Little Kings Cream Ale from that classic brewery, Hudepohl-Schoenling in Cincinnati, Ohio were often consumed at “business” conferences held in the light and warmth of a roaring campfire off the side road at Oak Grove on the banks of Norris Lake in the early 70’s along with run on sentences like this that absolutely infuriated my English teacher, Mrs. Johnson. The doors were thrown wide open on Dave’s green and white VW Microbus and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young sang of our house, which was a very, very, very fine house with two cats in the yard I might add.
There was something serene about sitting around a fire after a day on the lake and shooting the bull about the cliffs near Lindsay Mill that gave us a spanking when we jumped off and hit the water and then we lied to each other and ourselves about how high they really were. We laughed as we relived the jumping off the cliff scene from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Butch: What’s the matter with you?
Sundance: I can’t swim.
Butch: Why you crazy bastard, the fall will probably kill you.
Everyone had to be reminded that Steve McQueen was the first pick for the role of Sundance. And then I would go off into the fantasy world of my favorite McQueen movie, Bullitt and that legendary chase scene where Bullitt drove the “Highland Green” 1968 Ford Mustang G.T. 390 Fastback, pursuing two bad guys in a black 1968 Dodge Charger R/T Hemi. And I romantized about that happy ending when the beautiful girl says to him, “What will happen to us, in time?”
Bullitt answers, “Time starts now.” That sent me into mysticism and I would be sitting lotus style and leaning against a big oak tree repeating “time starts now.”
Now is then. Then is now. Within a quarter mile of that place was Oak Grove cemetery where over half of my kind were laid to rest. There’s a place there for my momma and me, but I will just hold on to the real estate I think as I want to be cremated and divvied up between Walden Ridge and the Atlantic Ocean, my two favorite spots while visiting here on earth. Dust to dust my paw paw preached in the church next to the graveyard along with the promise of everlasting life. I never doubted neither of those promises. Still don’t.
Anyhow, the evening would sometimes end with us talking about that last movie we saw on “buck fifty night per carload”. “Yeah, Billy Jack was very cool, man.” A voice would say. Everyone would nod and thumbs up.
I could and can today almost hear Billy Jack inquire…”do you know what mental toughness is? Well, mental toughness is the ability to accept the fact that you’re human and that you’re going to make mistakes – lots of ’em – all your life. And some of them are gonna hurt people that you love very badly. But you have the guts to accept the fact that you ain’t perfect. And you don’t let your mistakes crush you and keep you from doing the very best that you can.”
That inspired me to say, “Hand me another Little Kings, partner.” I would behest the hippie on the other side of the fire. After a long pull on the little green bottle, I would open my big mouth to speak. “You know Plato said ‘No human thing is of serious importance.”’
Hisses and Oh mans! would fill the night air along with the sounds of tree frogs and crickets.
“Don’t start your philosophy crap, Hicks. We’re just trying to have some fun here.”
“Yeah, me too” and then I would take a new tack and croon Illegal Smile.
“I was just trying to have me some fun. Well done, hot dog bun, my sister’s a nun”
They seemed to relate to that a little better than Plato not realizing they were one and the same with different accents. I often ended the evening like that singing John Prine badly. I still love that song.
I truly hope Ford Motor Company gets back on its feet and always makes Mustangs and I hope that there will always be swimming holes that aren’t made of concrete and I hope fires are never outlawed and every now and then I want to pee outside all by myself after a Little Kings Ale.
I hope that someone somewhere always listens to John Prine sing about Paradise, the one in Kentucky and I hope that Rocky Raccoon still finds Gideon’s bible in his hotel room.
I hope I never lose my memory for I like that crazy kid more and more who just wanted a forum to tell people who I am. Thanks y’all for listening every now and then. As long as I am able I will remember you. In my own small way, I keep you alive and you do me the same solid.