Many years ago, Alfred Lord Tennyson borrowed a line from Saint Augustine and waxed poetic, “Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.” Methinks that what I consider to be love must be completely different than what they did. For I cannot imagine what could be worse than having your heart torn asunder by the loss of it.
I could be wrong, of course. I just know that I wanted the pain to stop, and I reached for the best medicine I knew of at the time.
Yes, many are of the opinion that crawling into a bottle of Jack Daniel’s will not solve anything, but I believed that there was something to say about the experience. For if a person stays down on the bottom long enough, oxygen deprivation sets in, and then comes a sense of euphoria before everything goes black.
No, none of that was meant to promote the benefit of just drinking lots of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Sippin’ Whiskey to heal a broken heart (even though it was my favorite). For Jim Beam, Wild Turkey 101, Southern Comfort, and gallons upon gallons of Busch Beer also contributed greatly to the cause.
Needless to say, I was not in my right-mind—nor did I want to be. For when the fog started to clear, nothingness was the only thing on the horizon from my point of view, and that was not a sight I was eager to see.
Much to my delight, what I was eager to see (other than Sam wanting me back, of course) came along just ten days after I was shown the door. For a sweet young thing made me feel much better about myself. Well, at least for an hour or so, she did.
Evidently, I must have failed to return the favor. For she committed suicide a few weeks later.
No, I do not mean that to sound as cold-hearted as it probably does. For I considered the news of her death to be a great tragedy, but I never felt like I had anything to do with her decision.
Considering the fact that her brother followed her example a few years later, it became fairly obvious to me that I was correct to feel as I did. I still felt for the family, nonetheless.
Next in line (I think) was a fine-looking young lady, who was rather interesting (to say the least). A good example of what I am trying to say happened late one night (or very early one morning) when I awoke being eaten alive by chiggers (tiny bugs that feed on blood) and soaking wet from a fairly heavy mist hanging in the air above the field where I had evidently decided to take a nap. For when I sat up to take a look around, I could just make out some movement a few yards away.
No, it was not a vicious creature fixing to attack, but my first thought was of a nymph from Greek mythology after the fog inside of my head lifted a little. For what I was seeing was a naked woman leaping about like she did not have a care in this world.
Another memory of her is unrelated, but this is as good of a place as any to stick it in. For she desperately tried to convince me that Blackfoot was a band well worth listening to, but I was seriously into country at the time. I thought of her every time I have cranked up and rocked out to Blackfoot’s Highway Song since.
Yeah, we had some fun, and despite her obvious quirks, I thought she showed a lot of potential. For she helped give me enough confidence to go see my girls almost every day, but before the relationship became too serious, I sabotaged it by going after a girl, who was almost as completely out of my league as Sam was.
Oh my, talk about being something special, that girl had it all. For she looked a lot like a much younger version of Lynn Anderson (a great Country/Western singer who recorded, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden) to me, and she could sing just like Patsy Cline (Country/Western Music Hall of Famer).
No, Patsy’s music was not what I would normally listen to on the radio (AM/FM, not C.B.), but to hear that other girl sing her songs was truly something to behold. For with eyes closed, I was hard-pressed to tell a difference between her and Patsy, and I was not the only one who felt that way.
Yes, I could see that she would be going places, but I decided to make a play for her anyway. For it was not like I had a lot to lose, and since I had drawn nary a sober breath for several weeks, I was also feeling rather bulletproof.
Surprisingly, she did not laugh in my face. In fact, she was rather apologetic in her response. For she told me that she could not really go out with anyone—let alone become serious about them, because of her father being a numbers-runner for the Kansas City mob. For this would give them another thing to use against her father in order to keep him firmly under their control.
Suffice to say, I was rather taken aback by her answer, but on second thought, I started to give her the benefit of my doubt. For there were at least a hundred other things that she could have said, and after she showed me the chrome-plated, pearl-handled, snub-nosed Smith & Wesson .38 Special revolver she carried in her purse wherever she went, I became fairly convinced. No, it was not cocked and pointed at me at the time, neither.
Despite the disappointment over having to settle for just being fairly good friends with her, a little color was starting to appear on my horizon. For I had been welcomed into the inner circle of the Branding Iron, which was a Country/Western bar on the south-side of Joplin, Missouri, and this most definitely had its benefits. Hey, I was even invited to go to a very exclusive skinny-dipping party in Shoal Creek, with around twenty from the bar after it closed one night!
Oh no, there was no slowing me down now. If anything, I was speeding up. For on a sunny Thursday morning, I started drinking quite heavily at my mom’s house outside of Cassville, and it did not stop until the following Saturday night.
There is much about that time I have no memory of. For it was the first time I experienced what it was like to keep doing stuff while blacked-out, but there are a few things I do recall.
One of them is about coming to just before driving my big black Chevy 4-wheel drive pick-up truck through someone’s fence on purpose(?). After going ahead and doing so, I fell out of the cab, which was close to three feet off of the ground. A lady then came out of the house around fifty yards away and yelled, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” To that I replied, “Fixing fence, I guess?” Her response was to scream quite loudly and run back into her house.
She was not the only one going out of her mind at the time. For I had loaded up an eighteen year-old waitress after her overnight shift had ended around 7 a.m. that Saturday morning, and she was insisting quite forcefully that I had better leave the fence-fixing to later on.
Yeah, she must have been just worried about not getting any good loving from me before the cops showed up. For just as soon as that was over with, she informed me that it was time to take her back home.
No, the deed was not done right then and there. For she also insisted on us driving far away from that lady’s fence.
Taking her back home required driving through a part of Cassville, and it was while doing so that I received a huge break from someone my parents had considered to be a mortal enemy, who was a Cassville City Policeman at the time. For I am quite sure that I would have melted a breathalyzer if he had wanted me to blow into one.
Obviously, my parents had it wrong about him. For he was only interested in what I had to say about my earlier fight with that lady’s fence, and after I promised to fix it as soon as possible, along with promising to go straight home after taking the fair lass with me to her home, he let me go with a knowing look in his eye.
Believe or not, I did exactly what I promised, but unbeknownst to the nice policeman, what I considered to be my home at the time was around sixty miles away at the Branding Iron, and being there on a busy Saturday night constitutes the last memories I have of my infamous three-day drunk. For I remember starting to play pool and then being told that I had run the table three games in a row (never done before, nor since) before I just quit playing. The very last memory I have of the evening in question is of being carried out of the door by the manager and a part-time bartender while protesting that I did not want to go to bed.
When I woke up just after dawn that Sunday morning, I knew that my rampage was over. For I did not want to drink anymore. I just wanted to die. Again.
I experienced what it felt like to feel utterly alone for the first time when Sam tried to break free from my grasp while I was still attending school at Mizzou, and I experienced it for a second time when she succeeded in removing me from her life a couple of months before that Sunday morning. What I was feeling then, however, was worse—much, much worse. For I had reached a whole new level of emptiness.
I also felt like I was freezing to death, despite it still being in August (I think). For they had put me to bed in the cab of my truck, and my clothes felt wet enough to wring out.
No, I do not believe that the moisture could have been from the early stages of detoxification. For I would think that a person would have to be a lot more dried-out than I was before the diabolical detox-sweats set in.
Yes, I suppose it is true that I did not really want to die all that bad. For instead of seeking to end my misery, I sought a soft shoulder to cry on.
No, there was never anything sexual—let alone romantic, between us (not from any lack of trying on my part—be assured). For Annette did not want that kind of relationship with me.
Nonetheless, I loved her as much as I have ever loved anyone, and when she suggested that a change of scenery might be in the best interest of all concerned, I took it to heart. For it was like pouring salt in an open wound every time I saw Sam and my girls.
Yes, a stronger man would have stood like a rock and let the travails of life break about him. I was not that sort of man, however, and I was all too painfully aware of how damaging it could be to my girls if they were not sheltered from the storm that had engulfed me.
No, it was not enough for them to just have a stable home with another dad. For the winds that were howling about me at the time could have torn the roof right off of their relatively happy home, and I still had hope that the day would come when they would understand what I was going through.
Besides, I did not go all that far away. Just around 120 miles north-northwest of Joplin, in fact. Garnett, Kansas was still like a foreign country to me, even though I had been in the area many times when I was younger, with it being just fifteen miles (or so) from my dad’s hometown of Blue Mound.
Yes, visiting an area and actually living there are two very different things. Thankfully, there were a couple of familiar faces around. For I had went up there with a friend from Washburn, Missouri (around eight miles south of Cassville) to work for a former boss of mine at Wells Aluminum in Cassville.
Talk about having a time. For we lived out of the back of Bill's (the friend from Washburn) pick-up truck from the first of September (I think) until the end of October, and since I had took up drinking again about thirty minutes after I swore off it in the parking lot of the Branding Iron that fateful Sunday morning, the beer flowed at a steady stream—even at a 3.2% rate at times.
Just in case you did not catch the reference, beer sold in Kansas back then was 3.2% alcohol by volume. Whereas, the beer sold in Missouri was 5%. Needless to say, we bootlegged a lot across the border, and prayed that the authorities would not become serious about investigating why we always appeared to be enjoying living out of the back of a pick-up truck so much.
Around the first of November, we finally abandoned the pickup in favor of a motel room at a weekly rate. For the weather was starting to act like it would be winter soon, and Bill had hooked up with a mighty fine-looking lady, who liked his sense of style a lot more than everyone else around at the time did. For he would sometimes wear a purple leisure-suit and a yellow ruffled-shirt to work, and he did not work in an office, either!
No, Bill was not the only one who would entertain a guest at our motel room on occasion. For I was finding myself more and more in the company of a very petite, blond-haired wildcat (in every sense of the word) by the name of Robin.
We first met on the floor of the aluminum window and door factory where we worked, and for the first few weeks, I was just a shoulder for her to cry on after her live-in boyfriend finished beating the snot out of her. I would have liked to have played the part of her knight in shining armor the very first time she told me what was going on, but she would not tell me where they lived, nor anything else that might help me find her tormentor. Therefore, I had to settle for just doing what I had been doing, and that seemed to be enough for her for the time being.
Quite suddenly, however, all of that changed after she was knocked out during a particularly savage beating. Well, at least in regards to the status of our relationship. For she did not give me an opportunity to teach her feller some manners, but the day before Bill and I left to go down to Cassville to visit our respective families over Thanksgiving, she asked if she could tag along, and we became a couple at that time.
Now to say that my mom and brother were somewhat less than impressed with Robin would be another understatement. For they did not know what to think about someone only 5’ 2” and a hundred pounds soaking wet, who could drink almost as much as I could, and a not so subtle dislike for her developed into open animosity literally overnight.
No, they were not the only ones who felt that way. For after Robin and I decided to stay in Cassville, a number of my friends became fairly well acquainted with Robin, and many of them confided in me that she gave them a very bad feeling.
None of that really mattered to me at the time, however. For she was quite dedicated to satisfying all of my needs in ways I did not know were even possible, and on the 21st day of December in the year of our Lord, 1984, Robin and I were married in a small ceremony in my mom's living room.
Yes, it was very nice of my mom to let us be married there. For she was certainly not under any sort of obligation to do so (not even a strictly moral one in accordance to the rules of engagement governing family interaction after I failed to be there for her when my dad died) and I am quite sure that her extreme dislike for Robin did not make it any easier.
At least she had the last laugh. For I finally started listening to what was being said about Robin. Some even went as far as to express concern over there being something rather unholy about her, and this was coming from people who could take our Heavenly Father’s name in vain while swallowing a mouthful of beer.
No, I did not want to believe it. For I knew that she really did love me, but after I came to better understand how her old boyfriend could feel compelled to beat on her so much, I succumbed to the pressure and left for the greener pastures of Amarillo, Texas while leaving Robin far behind in Cassville.