For many people, their first experience with alcohol holds varying memories. Many remember taking a sip from their old man’s brew as he read the paper and wasn’t paying attention. Others slipped into the family liquor cabinet to be cool and got shit-faced while the parents were out. Well, mine is an experience that will forever be heralded as one of the wildest senior trips in history.
Our senior class in high school was a bunch of wild hellions to begin with. This irreverent bunch was investigated more than once for a host of crimes ranging from arson to a “man-act.” To this day, I’m not certain what that means — but that’s what the Big Stone Gap police called it. It apparently had something to do with transporting young girls across state lines. At any rate, given the reputation of this group I look back now and truly question the wisdom of the idea to take this troop on a trip anywhere other than jail.
Some of the lame asses who “led” the class believed the senior destination should have some kind of educational tie. Go figure — I mean it was school. Therefore, it was suggested we spend a week in Washington D.C. learning about this great land of ours and how its laws are made. The majority of the class already knew a thing or too about the law (mostly how to break them and then channel through the legal system) and vetoed the idea. It was therefore agreed we could have a tremendous educational experience on the sandy beaches of Daytona.
A couple of my buddies and I managed to convince our parents to foot the 150 dollar bill for the trip. We also decided since it was the first time we were away from our parents, there would be no rules. A week of hedonism was appealing to a 17-year old kid. In first-degree style, I decided I would have my first alcohol and sexual experiences in this planned week of debauchery in south Florida. The “chaperones” for this escapade were helpful in facilitating the process, which I will explain in a moment.
Since the Mom and Dad Savings and Loan was financing the odyssey, it was hard to hit them up for additional funds. Therefore, I mowed lawns and performed various odd jobs to amass 200-dollars spending money for the trip. I decided it would be better to bring clandestine booze along and save on the prices that would obviously be inflated for the tourist trap of Daytona. I also had some concern that obtaining booze at the tender age of 17 would be a difficult proposition. I later learned my fears were purely mythical in that regard. I decided to pay a visit to the one person I knew who had a background in the alcoholic arts. I went to Bony Collier.
I revealed our plans of getting plastered to Bony. The longtime veteran of many a drunken binge seemed pleased that a new generation of alcoholics was coming into its own. He apparently saw the opportunity to foster his legacy. Bony climbed in the truck with me and told me to drive. We drove to an area called Crackers Neck and came to the end of the pavement. Bony had me lock the hubs into four wheel drive and we headed straight up the side of Chandler Mountain. This place was known for its rich crops of marijuana, so I’d always tried to steer clear. The Chandler boys were notoriously protective and both Vietnam Veterans, skilled in the art of booby traps to guard their pot fields. Bony, who served in the Big War—Korea—(it was big to him)—knew the Chandlers as well as the terrain. We parked at the top of the hill and made our way out the top of a ridgeline. We stopped at a tree that was obviously bigger than the rest and began our descent over the opposite side of the mountain. We traveled about 100-yards down a steep slope to an area that was sort of flat, but covered with laurel. Bony pulled back one of these bushes to reveal a solid copper moonshine still.
I was impressed with the camouflage. I figured that was our destination, but would have never seen it if I hadn’t been led straight to the source. Bony produced a half-gallon jar that in a previous life probably held peaches or some other innocent product. Now it held the shiny, clear liquid that many a man had died over in our county. Bony said it was mine if I wanted it. Naturally I did, but I had to act like I knew what I was doing. I grabbed a grimy spoon that was used for who knows what and poured it full of the clear liquid, then struck a match. The rule I’ve always been taught is when the flame burns blue—it’s good stuff. The flame was as blue as the sky above. I accepted this graduation present and I think Bony had a tear in his eye.
Armed with a half-gallon of White Lightening the bus pulled out from the high school at 11:00 at night. We drove all night to be there to catch the Florida sunrise. For four of us the shine was already flooding in. We nipped on the jar all the way to Florida and by the time we crossed the Georgia state line, we might as well have been leaving the surface of the moon. I hadn’t had but three shots and was already numb by the time we were in Tennessee (a full 30-miles). By the time we reached the Sunshine State I was hallucinating.
We arrived about 8:00 that morning and checked into the hotel. The chaperones told us they didn’t care what we did as long as we were on the bus to go home Saturday morning. We didn’t see them all week. My buddies and I staggered off to see what trouble we could start. The first thing we did was pool our money and rent a dune buggy for the week. The machine was a redneck’s dream and was useful transportation on the road or on the beach. We then headed to a liquor store.
Coming from Big Stone, the liquor store was no more than a building with one small room and a few bottles. We’d never been in there since it was operated by the state and strictly controlled. We walked into the Liquor Emporium and were dazzled by all of the shiny bottles that stacked over our heads for what seemed like an eternity. This liquor store was as big as Kroger’s. Fearing the age thing, we had some trepidation as we crept in among the rows of shelves that cascaded bottles of shit that we couldn’t pronounce. I strolled over to the beer cooler and saw we had struck gold. There, in big bold letters, Pabst Blue Ribbon .99/six-pack. Manna from Heaven—we pushed two buggies with 100 six packs to the counter, added in a bottle of Captain Morgan and a couple of bottles of Pure Grain Alcohol. The lady at the counter looked skeptical, but we acted like we knew what we were doing. She asked if we were 21. We said yes. She said that will be $165. We paid and loaded the stash onto the dune buggy.
We returned to our motel room and proceeded to carry ice from the motel’s machine in five-gallon buckets to our bathroom. The bathtub became a cooler for the week, filled with beer. I then went to a fruit stand across the road, bought a watermelon and plugged it. Into the plug I poured the remainder of our moonshine, replaced the plug and set the melon in the icy tub. We proceeded to drink.
Any stories I would relate from here until the end of the week would be purely speculation. Most of what I know about my actions during that week come from second hand reports—and accuracy is questionable. There are reports I paid Jenny Davidson to strip, I find that hard to believe. There are reports I solicited prostitutes and was denied because I didn’t have enough money.
There is also a report that I became irritated and beat the shit out of some guy who crashed our party. That report is likely to be true due to circumstantial evidence. I never walked away from a good fight, especially in a drunken stupor. There was a broken picture in our room and my fist was bloody and aching. I guess I could have punched the picture—but the dent in the wall fit the head of a human.
I really wish I hadn’t gotten SO drunk that week. I kept hearing rampant stories of group sex and other stuff that would have probably been a lot of fun. We took no showers that week—our bathtub was the bar—and at some point I obviously threw up. I recall my buddies waking me on the morning we were to leave. There were beer cans everywhere. The room looked like a tornado hit. The TV was on its side, sheets were missing from the bed, and curtains were off the wall. I was laying in a mixture of puke, watermelon rinds, and my shirt was soaked. I took off my clothes and left them at the motel, redressed for the first time of the week, and made it to the bus.
My head throbbed and there was a dull roar as the big Bristol-Jenkins Silver Bullet headed north. I wasn’t alone; nearly everybody on the bus was hung over and wreaking of sex and alcohol. As the reality of this Sodom and Gomorrah like week began to set in, some began damage control. Missy Patterson, normally considered the vestal virgin who did no wrong, had apparently tied on a good one. She sat down with each person on the bus begging that they not tell what happened once we got home.
She sat down by me and started explaining that her actions during our week of debauchery weren’t anything she’d ever done before or would ever do again. She kept begging me, “Please don’t tell anyone what happened.” I lifted the ice bag from my head and asked. “What happened?” She got up and walked to the next seat.###
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