Through the Fence 5-23-11 |

Through the Fence 5-23-11

Lisa Hamblen Hood
Goldthwaite, Texas

Forbidden fruit has been luring people since the dawn of time. The very presence of rules prohibiting its consumption makes it more tempting. When my dad was growing up, there were lots of Puritanical rules in his family. He was one of six children born to a traveling Methodist minister in the early 1900s. The two daughters were little “goody two-shoes,” but my dad and his brothers were stereotypical “preacher’s kids.” They were always getting into mischief.

After they pulled some life threatening prank, they’d act like innocent choir boys when their dad confronted them. Their mother would accept their sincere apology, but their dad always saw through their pretense. He exacted a punishment that would deter the most hardened criminal. He’d pick them up by the hair and give them each a swift kick in the shin. Although he was a mere 5-feet 2-inches tall, he was stout enough to take on that daunting job. Afterwards, the boys would confess genuine repentance. Unfortunately, it only lasted until their dad left town again.

On one such occasion, one of my uncles discovered a recipe for making green beer. It wasn’t dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day, rather it was called that because it wasn’t completely fermented. Since there was never a drop of liquor in their house, the boys could only fantasize about intoxication. They rounded up enough wheat, barley, hops and yeast to make a large batch of homebrew. After mixing the ingredients together with the prescribed amount of water in an old washtub, they set it to boil over a fire in the back yard. Afterwards, they poured it into jelly jars. Then they stored them in their shed and waited for the magical process of fermentation to begin.

A week later, when their dad was gone on an evangelistic mission, the boys went to check on their project. My Uncle Stuart convinced the others that he should be the first to try it. He took a long slurp of the lukewarm beer, wiped his mouth, and pronounced it ready. Then the other brothers took a sip. It surely tasted vile, but they were too proud to admit it. After a few swigs, the alcohol hit their virginal blood. Pretty soon, taste didn’t matter. They all gulped down copious amounts of beer. They giggled; they snorted; they told coarse jokes. They used words that would surely condemn their young souls to Hell.

But their fun was short lived. Their crude and unsanitary brewing method along with their intolerance for alcohol soon turned their drunken brawl into a vomiting contest. Once the first one began heaving, the others quickly joined in. When their mother came in, the boys were pale and dehydrated and reeking of stale beer. She took up a nurturing role, putting them all to bed and blotting their foreheads with damp rags. They cheered up for a moment until they heard their father come through the front door.

After greeting his wife with a peck on the cheek, he asked where the boys were. She told him the truth as she knew it – they were sick. He walked into their room, and with one whiff, surmised all he needed to know – they were drunk. Any fatherly pity vanished, and he dragged them out of bed and gave them the usual punishment. They were so ill and the room was still spinning so violently, that they hardly felt the pain. But when the booze wore off, what they did feel was shame.

For all his stern ways, my granddad was a very loving father. He enjoyed good clean fun and took his boys hunting and fishing whenever he was home. His kids craved his approval, and the thought of disappointing him hurt as much as their throbbing heads and bruised shins. All those Biblical warnings about reaping what you sow and about wine being a mocker suddenly had new meaning. They blamed each other and themselves for being so foolish.

The allure of tasting forbidden fruit, especially when fermented, was quenched for the time being. They would revert to other stunts like sticking their fingers in cakes and tipping over outhouses. At least these sins didn’t have such painful consequences.

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