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Jeff Whitten: Beer, fences, dogs and Santa
editor's notes

In honor of the Labor Day Weekend, some random and roundabout pondering on beer. The topic came up recently during an email exchange between the great Mike Brown and your’s truly. We were discussing the upcoming Labor Day weekend when Mike wrote he might have a cold Pabst Blue Ribbon or two before it’s over.

“It’s cheap, it’s cold and I like it,” he said. “Plus visitors won’t drink it so it works for me.”

That’s a good sportswriter/retired insurance salesman for you. Besides, low cost is key to good beer from a journalistic standpoint, since most full-time print journalists are poor as church mice. So much the better if it repels beer snobs – and of all the things one might get snobby about, one’s taste in beer seems a bit much to go lording it about over others with, but people do like to feel superior.

Me: “What kind of beer you like?” Beer Snob (probably around 30 with a beard and earrings and tattoos): “Oh, I prefer a good Fat Gopher Wheat Honey Barley Two-Percent Super Shandy Roman Excalibur Ben Franklin, and an Autumn Crisp Special Premium Pumpkinseed Latte Spice Craft Brew is also pretty good. On draft. How about you?”

Me: “Free beer. If I can’t get that, I’ll take whatever comes in a six pack that doesn’t cost more than a gallon of gas. And it’ll have to have enough preservatives in it to last a month.”

Disclaimer: Having switched my allegiance from whatever it is beer is made out of to the grape, I haven’t had a real beer since 2017 or somewhere around then. But I still like beer, or the notion of beer, and occasionally consider grabbing a few tall boys to nurse after cutting the grass on a sweltering hot late-summer afternoon.

I’m inspired in that direction by the great Erk Russell, who said in an autobiography or magazine article that when his wife complained he was drinking too many beers, he fixed the problem by buying bigger beers.

Also, Erk belongs in the College Football Hall of Fame, along with beer.

The trick to beer is to pace yourself, and avoid drinking so much of it you go to someone else’s house and attempt to use pieces of their privacy fence to make a campfire. That happened to my parents, who threw a Christmas party many years ago at their home in Hinesville.

Editor’s note: I didn’t do it. I wasn’t even there (at the time I was stationed in Germany, where more beer than was wise on a certain Christmas Eve led some of us junior enlisted Army peons stuck in the barracks to kidnap a plastic plug-in Santa from a burgermeister’s yard. Somewhere, there’s a Polaroid photo of that Santa, with a blindfold and cigarette).

To get back on track, I heard the tale of the fence told a time or two over the years. It seems one of my parents’ guests – a fairly successful fellow in this world with a college degree, job, company car and wife – mixed cold medication with about 18 beers and a bit of Wild Turkey and then disappeared outside.

He eventually wandered back carrying planks he had pried loose and intended to use to start a campfire. Who does that? A 1990s Ozzy Osbourne, maybe, but not most of us.

And once, nearly four decades ago after a successful hog hunt on a starlit, frosty night at a hunt club near Riceboro, assorted hunters and hunting dogs gathered around a blazing fire and told war stories whilst consuming cold beer and other adult beverages and waiting for the wild hog to roast itself on the fire.

Manly stuff, you know. Fortunately, by the time the hog was ready to eat one of the hunters (not me) had decided to take a nap by the fire.

And, as I recall, someone who may or may not have held a responsible position in the business and/or civic life of the community all those years ago decided the only course of action he had left open was to take a chunk of the roast hog and rub it all over the sleeping fellow’s face.

He then invited the dozen or so hunting dogs in attendance to lick the grease off the poor man’s face, then repeated the process.

This went on a while, and was the funniest thing ever, judging by the laughter. I still get a chuckle thinking about it now.

That said, I can’t exactly remember if the fellow on the receiving end woke up, nor whether he was told of what happened or if he wondered next morning why his skin felt so soft and smelled like a grilled but slightly gamey Boston butt. What I do remember is there were no craft beers there. What was there was the real American stuff that comes in cans and says Budweiser on it somewhere.

Anyway, take a break this holiday weekend if you can, because if I know anything, I know there’s too much that looks like work going on around here these days.

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