in all probability I had just missed the shooting stars but a drunk never lets rational thinking get in the way of having a good argument. I felt like that T.V. station owed me at least one good shooting star and I was intent on collecting. I looked the number up and I called. The Stations Producer answered the phone and before she had a chance to say a word I lit into her telling her that they had completely ruined my evening by convincing me to look for shooting stars. I told her that just like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin I had been stood up and I was greatly disappointed. I expected an argument but I think she liked the Linus comment and all I got was a giggle and it was the cutest, sexist giggle I had ever heard. I instantly change tactics. I explained to this beautiful voice that I was the Produce Manager at the local I.G.A. and that my time was money. She apologized and was very agreeable with me saying that even though the T.V. station was being flooded with calls thanking them for telling the public about the skyward light show that maybe the stars just were not visible from my vantage point. She had a voice that was not only sexy but agreeable too. I liked that. We talked for a while and I ask her out and she told me that she was about to be off of work and if I thought I could get to Tallahassee which was about 20 miles away then we could go out for a nightcap. I thought I could. I hit the road and since we had planed to meet in the parking lot of a Publix Grocery I pointed my cat that way and drove like a bat out of hell. A side note to this little adventure was the fact that I only had a small window of opportunity because Jane stopped by my house every morning at about 7:00 and had breakfast with me and Big-Mama (The greatest person who ever lived). I whipped the car into the Publix parking lot only to find that nobody was there. I decided to wait because I knew she would show up since I had been so debonair and impressive, especially given the fact that I had revealed that I was Produce Manager. I.G.A. wouldn’t trust their Produce to just anybody. Managing Produce was a very important position. Produce was a delicate commodity and it needed to be managed. I saw lights up ahead. I had explained to her that I had a nice car because I had bought myself a Cutlass Supreme and that I would be parked near the front of the store. The light from the approaching car pulled up right in front of me-it was her. I got out of my car and walked over to her car. My first indication that this wasn’t going as planned was the fact that the compact car she was riding in was leaning heavily toward the driver’s side. I hoped it was bad shocks. It wasn’t. When she opened the door of her car and stepped out of the vehicle it immediately leveled itself back out. I had never heard a car make a sigh of relief before but in fact that’s what all the squeaks and squawks sounded like as she exited the poor little compact car. This was one big woman who probably topped the scales at about 350 pounds on a good day. “Jessica,” I asked. “Yes are you Garry,” she replied in that same sweet sexy voice I had heard over the phone? I thought to myself that there had to be some kind of mistake. Somewhere there was a beautiful woman walking around that had a voice like Earnest Bordine. I immediately knew that I did not want to be seen with this woman so I told her that I didn’t want to go to a bar and get a nightcap because I had already had to much to drink to be in public. “That’s all right,” she explained, “We could go back to her house since she had some liquor and have our nightcap and I could spend the night, so I wouldn’t have to drive all the way back home since it was so late. I don’t know to this day if it was the offer of liquor or the sweet sounding voice that got me but either way I agreed. We got back into our respective vehicles and I followed her leaning car back to her apartment, which was just around the corner. We entered what was a small but very neat and clean apartment and as promised she had a bottle of liquor that we quickly polished off as I entertained her with jokes and stories and she entertained me with that sexy giggle. Finally we decided it was time for bed and being the gentleman that I am I said that I would sleep on the couch but she said that wasn’t necessary that I was more than welcome to join her in her bed. I followed the giggle. We stumbled into her bedroom and I climbed onto her bed. It was a waterbed. I had never been on a waterbed and being as drunk as I was it was hard for me to get my balance and I bobbed up and down like a cork on open water. I wrestled my cloths off as I lay on the waterbed, which only made me bounce up and down even more, and she was getting undressed while watching me and giggling. It was the sexiest giggle I had ever heard. The funny situation got the best of sexy voice and she just plopped all 350 pounds onto that waterbed. The sudden redistribution of water shot my 120 pounds up into the air and I found myself flying across the room finally landing on top of a dresser drawer in what can only be described as a very unflattering position. The impact of my aerial assault hurt my knee and “sexy voice” had to help me down from my landing strip. “I’m sorry,” she said, “Are you hurt,” she wondered. “I’m O.K.,” I answered. This little incident should have been enough of a warning that what we were trying to accomplish was pretty much physically impossible but the effects of the alcohol kept us forging on. I slowly and very carefully eased myself onto the waterbed because of my new injury. She slowly and very carefully eased herself onto the waterbed because of her newfound nautical knowledge and the effect that buoyancy can have on the surface of an aquatic filled apparatus due to the sudden redistribution of water. We started to kiss. “Since you are hurt do you want me on top,” she asked. “No,” I barked, slightly overstating the obvious. I reached over and turned out the light totally enveloping us in darkness. “Would you do me a favor,” I ask? “What,” she wondered? “Just keep talking,” I answered. That voice was something else.
I woke up the next morning hung over and jumped into my cloths without even saying goodbye to “sexy voice” and raced home just in time to jump into my bed fully clothed before Jane arrived. She didn’t have a clue. I never did call “sexy voice” again and I put the whole affair out of my mind until the holidays rolled around and I was having Christmas dinner over at Jane’s house with her and her parents. The television was on the local station, which was airing a commercial wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. The commercial was such that all of the stations employees were waving at the camera as they wished their viewers a happy holiday. The T.V. was located behind Jane in such a way that I could see it just over her shoulder and all of a sudden a close-up of “sexy voice” wearing a Santa’s hat and waving at the camera appeared. I dropped my fork as my vision centered on both of them. I got an uncharacteristic feeling of guilt. Jane the beautiful girl who loved me, and “sexy voice” the wonderful lady looking for love had both become victims of my drinking and unscrupulous behavior. Like I said, “collateral damage.”
Drunks and Fools
Some folks don’t believe the David and Goliath story in the Bible because Goliath was described as a giant and most folks just don’t believe in giants. Those folks never met Robert Hathcock. Robert was one overgrown redneck. I had gone to school with Robert and he was a troublemaker, he got kicked out of every private school in the county so he was forced by his father to attend the public school with us poor folks. Robert looked harmless enough with his black-rimmed glasses kind of like Clark Kent-Superman’s alter ego; he was anything but harmless though. Robert Hathcock was mean as hell. The Horseshoe Lounge was the favorite bar in Quincy for all the local rednecks and one night after last call when the patrons were spilling out into the parking lot a drunk Robert decided that his night out would not be complete until he whooped somebody’s ass. To be more precise, he needed to whoop my ass. I was with a friend of mine named Bobby Alday and Robert was with some guy I didn’t even know who was almost as big as Robert was. For some reason or another I found myself all alone facing down these two overgrown drunks. I was drunk too and not quite as big as I thought I was. Robert took a swing at me and I ducked which made him loose his balance and fall to the ground right in front of everybody, which cause the crowd to laugh. You don’t embarrass Robert Hathcock and live to tell about it. As he was getting up to beat the hell out of me my friend Bobby reappeared, pulling up next to us in my car and blowing the horn as a signal for me to jump in. Robert had made it to his feet, which left little time for me to make my escape so I did my best Dukes of Hazard impression and dove into the window of the car as Bobby sped away. Robert and his friend jumped into one of their cars and started to pursue us. When we sped up they sped up and we were in a cat and mouse chase for about an hour. I didn’t like being the mouse so I decided that it was time for an equalizer. As luck would have it I had my 12-gauge shotgun laying on the back seat of the car so I reached back there and retrieved it. Big-Mama (The greatest person who ever lived) always said that the Good Lord takes care of Drunks and Fools and that I was working him overtime. It was hunting season so the floorboard of my car was scattered with a variety of shells for me to choose from depending on the amount of damage I wanted to cause. I loaded the gun with birdshot as I wanted to scare our pursuers not kill them. Bobby let out a rebel yell as I rolled down the window of the car and leaned out of the vehicle and aimed the gun toward the pursuing car. I told Bobby to slow down and he did. They got so close to us that I could see our taillights reflecting off of their front windshield. I thought for a moment about shooting out the windshield but decided against it and at the last second I raised the gun over their car and pulled the trigger as a sort of warning shot. I saw fire coming out of the end of the barrel. It only took one shot. They slammed on brakes and turned around and Bobby and I yelled and celebrated the fact that we had defeated the twin giants. About a week later I was in the car with my Mama going somewhere when she noticed a white boy walking down the side of the road in the middle of nowhere that she recognized as Robert Hathcock and not knowing about my confrontation with him just days earlier she decided to stop and give him a ride. This put me in quite a predicament. I didn’t know why Robert was walking along the side of the road instead of driving unless perhaps his car had been sidelined by my gunshot a couple days earlier and if that was the case he wasn’t gonna to happy. Mama pulled up next to him and asks him if he wanted a ride and Robert opened the back door and got in. “Where you going,” mama asks him? “Home,” he replied. Robert was a person of few words. I don’t think he knew many. “Where is your car,” my curious mother wondered? “Daddy made me park it till I get a job,” was his reply. I was glad to hear that.” “Say hey to Robert, Garry,” my unsuspecting mother said to me. “Hey Robert,” I said. “Yep,” he responded. Not one word did Robert say about our altercation just four nights earlier. It would have been a quite ride to his house except for the fact that mama was talking about how long she had known the Hathcocks and that she just thought the world of them or something like that. When we finally reached Roberts house he exited the car and thanked mama for the ride. “He really is a nice boy” mama said as she backed out of his driveway. “I guess” I replied. Less than two weeks later Robert killed his father with a sawed off shotgun. He is doing life in prison. I was lucky that night. Drunks and Fools.
When I lived down South in Sarasota I wrecked my car while I was drinking but the accident happened right in front of a friend of mines home so I got out and ran over to his house so the police wouldn’t find me. The car was full of liquor bottles so I was charged with D.U.I. anyway. I was convicted and sentenced to county jail. I swore to myself that I would not let that happen again. First, I examined my options. I could quit drinking or I could find a better way to hide my liquor when I was in the car. The first option really wasn’t viable so I chose the latter. I can’t remember how I came up with the idea but I found a way to eliminate the bottle all together. I removed the plastic bottle that is located underneath the hood of the car and holds the window washer fluid and sanitized it. After cleaning it I put it back into its original position. The bottle was connected to a hose that delivered a blast of water to the front window whenever the washer button on the steering wheel was pressed so that the windshield could be cleaned. I figured clean windshields were over rated so I rerouted this hose threw the dash into the cab of the car and taped it to the steering column, pointing it down toward the floor of the car. I then filled the water bottle under the hood with liquor and presto I had a rolling bar. Problem solved. I could now drive down the road and fill my cup full of liquor with the push of a button. No liquor bottle needed. I had thought of it all. This worked perfectly except for one tiny detail. I got another D.U.I.
My life in Sarasota produced a lot of stories that would be quite entertaining to tell at a later date but certainly not at the time that they were happening. When I first got there I had decided to make the best of it and I had stopped drinking because I wanted to prove that I could make it own my own. I had gotten an apartment right across from the beach and a job at a septic tank company so all that was missing was some female companionship. I met a girl one day just walking down the street. She was window-shopping and I stopped to ask her something or another mostly to try and jump-start a conversation. It worked. Her name was Hope. I thought that was quite appropriate because if I needed anything it was Hope. She gave me her address and invited me over for supper one night but she told me that she had an infant son in case I decided that I didn’t want to get involved with a single mother. I didn’t matter to me. I showed up at her apartment on the designated time and date completely sober and entered what was a very cozy and neat apartment. Hope had on a checkered apron as she was cooking and the first place she took me was to her son’s room where he was sleeping in his crib. His name was Stephen and he was about 8 months old. Hope escorted me to the living room and told me to have a seat on the couch as she headed back to the kitchen to finish cooking supper. The Television was on but the volume was down low so we could continue our conversation. This girl had thought of everything. There was even a can of cheese whiz on a fancy plate neatly surrounded by crackers sitting on the coffee table. Or devours I thought. This girl had class. As we talked I munched on the cheese and crackers until I had just about polished them all off. After eating the lovely dinner she had prepared we sat on the couch and talked some more. Soft music was now playing in the background and I decided it was time for me to make my move. Hope decided it wasn’t. She brushed away my advances and told me that she wanted me to respect her and for that reason we had to wait. She explained that she had only been with one other person and that was the father of her son. She stated that if we continued to have wonderful evenings like the one we had tonight then someday we would give in to our desires but she wasn’t ready for that type of commitment yet. She also said that she would give me a sign that she was ready when that day came. That day wasn’t coming fast enough for me. We dated for about a month with the same scene taking place over and over. Go to Hopes apartment, eat cheese and crackers, have a good meal and then be told she wasn’t ready. Come back tomorrow for same. I kept looking for that sign she told me about but I never saw it. I had been on my best behavior for this girl by not drinking and it had gotten me nowhere so on our next date I decided that I would have a few drinks before I arrived. As per my usual drinking behavior I had too much. I arrived drunk. I stumbled into her apartment but this time something was different. She wasn’t cooking. She was in the bathroom and she told me to make myself at home, so I went to the living room to help myself to some of the cheese and crackers that were always waiting for me on the fancy plate. I found the squeeze bottle in its normal position but there were no crackers so I went to the kitchen and got a box and returned to the living room and was in the process of putting the cheese on top of the cracker when Hope came out of the bathroom. She was dressed in a sexy little red negligee and she had a glass of wind in each hand. She saw me topping the crackers with what I thought was cheese and she asked me what I was doing. “I’m eating cheese and crackers,” was my reply. “That’s not cheese,” she said. “It’s spermicide,” she laughed, “And it doesn’t go on a cracker,” she concluded. I must have looked rather foolish but drinking tends to do that to a person. Hope had placed the can of contraception where the cheese normally was placed as a sign to me that tonight was the night but in my current state of drunkenness I had failed to pick up on that little clue. We laughed at my mistake as it’s not everyday a girl gets to see a guy putting spermicide on top of a cracker and the evening turned out good in spite of my being drunk. I can’t say the same about the relationship; my drinking eventually lost its humor and I lost Hope.
How I Missed Nashville
The Horseshoe Lounge was located about 5 doors down from my house in Quincy and I was there often either visiting the liquor store or drinking at the bar which was open until 2:00am. On Friday and Saturday the bar always had a live band and the small dance floor was filled with drunken patrons who danced to the sounds of old-time rock and country tunes. A local boy named Harold Dean was a favorite singer of the crowd at the Horseshoe lounge and he played there often. Harold was kind of a local celebrity because he often performed on the local T.V. show called The Good Morning Show. When Harold played the Horseshoe Lounge the place was packed and he eventually changed his stage name to Billy Dean and moved to Nashville to try and make it in the Country Music business. He did rather well in Nashville actually recording many top 20 records and today can be seen on the RFD-TV special reunion shows. Billy and I didn’t have a lot in common as he went to the private school in Quincy and I went to the public school so we ran with two completely different crowds. About the only thing we had in common was the fact that our mothers were at the hospital giving birth on the same day as he was born on April 2, 1962 and I was born on April 3rd. My sister Gay knew Billy better than I did and I only knew him because he was a friend of hers because they went to the same private school. Billy was a good guy and he was also friendly and never gave the impression that he thought that he was better than anyone else, like a lit of the other private school graduates did. One night when I was rather drunk and Billy had just finished a set I approached him while he was on stage and started up a conversation. We talked about his music and how I thought it sounded good but I complained to him that I thought that his drummer was not good enough to be playing with him. I sat down at the drums and picking up the drummers sticks I twirled them and told Billy that I thought his music would sound better if he got another drummer. Drunks like to give advice. Billy asked me if I played and I assured him that I did. “I’m damn good too,” I said. He told me to show him what I could do since I was already sitting at the drums but I said I didn’t want to play someone else’s drums and besides I was too drunk anyway. Billy then informed me that his drummer was going to be out of town the next week and they were booked to play at the lounge again on Friday and Saturday night and if I wanted to I could sit in for him. I told Billy that I would be glad to and we shook hands. It was a done deal. The only problem was; I had never played the drums in my life. I learned how to twirl the drumsticks when I was in the Jr. High School band in which I played the trombone. I had a plan though. I was working at a gas station at the time and the next day I called an old friend of mine from work and ask for advise on how to solve my little problem. That friend was Joseph Paramoore. I was not long out of high school and in school I had always won 1st place in my category during the science fairs, which allowed me to go to the state competition. Another student who was a consistent winner and usually was invited to the State Competition was Joseph Parramore. My projects were usually in the engineering or mechanical fields and Josephs was usually the winner in the psychology field. I remembered one year that he had done some pretty extensive work using hypnosis. I had seen Joseph hypnotize people at the science fairs and he had them acting like monkeys or thinking that they were Elvis. I figured I could get Joseph to hypnotize me and transform me into a drummer in which I would show up at the lounge and play for Billy Dean. It was a no lose situation. At worst I would pick up some chicks and at best I might go to Nashville and become famous. When I got Joseph on the phone I told him of my predicament and ask him if my plan would work and he assured me that it would. He said that he could put me in a state of semi-conscious and convince me that I could play and when he was finished I would be able to play the drums like Phil Collins. “Lets do it,” I said and we made plans to meet at my house for him to hypnotize me. When Joseph got there I was drinking as usual and I offered him a drink too. As we sat and drank he explained to me the different levels of hypnosis and he said that for this to work I would have to be taken to the deepest level of suggestion and that it might take a couple of sessions but that he knew it would work and since we were old friends that he would do it for no charge. That was mighty nice of him I thought. As we drank more the topic of conversation changed from hypnosis to what we had been doing since graduation and I told him that Jane and I had broken up but I was getting over it. He said that he was a pilot and that he had traveled extensively since we left school and that during those travels he had learned a lot about himself. I ask him what he had learned. Joseph said that he had got in touch with his feminine side. “You got a feminine side,” I asked. “Yes;” he stated. “All men do but most men just don’t realize it until it is revealed to them,” he said. “How did you come about this discovery of your feminine side,” I ask. “During a hypnotic session with a heterosexual college of his,” he said. “He had found his inner self,” he said. It had expanded his horizons he continued and now he could sexually enjoy both men and women. “Damn look at the time,” I said. ‘It’s getting late,” I added. I just didn’t see myself being put into the deepest level of suggestion at this particular point in time. I didn’t want my horizons expanded and if I had a feminine side I didn’t think that it needed to be touched. The only thing my inner self needed was another drink. I showed Joseph to the door and I finished the bottle realizing that I obviously wouldn’t be able to make it that weekend to play the drums for Billy Dean. The price was just a little to high. Nashville or not.
I was sitting at in the trailer one night and I was drinking alone as usual. This particular bottle of liquor was very satisfying because of the undertaking I had to go through just to acquire it. Earlier in the evening at just about dusk I needed a drink very bad so I scraped up all the change I had in the house which consisted mostly of pennies and I walked all the way to the liquor store. The lady that worked at the liquor store was named Kathy and she was a bar-fly who knew me from the days when I was able to go to the bar and control myself to some extent but now when I drank my behavior could not reach the high standards set by most bar-flies. I think she felt sorry for me because she helped me count all my pennies in order for me to purchase a pint of liquor even loaning me a few cents to reach my goal. As I left the liquor store I had a death grip on the bottle to be sure that I didn’t drop it and break it on the concrete so as not to waste the medicine it contained, medicine that I desperately needed. I walked all the way back home and it was completely dark now but as I reached for the door I lost my grip on the bottle and it dropped from my hands and crashed onto the concrete and busted into a million pieces. I was crushed as well. I sit down on the steps and started to cry. I didn’t want to go back into that lonely house without my liquor because I knew that without it there would be no sleep and my night would consist of cold sweats and delirium tremors. I started to walk back to the liquor store even though I had no money. I was in no particular hurry but when I finally made it I went inside and just stood there as the door slowly closed behind me. I didn’t say a word. Kathy must have seen the look of horror on my face because she never said a word either. She simply reached behind the counter and grabbed another bottle of liquor, same size and brand that I had just purchased and dropped and she gently placed it on the counter. I just stood there. So did she. Finally she pushed it forward a little and like a scared dog that was desperately hungry I stepped forward slowly ,waiting to see if she expected me to pay or if she was giving it to me. Neither one of us ever said a word. I picked the bottle up and tried my best to give an appreciative smile. When I finally made it back to the trailer I stepped over the broken bottle and rushed into the house falling into my recliner while simultaneously twisting the top off and guzzling down a few swallows just to settle my nerves. I was sweating something terrible but I had my cure for the moment so I continued to drink and I started to watch some T.V. as my demeanor started to slowly change back into something that was somewhat human. I remember that Ronald Reagan was on the television and he was giving a speech about something as he was the president at the time. He was describing the American can do spirit and how we can accomplish anything that we want to. I immediately thought of my mother and Tina who were both trying to get me to change. As I got drunker and I listened to his motivating speech I created in my own mind a theory that eventually I would put to good use. I called it my allotted energy theory. Remember, I was drunk at the time. I had spent a lot of energy just to get this bottle of liquor that I was drinking. I had been spending a lot of energy for a lot of years trying to stay drunk. I thought to myself what if I just spend the same amount of energy trying to get somewhere in this life. No more no less, just the same amount. Staying drunk was hard work as this very night had just proven. It wasn’t a sudden change but it was a start and for the first time in a long time I had hope.
I opened the letter from the Florida Barbers Board right there at the mail box because I wasn’t so sure that I had passed the exam. I knew the material frontwards and backwards because on most days I actually taught the class since I had charmed the barbering teachers and I liked the attention I got from being at the head of the class. As usual I had found a way to gain an advantage on the other students because I had noticed that the headmaster Mr. Wilson seemed to have a special affinity for the young ladies and he and I use to talk about them quite openly. On more than one occasion he had me rent him a hotel room in the seedy part of town that was for his brother to come to town for an overnight visit. Wink wink. I gathered my needed hours for completion of school rather quickly. The reason I was nervous about opening the letter was because I had gotten drunk the night before the exam and barely made it to exam room in time for the test. I made an 83. Good enough to get my license. I got a job and bounced around to a couple of different shops before landing at the biggest shop in town called the Northwood Mall Barbershop.
Tina had continued to sneak around to see me and everybody knew it but nobody talked about it. Finally one day her mother called me and told me that she wanted to meet with me and talk about something. I assumed she wanted me to take the high road and to break it off with Tina and set her free since everybody knew I wasn’t worthy of her. For me the high road was uncharted territory. The conversation was exactly the opposite. Mrs. McDaniel told me that she knew that Tina loved me and that it was obvious that wasn’t going to change. She concluded that even if we did break up that Tina would have lost her chance for true love. She decided it would be best if I ask Tina to marry me and just let the chips fall where they may. Mrs. McDaniel was a frail woman but her request also had a warning because she in no uncertain terms told me that if I hurt Tina she would see to it that I would be hurt to. I knew she meant it. Mr. McDaniel never said a word to me either good or bad. He didn’t approve of his daughter dating me but he never belittled me or confronted me. Mrs. McDaniel on the other hand probally took some heat from him for allowing us to start to openly seeing each other. Mrs.McDaniels conversation with me allowed Tina and I to be somewhat less secretive about our relationship and one night while we were on the way home from a date I pulled over to the side of the road and told her how much I appreciated her for standing by me. I promised her that I was going to be somebody and I would make her proud of me. I meant it too except I also told her that she could never demand that I stop drinking. I ask her to marry me. She accepted. Love truly is blind which Tina would soon find out. Tina, Mrs. McDaniel and my mother started planning our wedding along with Mrs. Prince at the Faceville Baptist Church. It would be a small wedding but every girl dreams of her wedding day. They went about doing whatever it is that ladies do to plan a wedding including buying Tina her dress. I assume a few thousand dollars was spent but not a dime came out of my pocket because I still spent my money at the bars every night. As the wedding got closer I started to get drunker until I eventually went on a full fledge binge staying drunk for about a week. Tina assumed that I didn’t want to marry her and she cancelled the wedding but that was not the case. I did want to marry her; I was just doing what I do. We got married about a month later by a Judge at the courthouse in front of Mrs. McDaniel, Mama and my sister. Mr. McDaniel refused to come.
I continued to work at the Northwood Mall Barbershop and the money was pretty good. I still drank but now I realized I had a problem so I had evolved into more of a binge drinker. I would go for six months without a drink and then I would fall off of the wagon. The time that I spent being sober allowed a fire to erupt in me that I had never allowed to burn before because I had kept it extinguished with alcohol. I was going somewhere in this world and nobody was going to stop me, except maybe myself. I considered my newfound motivation to be the promise I made to myself on that night many years ago when I got drunk with Ronald Reagan or perhaps it was the promise I had made to Tina. Either way I was on a mission. Tina said when I was sober that I was actually on a dry drunk and that I was angry. I guess maybe I was but I’m sure that I had a damn good reason to be. She didn’t know who I was angry at, perhaps the Peacocks or just my station in life but she said that while I was moving forward it was not a fun ride because I was full of hate. I expected the best from myself when I was sober and I demanded the same from everyone around me which was pretty much mostly Tina. I wanted my own business or at least the money that came with starting your own enterprise. My first step into the business world came when I decided to sell Christmas trees one December. I had gone to a tree farm and bought a bunch of Christmas trees and set up a station beside the road to sell them. There were a couple of problems with my Christmas tree business though. First I was at work all the time at the barbershop so Tina had to stand beside the road and sell the trees in the cold weather and she was pregnant at the time. Her father and brother helped her and on the day before Christmas they sold the tree that allowed us to break even. I found out that selling Christmas trees just wasn’t my thing so I had to find a different way to be successful. I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer so I started taking night classes. Since I had barely graduated from Shanks High school- an f-rated school in Quincy Florida-I think I may have set my goals a little high. Never one to let reality get in my way I signed up and started attending community college at TCC. My getting educated started to give me the big head and I told Tina that I was leaving her behind. Yes sir, I was on the road to enlightenment and I fussed at Tina about her weight and constantly told her that she wasn’t good enough. Tina lived in fear not knowing which Garry was going to come through the door. When I got drunk I was mean and I would tell her that I didn’t love her. She never fussed back. Tina went on unhealthy crash diets and did everything she could to keep me from getting mad. The irony of me getting the big head about going to college is that Tina already had her B.S. degree and was only a year away from getting an accounting degree when she decided that being an accountant isn’t what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. I couldn’t understand that someone expected to be happy with their job because to me that wasn’t what having a job was about, it was about making as much money as you can. Tina understood something it would take me a few years to figure out, that being successful is a nice goal to try to obtain but it is empty if you don’t enjoy the journey.
Hunter, my son was born on Saturday October the 6th 1990 during the Florida State versus Miami football game so I spent most of my day yelling push, push and then run, run. It was a moment I will never forget, his birth not the football game. I didn’t want to be in the delivery room when he was born because I just didn’t think that is where men were suppose to be during the delivery ( a redneck tradition) but Tina wanted me there so I relented. To this day I am glad I was. Hunter’s maternal grandfathers name was Chason so I wanted to name him Hunter Chason Peacock but I was overruled and so we went with my middle name, Allen. Mr. McDaniel was there of course the day that Hunter was born but we still weren’t talking to each other which was just fine with me. As Hunter grew up he got to see the ugly side of his farther and I failed to realize how much it affected him. My attitude was that at least he got to know his father since my father was a sorry drunk and I never really got to know him. Hunter may have thought that not getting to know me might have been a better better deal. When Hunter was about 18 he got a tattoo on his arm that says ‘Breaking History” obviously referring to the drinking history of his ancestors. I guess maybe my behavior did affect him a little bit after all. Since our family had grown Tina and I decided to move from the trailer into the house where big mama (the greatest person who ever lived) had lived. Mama sold us the old wood frame house because after big mama (The greatest person who ever lived) had died she had left it to mama basically because mama had paid for it anyway. This is where our lives should have started the happy journey as a family together but I still had demons that I could not seem to shake. That is if you think the over consumption of alcohol can be called a demon. I was making pretty good money at the Northwood Mall Barbershop but we were not happy because I was either getting drunk or raising hell at Tina about something. The house wasn’t clean enough or she needed to lose weight or her hair wasn’t cut right. I had become a miserable ass and I wanted everyone around me to be miserable too. While Tina was willing to stick by her decision to marry me she wasn’t willing to raise Hunter that way so she moved back in with her parents, which was just fine with me since it freed me up to be able to drink more. Except that more drinking created more problems.
It was about 1:30 in the morning when I ran out of liquor and I needed something to drink. The closest store to me was in a small town called Gretna and it was about 5 miles away from my house. Gretna was a very small community and it was about 95% black and it had the reputation that it was not a safe place for a white boy to be, at 2:30 in the morning. Crack was Gretna’s primary crop and it was traded late at night by roving gangs that hung out at the bars and the convenience stores. Gretna did not have a police department so any law enforcement was done by the county sheriff’s department and since the city was 95% black there wasn’t a great deal of concern for policing the area by them either. I decided to take the chance that the store was open and even if it wasn’t on more than one occasion I had for a small fee gotten one of the dealers to get me a bottle from a bootlegger. I was driving a car Tina had bought herself before we had gotten married. On this particular night the drug dealers were not interested in making a few bucks for doing me a favor they wanted everything, my money and my car and I thought my life. I pulled up in front of the closed store and about three dealers approached my car and I rolled down the window. Instead of asking me what I wanted as was the usual mode of operation, one of the thugs reached in and unlocked my door and then he unlocked the back door. All of my car doors opened at the same time and before I knew it I was being dragged out of the car and was being kicked and beaten. Others joined the commotion and within seconds it was a free for all. They searched the car and my person rather quickly taking anything of value and then proceeded to entertain themselves with a game that can best be described as playing “piñata with the white boy”. In a mob situation there is always at least one person who is crazier that the rest of them and this particular fellow cranked up the car and raced it up and down the street squealing the tires and yelling out the window every time he passed by the ass-whooping scene that was still taking place. Somebody retrieved my I.D. from my wallet and shared the information that my last name was Peacock and it was common knowledge in town that the local projects was owned by slumlord named Billy Yawn Peacock who was actually a distant cousin of mine. The beating got a little harder now as they taunted me with their newfound information that my family was keeping their people down. Each kick just gave me another reason to hate the Peacocks. They teased me with the taunt that they were going to kill me. I didn’t know whether to believe them or not but I knew that this was not my generation of black friends. These guys were different and I had to get away. During a lull in the kicking, as I lay in a fetal position near a campfire where I had fell during the last barrage of beating I saw a metal rod that was half in the fire and half out. One end of the rod was fire red and I reached for the other end and while it was hot it was manageable. I grabbed the rod and jumped to my feet and ran for my life. Some of the gang began to chase me and they were laughing and yelling that I better not call the cops or they would kill me. One of the young thugs finally caught up with me and grabbed me from behind but when I turned around with the steel rod and pointed it right between his eyes he quickly decided that he didn’t like the odds now that they were 1 on 1 and he stepped back. I ran to a house and banged on the door. The occupant told me to leave. I hid for about 20 minutes and then I ran to a phone booth that was outside a store across the street from where the gang was. They saw me but they did not attempt to approach me although they did continue to yell their warnings about not calling the cops. I called the cops. The dispatcher stayed on the phone with me until the Deputy arrived. It was Jeff McDaniel. Tina’s cousin, the deputy that had whooped my ass only a few months earlier. I was getting it from every turn.
It took me about two weeks to recover from the beating with the worst part being the cracked ribs. I took time off from work telling them I had been in a car wreck. I guess I wasn’t really lying because my life had become a car wreck. I was starting to build a clientele’ at the barbershop and I was learning a lot. I was still going to school with my dream of being a lawyer some day but this barbering thing was making me some pretty good money. I learned a lot from the Northwood Mall Barbershop because it was a throwback to the old fashioned barbershop that used to rule the South in its day. In the decades of the 70’s and 80’s the Salon had taken over the haircutting industry with its fu fu approach to hairstyling and the barbershop business had almost died, but this place was popping. I took note of that. The Northwood Mall Barbershop was longer than it was wide and had double sided benches that ran down the middle. There were barber stations that ran the length of the room on each side of the building and mirrors that ran down the length of both walls as well, casting their reflections back and forth creating a never ending barbershop scene. Kids laughed and played but always at a respectable sound level. Cartoons or Sports blasted from the television depending on which day it was. Saturday mornings belonged to kids. Different days meant a different clientele’. There were no rules that made it this way; just tradition. A line would form at the gum ball machine making the penny spendable currency once again. When you step into the barbershop you take a trip back in time, a more laid back peaceful time, a time when strangers spoke to each other, watched out for each other’s kids and even scolded them if need be. If the world is progressive and always pushing for change the barbershop is the place to get away from it, even if for only a few minutes at the time. Sometimes a feeling can be in the air, like Christmas and the barbershop atmosphere is like that. All of the barbers at the Northwood Mall Barbershop were old-timers who were 55 or older and I was the young blood added to the team because business was good and they needed workers but I’m certain I was added also because I would work for a lot less pay. I remember thinking that while Don the owner was lucky that he wasn’t a very good businessman because he wasn’t even trying to be successful it just kind of fell in his lap. There was no marketing or advertising of the shop and while the shop had personality and location I thought that somebody could take this idea and improve upon it and make a lot of money with it but that somebody wasn’t going to be me because I was going to be a lawyer.
With Tina not living with me I was able to drink a lot more, not that I ever let her slow me down any when she was here but I had no boundaries whatsoever. I was showing up to work every day hung over. The old timers that worked at the shop were not against taking a drink every now and then, as a matter of fact they hit the bottle pretty hard themselves. I learned a trick or two from them. The best way to get rid of a hangover was to keep a bottle of liquor at your station and add a nip to your morning coffee. That usually did the trick for them. I did this for a while and it seemed to work except for the fact that it didn’t take long for me to prove that I was not like the average drinker. After a particular rough night out drinking the coffee trick just was not working for me so during my lunch break I slipped over to the Fourth Quarter Sports Bar and had lunch which I washed down with about 6 good stiff drinks of bourbon and coke. I was feeling no pain when I went back to work. One if the unsettling things about alcohol is that it is hard to measure the buzz correct every time. Correct buzz measuring is vital when you are working with sharp objects. What feels good right now might just be too much 30 minutes from now. In all probability a drunk will always lean toward having to much before he will make the mistake of not having enough. On this particular day that was exactly the case. When the affects of those 6 drinks hit me they hit me hard. My first customer back from lunch had the unfortunate incident of loosing part of his earlobe. He received not only a haircut but minor surgery as well. As I was clipping away at his hair one of his ears got in the way (by now there were two ears on each side) and the next thing I knew part of his earlobe was lying on his shoulder and flopping around like a fish out of water. My tools must have been extra sharp because he never moved and the first sign I had that something was wrong was the massive amounts of blood that he was losing changing the color of his white shirt to red. In the haircutting business we keep a product on hand that is called Steptic and it is used to stop bleeding. I used a whole bottle of it on him and I glued his missing earlobe back on and hurried him out of the door. He tipped me three dollars. I don’t know if it was for the haircut or the great job I did in fixing his ear. It was the next customer that got me into trouble. His name was Tommy Gore and he was a police officer and I had grown up with Tommy as he had been my next door neighbor for years. Tommy wore a flat top and he always liked it to be abnormally tall and I had become very good at doing it (when I was sober) as it was a very hard haircut so Tommy always waited on me. All went well until I started cutting the top and instead of going extra tall I went extra short. From across the room another barber named Chester who was the shop trouble maker noticed that I was having trouble and came to my “rescue”. He quietly told Tommy to take me home and to come back and he would fix the haircut for him the best he could for free. Tommy being a friend of mine agreed and got me out of the door before the manager noticed anything but as soon as we left the “troublemaker” had a field day not only telling everyone what had happened but adding his own version to it as well. He didn’t have to do that it was bad enough if he had just told the truth. I was just glad he didn’t see the ear incident or he would have made it sound like I had beheaded the man. Either way I was fired. They hired me back. (They always did. I was a very hard worker. Most drunks are. I had been let go and hired back at Publix, Winn Dixie, Nokomis Septic tank, Vorverk Vacuum, Inland gas Station, a Go-Cart manufacture and Mo-trim just to name a few) Oh they eventually fired me again a few weeks later.
Word travels fast in the haircutting business and each successive job is usually a pay grade down from the last one you had. At least in take home pay anyway and that was the most important standard I used to determine how good a job was. I went to work at shop that had been in town for years and it was called Designer Cuts and it was owned by a man named Marvin Stewart. Mr. Stewart was a very good businessman and I learned a lot from him. Most barbershops paid their barbers a percentage of their total daily take but Marvin charged booth rental which meant he got his money regardless of how much the barber made. I didn’t make a lot of money at Designer Cuts with the only experience worth telling from my time there was when we went to the hair show that takes place every year in Orlando. One of the girls who worked at Designer Cuts had won a trip to the hair show along with some free accommodations at a very fancy hotel. We went to the hair show first class. Mr. Stewart drove his car and about 5 or 6 of us were invited to go. I stayed drunk the whole trip but I pretty much held it together- all things considered – If you are willing to use drunk standards for holding it together, that is until the day we were to leave Orlando and head back to Tallahassee. I woke up with a terrible hangover and I needed a drink something awful. I found my chance to acquire a drink when Mr. Stewart told me to take his keys and go down to the parking garage and move his car up to the front door and the barbering crew would meet me there with the baggage and we could leave. Opportunity had knocked. I would leave the parking garage and run across the street to the liquor store and get myself a bottle which I could suck on during our trip back to Tallahassee curing my hangover or if nothing else postponing it for a time. It seemed like a good idea except for the fact that as soon as I purchased the bottle and made it back to Mr. Stewart’s car my body demanded that I partake in the evil liquid before I maneuvered my way back to the hotel. That wasn’t such a good Idea. I’m a country boy. Country boys can drive pretty damn good on country roads, i.e. the dukes of hazard. This big city driving would confuse me even if I happen to be sober but after giving in to the demands of my body, I wasn’t. Hell, I was lost in the overgrown parking lot of this humongous shopping center and then after I gathered myself and tried to head back to the hotel instead of pulling across the street back to my destination I somehow accidently got onto the interstate. I was headed in the wrong direction with no way to get turned back around. I eventually got back off the interstate but had lost my bearings and couldn’t remember the name of the hotel or the phone number. I was lost in my boss’s car somewhere in the middle of Orlando with my co-workers sitting in the lobby of the hotel with their luggage waiting for me to get back with the car. My only comfort was that I had plenty of liquor. A tank of gas and 4 hours later I found my way back to the hotel. I got fired from that job too. He hired me back just like all the rest of them.