A funny thing about living in the mountains, is that, despite the generally hospitable nature of people in public venues, driving along the road, walking down the street in town, or other areas wherein a relatively large number of people gather, we are still by and large, a mostly inhospitable and intolerable people when it comes to the bar on our side of the hill, and perhaps even moreso in regards to our homes. For the most part, people from the other side of the mountain do not stop on our side of the mountain and vice versa … though there are certainly exceptions to this rule, such as when a vehicle may have broken down, an accident has occurred or other similar emergency wherein they are generally welcomed as it was not any manner of intentional intrusion into what we consider our home.
However, when you have a sister who is as pretty as mine was, fellows do tend to come courting, even traveling vast differences to do so. Mind you, my sister was no slouch when it came to defending herself and could shoot just as well as most men I knew … and would not hesitate to do so should the circumstances merit.
She also shared my passion for blades, and as such, was exceptionally dangerous if provoked. Still, at the behest of our mother, she was never allowed out without at least one of us boys coming along for the ride to keep an eye on her. Again, it should be noted that our sister had a mind of her own, had been brought up proper, but still needed to get out from time to time … and as her brothers we both understood and accepted this simple fact of life. We figured that she had every bit as much right to get out and explore and enjoy as we did, and by and large, we were not going to try to stop her.
Mind you, if someone had ever harmed her in any way, there would have been a most unpleasant reckoning for them, not that there ever was … cough cough. She was still our little sister and still merited protection, just we did not ever reckon that she needed to be protected from herself. Normally, we would just get dropped off somewhere and go fishing or play pool or find some other way to pass the time while she went out, generally at the expense of whoever that particular suitor happened to be at the time.
It was an arrangement that worked out quite well for all of us for the most part, though sometimes, some fellows are just a little bit slow to pick up on things like that, and when our sister sets her mind to something, well … my gramma always told us that our kinfolk were comprised of nothing but strong-willed women and butt-headed men, but it all boiled down just the same at the end of the day … when our little sister set her mind to something, it was pretty much just another foregone conclusion. On one particular occasion, she set her sights on one fellow who apparently was a little bit slow on the uptake as to how things work … but it all eventually worked out in the end.
“AWWWWWWW HELL NO!!!!!!” … or something along those lines, was all my little sister could muster up when he had insisted I stay with them for the entirety of their date. They did finally manage to reach a compromise, insofar as I would stay in the back seat of the car while they went out and did whatever they were going to do … but it was only fair that I at least have some form of entertainment … and he ultimately suggested a fellow he knew who had some passable good home-made grape wine. While I had never been big on wine at the time, I was up for the challenge and it seemed better than just sitting there bored out of my skull, so I hesitantly agreed … really not wanting to know, much less see anything my sister was going to prefer to pass away the hours.
Ultimately, we ended up at the house of this other fellow, with a yard tied plumb full of banty roosters, each tied up so it just barely reached the next one … allowing them to challenge each other, but never allowing them close enough to actively engage in a fight. Now banty roosters may be small, but they are exceptionally mean, and getting through all of them would have certainly resulted in the death of one or two at least … and not been conducive to a warm and hospitable introduction when you did finally reach the door. However, this boy my sister was with had apparently been here before, and invited us to join him in the house and meet this new friend … and picked an awkward but effective … if not obscure … and open path between the banty roosters up into the house. It would seem that this particular fellow was a purveyor of grape wine.
Now there are two things that you need to think about before you ever begin to drink any homemade hooch. The first test involves pouring a touch of the booze on to a concrete area or a rock, and lighting it on fire. If it burns blue, feel free to have a drink. If it burns yellow, there is likely something wrong with it and the alcohol content is not enough to kill all of the impurities … you may be tempted to have a drink, but I certainly would not advise it. I love my refreshing adult beverages as much as the next guy, but not enough to go blind for a drink … much less endure many of the other potential side-effects … including potentially … and literally dying for a drink.I note this here, because despite the fact that what he sold was sold as grape wine … which usually does not burn at all … the first thing he did was pour out a little bit on the concrete in front of the fireplace and light it up … and it burned hot, never reaching down into a yellow flame even as it burned out at the last.
The second thing to think about … especially when there is high-potency hooch, is to take a deep breath before having a drink, and exhaling as much of the vapor as possible before inhaling again. Knowing from the sample burn I had seen, that this was indeed high octane hooch, I made great strides in not taking anything more than small sips and breathing properly all the while. I think looking back that I made it through a full glass before I did pass out.
I remember my sister dropping me face first into the snow once we got back to our house. I was actually rather glad she did as at least I was able to remain in a stumbling stance when our ma came back out to make sure she was safe. I never did find out what they had done while I was passed out … and did not really want to think about it regardless, but I was standing and semi-conscious … if not pretty wet and still covered with snow, but I was standing and my little sister was healthy and happy, so all things being equal, our ma was not overly worried.
We ended up visiting that fellow on a regular basis before we left those mountains. On one occasion when my dad did bother to proof some out, it came out to almost a full 190 proof … maybe ninety-five percent alcohol by volume and pretty much equivalent to pure grain alcohol. It is pretty easy to overdose on such a concoction … no matter whether you call it wine or brandy or any other name you can pull out of your … big imagination. It may have thinned out the blood, but it did a right nice job of warming us up on many a cold night … which after a couple of tries, is apparently more than that fellow my little sister had her eyes on could say as we never saw him much after the first couple of dates.