Yeah, it might have been a while, and things got kinda dusty. The whiz kids with the highwater pants and the pocket protectors are busy cleaning things up around here. Don’t ask me how they do it. DO pour me another bourbon though…
Cooter McGee was an old boy I knew who lived out by himself in the central Florida swamps. Eh? I didn’t say anything about that old boy being GOOD! Well, all right, he was pretty good at distilling certain quality high-proof beverages, and at training gators. Don’t know how he did it, especially while drunk on his own product, but he got those things whipped into a regular guard service. You’d be amazed at the number of tax officers and whatnot that accidentally vanished in the swamps in those days.
Wha? Yeah, pour me another.
Anyway, so by the time I knew him in the 60s and 70s he was grizzled and already more than half crazy, but he still made the best moonshine this side of Tennessee. You could drink it, clean parts with it, use it to make whopping big fires, and disinfect wounds with it. Often in that order. It had powers no other form of alcohol I’ve ever seen had. Hippies in those days liked to talk about the things they saw on mushrooms and acid and whatever. Well I’ll tell you, that stuff had nothing on the things I saw while drinking Cooter’s moonshine… except some of what I saw on the moonshine was probably real, just eh, filtered a bit.
Yeah, you encounter a lot of stuff in my line of work.
Cooter? Nah, he’s been dead close to thirty years now. No, the gators didn’t get him. His rusty old clock just stopped ticking one day while he was sitting in the moss-covered chain on his front porch. When somebody went looking for him, they said he was so pickled it was like he had preservatives. Two days gone in the Florida swamps, and just looked like he was taking a nap. A nap with thirty gators sitting in a circle around him, facing out.
A few years before he went, I had the good sense to stock up on quite a few crates of his moonshine. Even got a little of it left.
What? Nah, don’t think it’d be a good idea for you to try some. Not good for your health.
I said YOUR health! Some things are best left to the professionals.
Things that don’t mix?
A nasty hangover I had in Ft. Lauderdale in 1983, hot sun poking between the bar umbrellas, and some street preacher standing there telling me how getting born again would save me from my wicked ways.
Now if it could have saved me from my hangover, on the spot, I’d have considered it.
Yeah kid, I get hangovers sometimes
A hangover is like the bill coming due, you can delay it, but never forever. Still, gotta say that I try. My favorite way to avoid ‘em is to just keep drinking. Sometimes though, that isn’t possible.
Any hangover is bad. Hangovers on hot tropical days when ya gotta work on a boat are extra bad. Hangovers when you are dodging some shady characters down the back streets of Caracas are worse. The very worst hangovers though, are hangovers where you are actually hanging over the side of your boat in a storm. Try doing that while working off a night of booze. It isn’t fun.
Eh? How did I end up hanging off the side of my boat? Well that is another story, after I finish this drink…
Trust in Pappy, a dingy Jamaican warehouse full of fireworks and high-proof whiskey is NOT the best place to have people shooting at you.
Ahh… that is some good scotch.
Now, where was I? Ok, yeah…
I remember the time Fernando and I thought we’d make some quick money running a herd of Alpacas across the border from Peru to Colombia. Yeah, I am aware of the irony of smuggling something INto Colombia.
Well Fernando won ‘em at a card game, which would be a whole story by itself. Having gotten ‘em so cheap, we had this plan to corner the market on Alpaca wool in Bogota, or some such, or barring that, to sneak ‘em through the highlands, avoid customs, and get ‘em to Cartagena, where a friend of mine had a cargo ship docked.
It looked like a great idea on paper, or more precisely, on a bar napkin.
Nothing wrong with beards. They can keep your face warm on a cold winter’s day, they can make you look professorial, or addled and crazy, or both. They can make you look fierce and bear-like, or if you are too old for that, like Santa Klaus.
In the 1950s though, they mostly made you look like a freak. Or, as my friend Gus Johannsen and I found out in Havana in 1959, they could make you look like a communist.
Now we were in Havana looking for girls and booze. Gus didn’t know the first thing about communism, or for that matter, that Castro had a beard. He just thought his beard made him look like an old salt of a sailor. Tricky that, as young as we were then. However, in Cuba, in the last nervous days of Batista’s government, and the eve of Castro’s victory, looking like a Castro supporter was a dangerous thing.
What makes me say that? Well, it might have been the submachine gun six inches from my nose when I woke up in my hammock on my sailboat. Or the the three guns aimed at Gus as he sat up bleary-eyed in his hammock on the other side of the cabin. Unlike Gus, I could speak some Spanish, but the only thing I could think of to blurt out at the time was “turista”. The soldiers didn’t seem impressed.
Luckily, Cubans, generally speaking, like rum.
It only took a couple of bottles to calm the good soldiers down and convince them that, despite appearances, we were harmless clueless American tourist kids. Good thing they never saw the other 1500 bottles in the cargo hold.
Even for me, there is such a thing as too much to drink.
I remember waking up one fine June morning in St. Nevis. The sea was blue, the sun was shining, and a fresh breeze was blowing from the east.
The problem was, I went to sleep in Barbados, and it was May. Well, intended to go to sleep would be more accurate. I was kinda fuzzy on the details. Never underestimate Barbadian rum.
Also, I didn’t remember going to sleep on top of a pile of $100s, or having a crate of shotguns at the time. A couple yes, a crate, no.
All of which would have been fine, except for that damn hangover.
…Reminds me of the time Kate and I were in the Australian outback. We were in this camp out in the middle of desolate nowhere, not far, but not too near a river where there were supposed to be crocodiles. Kate had a sense of hearing like a bat, and swore she could hear the things thrashing around down there.
After a few drinks, she decided to do something about it.
Ever hear an Irish girl swear, in a slurring voice, that she is going to go make a bunch of crocodiles shut up, whether they like it or not?
Thinking this might not be the best plan, I scrambled to grab some gear, and followed her off into the dark, a big outdoor flashlight and a shotgun in hand. Somewhere along the way, she had decided to charge, and was way ahead of me. How she saw her way around in that pitch darkness, I’ll never know.
What I do know were the godawful noises I soon heard coming from that river. Screeches and hisses and huge crashing sounds punctuated by sharp thunks. Then I got there, and it was a woeful sight.
Seven panicked crocodiles scattering downriver, and one poor wretch getting tweaked in the nose by Kate while it squirmed to get away.
Ever hear a crocodile plead for mercy? Well I hope never to again.