As soon as it touched his lips, he knew he had never before felt as if he were on fire. It burned going down his esophagus…it burned his nostrils…it was potent and intoxicating. The after effects were brain numbing, and he could forget his worries. He heard the beat of a different drummer from the rest of the men in his family. He was not quite settled. He did not yearn to follow farming. Hunting and fishing were the fires in his soul. In some ways, he felt trapped…the fire of the whiskey stoked his fears and insecurities.
As time went by, he became a functioning alcoholic making a living and supporting his family by being a carpenter and storekeeper. Did his family feel the backdraft of that fire? His business was a success although it was his wife and children who handled most of the duties at the store. From time to time, he would leave for hunting trips to Idaho and Wyoming. Packed with his gear was a bottle to quench the fire within. Somehow, he managed to keep his hands steady and his aim true during the day, but around the campfire at night…
From the time he started drinking, he had to find sources for the whiskey as his county was dry. Bottles and money changed hands. Identities of the distillers were secret and names not to be repeated. Local law noticed his frequent intoxication…where was he getting the firewater? The sheriff questioned him to find out his suppliers. With his feet to the fire, he caved in and revealed a few names. When authorities started to watch these men, the accused took notice. To teach the informant a lesson, they set his house on fire. They had waited purposely for the accuser to leave the homestead with his family so no one would be home. This would teach him to keep his mouth shut! Later, he recanted his story to the police and denied everything. But small towns harbor gossip and insinuations.
In time, the house was rebuilt. As a carpenter, he was able to build a better design…make it cosier for his wife who loved to care for her flowers and gardens. He cut back on the amount of alcohol that stoked his inner fires. He spent more time at his favorite fishing holes. Maybe, at last the fires had burned out and left his soul at peace.
The man in the story is my great grandfather whom I never met…he died the day after I was born. My mother shared this story with me. May his sweet soul rest and be at peace.