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Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Keene Texas Cure for Alcoholism

(c) 2013 by Tom King

Johnson County Liquor Store - Early 20th century.
My Grandpa, Thomas Adolph King, was a gifted story-teller, harmonica player and (I am told) could play a wicked piano, though I never heard him play. My grandmother got rid of it.  She had no musical gifts herself and the only instrument she ever played was the radio and she thought that Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn were the only singers worth listening to.  Grandpa played the harmonica for us grandkids and he was quite good at it.  We were always buying him new harmonicas for birthdays and Christmas.  I still have one of his old harps.

In the early days of my hometown, Keene, Texas, the city was inhabited almost exclusively by Seventh day Adventists, most of whom either worked for the academy or college or who had moved there to educate their kids.  My grandpa's dad taught at the public school just outside of town and grandpa went to school there.  Johnson County is a dry county (lot's of Baptists), but that didn't prevent a couple of good old boys from setting up a still in the woods on the other side of town.  They did a brisk business with a couple of the more reluctant Adventists in town.

One man in particular used to come home from work on weekends worn out.  He'd skip church and slip off into the woods on Sabbath afternoon and not reappear till after sundown well and truly plastered. If that had been all of it, his long suffering wife (and more important to the story - his not-so-long-suffering mother-in-law) would likely have held her peace and gone on cleaning up the vomit and half-carrying, half-dragging him into bed every Saturday night.  Unfortunately, with a little corn liquor in him, Bubba (not his real name) tended to get very short-tempered.  When he was like that, everybody in the neighborhood knew to avoid him.  Unfortunately, his poor wife lived in the same house with him.  Although the bruises were usually healed up before next Sabbath, the whole neighborhood knew he was knocking her around Saturday evenings.

Finally, mama had had enough.

One memorable Saturday evening, Bubba came home three or four sheets to the wind, knocked his wife around a bit, puked on the front porch and passed out on the sofa.  By the time his mother-in-law arrived he was passed out cold.  Mama sprang into action.

Her daughter was sent to the linen closet for a bedsheet and Mama went to the woodshed for an instrument of retribution that was kept there.  This happened back during the horse and buggy era in Keene.

The two women spread the sheet out on the living room floor, rolled Bubba off the couch and onto one end of the sheet.  Then, they rolled him up in it like a sausage and tied ropes around the ends and the middle and dragged him out the front door.  Bubba slept blissfully through the whole thing, having become accustomed to being helped to his bed each night.

Once they had him out on the front lawn, Mama retrieved the buggy whip she'd brought from the shed and commenced to flailing on the despicable human sausage who had been slapping her baby girl around.

Bubba woke up partially during the beating, but all he could see was white.  Something was cutting him up, but he couldn't find his way out of the sheet. Eventually it stopped and he passed out again.  He was that drunk.

Grandpa said the women untied him and rolled him, bloody and cut up, wearing nothing but his undershorts out onto the front lawn.  Front lawns in Keene in the summer back then were mostly dirt and grass burrs.  When he woke in the morning, he was cold, damp, bruised and covered in dried blood with a head that felt like someone had driven a nail through the back of his skull.  Sheepishly he crawled off the lawn, went inside and cleaned himself up.

Of course,  the entire neighborhood knew what had happened, but nobody seemed to know who had done the deed.  Bubba gave up alcohol as a dangerous business and started attending church again and his wife stopped having to cover up her bruises.

While no one has ever seriously considered using this type of therapy for alcoholism as a standard form or treatment, it worked rather well in Keene.  Several other husbands gave up booze too and one of the stills mysteriously blew up. All in all, as cures for alcoholism go, it was rather an effective one.

Not that you could use it in these wimpy times - lawyers you see.

Tom King

1 comment:

Greenescape said...

For some strange reason, I love old Keene stories. Especially fun ones!