back when I was a kid, one of my best friends was a kid named Leonard. Leonard came from a large family, and being somewhere among the middle of the litter, he was the lazy one. His mother said that he simply lacked energy. Leonard was the sort of kid who would rather read a book than ride bike, but for some reason, whenever I came by, his attitude changed and he was ready for adventure. Well, sort of; he only had enough energy for a small adventure, so thats what we did.
My dad used to call him ‘Caterpillar’ because he moved so slowly, and the other kids used to call him names like ‘worm’ and ‘spider’. I just called him Leonard. God knows, having nicknames like ‘Gilligan’ and ‘Slink’, the last thing I wanted to do was hurt somebody by sticking a stupid nickname on them.
One day me and Leonard decided to visit the local river, see what treasures we could find. From time to time, guys would visit the riverside and leave girly magazines on the beach. That proved to be great entertainment for us kids. At eleven, those things interested us lots, even though we didn’t bring them home to show our parents. My God fearin’ parents would have lay a birch limb across my ass cheeks for such a thing.
On this particular visit to the river, Leonard and I noticed some fat guy quickly exiting the scene when we got there. Leonard noticed something sticking out of the river, where the water rushed the fasted. In the little stream we found a bottle of beer. Just a bit farther down the river, in the rapids, we found several more. Even further down the river, we found the rest of the beer. The guy had been placing beer in the river to chill, possibly for later in the day when he returned and he could enjoy nice cold beer.
Back then, electricity was a convenience for the wealthy only, so I guess this guy didn’t have the luxury of a refrigerator. Anyway, here we were, two eleven year olds, with a case of Newfoundland’s finest, Black Horse Beer (I still hate that stuff. Dad says it tastes like horse piss, but hopefully he doesn’t know what horse piss actually tastes like!!) and three girly magazines that the fat guy had left waiting for his return later that day.
Our first act was to try and open the beer, and taste the stuff. Being ‘Beer Virgins’, we were curious to what the stuff tasted like, and why all the seniors at school used to spend their weekends along the river drinking the stuff. It must have tasted like Orange Crush or something, so naturally we wanted some.
Back then, beers didn’t have the screw on caps they do nowadays. You needed some sort of beer opener (or Howie Legge’s teeth, as he used to open beer for seniors using only his teeth back then) to get the stuff open. Leonard had a better idea. He said that he had been watching an old western at his grandpa’s, and the cowboy smashed the front of the bottle on a rock and drank the beer, didn’t even cut his lip, so thats what we did. Leonard held the beer at the base, and gave it a clunk across a sharp rock. Somehow he didn’t get the same results as that cowboy. He ended up breaking the bottle and losing all the beer across himself. I tried, and same thing. We smelled like two winos you would find on a city street, so we decided against trying that again.
Eleven bottles later, we managed to open one. With the other bottles smashed and nothing but a beer smell, we finally managed one bottle that we could drink. I remember Leonard wishing the stuff tasted better than it smelled, but my first drink proved different. The stuff was horrible! It tasted like the yeast mom used to make bread (Yes I tried some once, ended up puking my guts up). Leonard didn’t believe me so he had a drink as well, and then we drank the rest of the beer on dares.
Finished the beer, we both lay on the riverbed, our stomaches screaming with pain. My head was a little dizzy and I noticed Leonard running for the bushes to puke. Just then our beer provider returned to the river. I can still hear the curses when instead of finding nice cold beer (well actually gross horrible beer), he found only smashed bottles and footprints that led him right to us. We were too sick and drunk to run away, so we hid in the bushes.
We stayed hidden in the bushes for several hours after he left. We were either too drunk or to scared to leave. When we finally returned home to my house, we were greeted by worried parents who rushed to meet us at the front gate of the yard. Smelling like booze and still woozy from the beer, we staggered like two alcoholics, telling each other how much we loved our parents and ourselves. At first my dad was furious, but then he broke out in laughter. This didn’t last long though, as he forbid me to play with Leonard again. “That kid is too wild for you” he said. “But dad, that kid is the kid you call Caterpillar! How can he be wild, he sleeps all the time!”
We eventually managed to tell our story, and my dad seemed to understand. “Curiosity seemed to get the best of you guys, and I am sure you learned a lesson, but being a dad, I must do dad stuff, you understand, don’t you?” He said. I did understand, and I also realized that I would get a spanking and be grounded and lose my bike for a week or so, but it wasn’t so bad, it rained the next few days anyway.
I did learn a lesson on that day though. I was never much of a drinker afterwards. Even now, I may have an occasional beer with dinner, but I generally don’t like the stuff, it tastes like horse piss.