Free to be Me

Author’s disclaimer: the following blog contains vulgar language. Read at your own risk.

A few weeks ago, my cousin Tom sent me this photo. Along with it, he made the statement, “It is a miracle we survived!” So true. IMG_3094

Before I get into the story behind this and many similar photos, let me introduce the players. On the left is my Uncle Kenny. Often referred to as “Whitey,” Kenny was the baby of the family. My dad affectionately called him “Kenny Boy.” Next to Kenny is my Uncle Clyde. Clyde was one of the most entertaining people I ever met. As a kid, I loved to listen to Clyde talk and tell stories. They were never boring. The young fellow seated next to Clyde is my cousin Tom, Clyde’s boy. The man on the far right, wearing the stocking cap and looking a bit soused, is my dad. To Kenny, he was “Chawlee.” To me, he was “Pop.”

Now, before you get the wrong idea, these three guys were, in my book, awesome men to be around. They were depression era children who grew up very poor and learned to make their own way. The stories were endless and the experiences turned them into very resourceful, and occasionally naughty, men. As adults, they all had decent jobs and wonderful families. Oh sure, we were all “colorful” at times, but name me a family that isn’t?

I assume the photo above was taken in Uncle Clyde’s truck camper. From the looks of the clothing, we were on a deer hunting trip in Brown County, Indiana. Or, it could have been a deer scouting trip. Basically the two were the same thing. The only difference was when you went scouting, you didn’t bring guns. Otherwise, the routine was identical: park the camper (or stay in the cabin we owned) and watch our dads and uncles “transform.”  With the women gone, wives and daughters, they were free…free to be the base creatures they were born to be…men! They didn’t need no stinkin’ zombie apocalypse to get in touch with their primal self; they just needed to go on a “guys only” deer hunting trip!IMG_1465

First out was the beer. When that wasn’t doing the trick, the hard stuff came out, usually Brandy. And the cigars. Even the ones who didn’t smoke would grab a cigar and toke away. Once they got to that point, there was no holding back. The stories flowed, the laughs could be heard a half mile away. And the language. At home I rarely ever heard my dad cuss. Maybe an occasional “damn.” Actually, I don’t even remember much of that, which is surprising, since my dad was a sailor. IMG_1415But when they got together…the words started flowing! And I don’t mean the “wimpy” cuss words; I’m talking the big guns. Yep, when these three musketeers got together the word “fuck” flowed like a river! It was “fuck this, fuck that, fuck everything!”

So, as you can see, Tom and I learned from the best! Aside from Dick Tracy or the Green Hornet, these three guys were as close to being my heroes as anyone. I adored each one of them and looked forward to deer hunting season every year. It was one of the highlights of my youth.I may have only been 10 or 12 years old, but when we went on these excursions, we were one of the “guys.” And fishing trips were just like hunting trips!

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Now, I can imagine, some of you might be thinking this is horrible. “What a terrible influence!” “They probably scarred you for life!” Hate to disappoint you, but I wouldn’t trade those days for anything. Riding around the Brown County hills in Kenny Boy’s tiny Ford Bronco, listening to Cincinnati Bengals football, eating Vienna Sausages straight from the can, in all their sloppy gel, and watching our dads get loose and tell stories they wouldn’t tell us at home, was awesome! And it did not scar me.

I enjoy craft beer, but I have not been drunk since 1982. Seriously. Living in the land of bourbon, I have enjoyed visiting the distilleries and sampling the goods. Just like craft beer, it shares a common bond with coffee roasting, a passion driven by an artisan effort to produce something unique. I have 7-8 bottles in my cabinet, more of a “collection” than a stash. I rarely touch it. Not really my style. And I’m not much for cussing. Sure, the occasional “bad” word comes out, but its usually for storytelling purposes, or for effect.

I have not smoked since about 1980 or so. No interest. However, if I am on a trip on my bike, all alone, enjoying the solitude of the road, there is a “chance” you might catch me with a bottle of beer or a flask in my hand and a half-smoked cigar in my mouth. No one is there to tell me I can’t, to guilt me into being what they want me to be. No one there to look in shock when, as the 800 miles in the saddle brings home the pain in my shoulders and tail bone, I pull the cigar from my mouth, sip the beer, stretch and, quietly under my breath, it slips out…”fuck.”IMG_0929

Later,

Shep

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One thought on “Free to be Me

  1. These truly were some of the best times from my youth. Kinda makes me hungry for some Vienna Sausages….(not)

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