I did not sleep well last night. It happens some times. Last night I was worrying about some stuff I have no control over and probably shouldn’t let bother me anyway. The point is, I could not get to sleep. I tossed and turned. I read. I drank warm milk. Around 2 AM, I finally decided to watch tv for a while and since he was on my mind, I watched my grandpa’s late night favorite, Gunsmoke. So that makes tonight’s choice an easy one. Won’t you join me now as we stand and make the Recoil.
I remember sitting up late with Pa to watch Gunsmoke after the news. I loved those stories, following the adventures of Marshal Matt Dillon, Festus, Miss Kitty and Doc. I am sure there were lots of others, but those stuck out in my head. The show ran for 20 years, that is hard to believe these days, but they made 635 episodes from 1955 to 1975. Of course, we were watching them in syndication. They came on after the 10 o’clock news and if I had been reasonably good, I got to stay up and watch with him. I miss those days. It has been almost a year since he passed, but there is not a day that goes by that I do not think of him and the lessons he tried to teach.
He had a strong connection with the land and he tried to instill that in the rest of us. He used to say that you’d spend the first part of your life getting your money together, so you could get a little land and put together a life, then you could spend the middle half making things nicer and getting to enjoy it, then the last quarter watching it go down. Pa wasn’t always an optimist, but he was a realist. He always told me if I wanted a piece of land or anything else, to get my money together and watch and be ready when the time came. That he had watched his whole life as farms you never thought would be broken apart went up for sale. He was big on patience and playing the long game. Maybe too good at that. Every barn and outbuilding is full of stuff he never got around to using or stuff we might need later or things that were just too good to throw away. So maybe “getting the stuff together for later” wasn’t always the best plan.
Over a lifetime, he acquired so much. It is still daunting, trying to figure out what to do with things. All those little lessons are a part of that too. Having to remember where there is a good straight cherry tree in those woods, a particularly large walnut that he wanted to make sure they didn’t bulldoze. It is hard to tell in retrospect, what was a passing remark and what was a life lesson. He spent most of his life trying to regain something he lost as a child, trying to create a place for the roots of the family to take grip. Buying up pieces of the old family homestead, as he could, finding his own spot and building a life there. He always admonished me to study hard so I could work with my head and not my back, like he had to. But it also made him proud to see me out there on the farm using my back to help keep things together. It is hard to watch the fields grow up in scrub and weeds. Hard to know that I have let him down.
Change is inevitable and “the only ones who don’t break anything are the ones who don’t do anything.” So let’s break this maudlin mood and make a drink. Grab your tins and pop in 2 ounces of bourbon, I went with the last of a bottle of Michter’s, I had been holding on to it too long anyway, 3/4 of an ounce of elderflower liqueur, I used the last of a bottle of St. Germain that I also had held on to for far too long and 1/2 an ounce of fresh squeezed lime juice. Add ice and shake to the tune of Ennio Morricone’s “Ecstasy of Gold”. I introduced the boy to “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” this week, that classic tale of greed and betrayal. He enjoyed the story, but loved the music even more and he has been humming ever since. When your tins are good and cold, strain over ice into something without history, like this glass from Spain and top with ginger beer, I went with some Reed’s I got at a show a couple of years ago. Which is funny, I held on to this bottle because it is so good. I held on to it so long that it was no longer excellent and probably ruined the drink. You can hold on too long. I guess there is a lesson in that. Garnish with flowers from the garden and a lime wheel.
I had high hopes for this one, but I am not impressed. Maybe I am just not in much of a drinking mood, maybe it is that the ginger beer has lost it’s brightness, maybe it would have been better if Ms. Kitty poured it, but the drink just didn’t work for me. It is kinda like taking that shot without getting set, sometimes the Recoil punishes you. That is how it is, you win some, you lose some and that is ok. Maybe losing things makes you appreciate what you have left. I don’t know. I know I miss my grandpa. I know I sure wish I could talk to him and see what he thinks, what he would do in my shoes. I know what he’d say though. He’d just grin and say “Thank you, we’re alright” and get back to work. As he always told me, “I’m just walking along this road about 40 years ahead of you. I can show you how, but I can’t do it for you.” He showed me how to do a lot of things, and he told me it wasn’t going to be easy, but we will get through it. I know if he were here today, he’d listen and tell me not to worry too much because, “It is all gonna be alright…eventually.” And it will be. Y’all, stay safe, stay hydrated and stay sane, my friends.