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Friday, October 15, 2010



"Misadventures with grain alcohol"

(A disclaimer: This story is an amalgamation of two separate incidents that quite easily could have happened at the same time. All names have been changed to protect the innocent, and the stupid.)

My uncle Jon was famous for two things; his shooting and his home-brewed liquor.

One day while working in his garage building a revolutionary new still from parts he scrounged from God knows where, he hit upon a moment of inspiration.

Why not combine his two loves?

He was sick of having to choose between tending a new batch of hooch, or practicing his shooting for hunting season. Why not do both at the same time, he figured.

But realizing what my Aunt Doreen’s reaction to the idea would be, he decided not to tell anybody until he'd set everything up first.

Like a man half his age, my uncle Jon disassembled and lugged the three hundred pounds of his favorite still named “Betty” uphill two miles behind his house onto a disused old plot of land he owned. Much more impressive was his next feat. Without any help, or alerting the neighbors to what he was doing Uncle Jon built a berm for his target shooting by hand using only shovels and a wheelbarrow.

Once his “masterwork” had been completed three weeks later, Uncle Jon decided to inaugurate his proud accomplishment with a batch of home-brew that coincidentally had been finished that day. (Funny how that worked out, huh?)

Uncle Jon made the classic mistake all the greats do on their first attempts at applied inspiration, hubris and miscalculation. (Namely he'd put the ammo bunker far too close to the still, and directly in the line of any ricochets from the target area.)

As the day went on and uncle Jon began to test both of his projects simultaneously, his shots at the target had began to wander as the shots he was taking from his still only got better in his opinion. All it took to set what would become family lore in motion was an ill-advised “trick shot” he'd seen on an ESPN target shooting event.

With his gun resting comfortably on one shoulder, he lined up the shot while trying not to wobble quite so much. Uncle Jon pulled the trigger and heard the one sound no shooter wants to hear, the high whine of a bullet glancing off of a hard surface and randomly ricocheting back towards the shooter's direction.

Somehow my uncle Jon managed to cover the distance between where he'd been standing only a moment ago and the small dugout 15 feet away that he'd built as a precaution in the matter of seconds.

Uncle Jon carefully peeked up from the lip of the dugout, only after giving himself a quick once-over checking for any trace he'd injured himself. Assured he was in one piece and unperforated, he wondered what that sound was, besides the ringing in one ear.

To him it kinda sounded like someone was emptying a canteen out onto the grass somewhere.

Uncle Jon scratched his head, and looked around to see where the noise was coming from. And that's when he noticed it, the hole at the base of the holding tank of his still. He watched as gallon upon gallon of his hooch poured out through a fist-sized hole onto the ground. Without thinking, uncle Jon stepped forward and saw something that made him run in the other direction as fast his his legs could carry him.

The home-brewed booze wasn't just pouring out onto the ground, it was pooling rather nicely into the ammo bunker he'd thoughtfully stocked with a few weeks worth of freshly bought shells and bullets. And to add fuel to the fire, (literally) the booze was only just missing the still-lit kerosene burner he'd left on for heat.

To hear my uncle tell the story, you'd think he'd outrun a fireball of action movie proportions, but my aunt Doreen swears that you could barely see it back at the house.

Like I said, my uncle Jon was famous for two things; his shooting and his home-brewed liquor.

Story-a-Day is an attempt to bring a small bit of humor and amusement to Mrs. ~brb and Audrey as they fight very serious illnesses. If you have a short, amusing story, please send it to kersley.fitz at yahoo dot com. If you'd prefer, you can drop it in the drop.io (password: challenge) and email me to let me know it's there.
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