1970 - I’m an Army brat. My father is a retired Lt.Colonel in the US Army. At the time, he was the CO (that’s Army talk for Commanding Officer) of an ammunition plant in the midwest. They no longer make ammunition there, I think they’re turning it into a shopping mall or something.
Coming from a military family, I’m used to Post Housing. Cinder blocks, usually pale green, cheap linoleum floors and about as much ambiance as an Operating Room. This particular assignment, however, was unlike any other we had seen. Sure, we spent 6 years in Germany, France and England, but nothing compared to this place. The “Housing Area” on the ammunition plant is known as River Ridge. Good reason for that. Our home, which was a mansion, sat on a cliff overlooking 12-mile Island in the Ohio River. We were surrounded by acres and acres of beautiful, rolling fields of grass and woods. There was even a gorgeous reservoir set aside just so the residents of River Ridge could swim. We called it “the Pool” though there was no concrete, just a nice, clean pond surrounded by grass and trees. Like something you’d see in a Disney movie. Sort of.
The home was not your typical Army quarters. I’ve already described it as a mansion because that’s the proper word to use. 3-car detached garage. 5 bedrooms, 3-½ bathrooms, formal living room, casual living room, dining room, etc. Even a detached outbuilding in which my Dad kept his awesome audio equipment. In short, the house and surroundings were like something out of a dream.
Being a teenage boy at the time, and hanging around with other teenage boys, this place was a true adventure.
Now I know that not all teenagers drink alcohol. I don’t drink today. But I did back then. And so did my friends. We drank whatever we could get our hands on . The particular night I’m about to describe, I think the drink of choice (all we had) was Sloe Gin. If you drink and you’ve never tasted Sloe Gin - don’t. Just grab some cooking oil, mix it with Vodka and throw half the spices in your kitchen into it and you’ll come pretty close to that taste. And it was hot. And I was drinking it from one of those squirt-type ketchup bottles, you know, the kind with the little spout on the top? Didn’t take me long to go to LaLaLand.
The rest of the story is pretty fuzzy.
My friends and I spent the night, kind of a camp-out sort of affair, only no tents or camping stuff. I’m not really sure what our intentions were. But, while we were doing whatever it is that we were doing, we got hungry.
I have no idea where the fried chicken came from. I’m really not sure where the Sloe Gin came from either. But they were there. And we were ravenous, drunk teenagers. Other than drinking, we weren’t doing anything illegal or harmful to others. We were good boys. Hell, I was the Commander’s son! I’m supposed to be setting an example for the rest. I never asked for that job and I wasn’t very good at it.
Being the ecologically minded fellows we were, when we were done eating a piece of chicken, we threw it in the reservoir. At least that way the raccoons would have to swim to get it and in the process get some exercise.
Erase the next 8 hours or so because that’s about all I remember, chicken in the pool.
I came to with a throbbing head and little recollection of the prior night. I vaguely recalled flying chickens or some such hallucination. As reality began to wash upon me like waves crashing against the shore, I noticed my face was wet and there was a large, black, moving shadow above my head blocking out the eye-scorching morning sun. The shadow barked. Shadows don’t often do that. I liked this shadow. My eyes began to focus and I discovered my whereabouts. I was in a drainage ditch, head facing down toward the drainage pipe and there was a large dog licking my face. My guess is that unless you’ve drank warm Sloe Gin from a Ketchup bottle, you probably haven’t found yourself inverted in a ditch with a dog licking your face. Actually, it was kind of nice.
I have no idea where my friends were. They must have gone home. So I drug my hung-over, dew-and-dog-saliva-laden body home and crawled through the door to my room. My bed - ahhhhh.
A couple of hours later, I woke up with Monkeys pounding gongs in my head so hard that my eyeballs were actually bulging from their sockets with each clang of the gong. I smelled like dog and chicken.
I trudged down stairs and as I did I could hear my Dad, the CO, on the telephone. He wasn’t happy. Apparently the person on the other end of the line was in the same mood. I could hear my Dad yelling, “WHAT! YOU FOUND WHAT IN THE POOL?! AND YOU CAN’T OPEN IT UNTIL WHEN?! PUT MORE CHEMICALS IN THE DAMN THING AND GET IT CLEARED OUT - MEMORIAL DAY IS NEXT WEEK!”
The line, “YOU FOUND WHAT IN THE POOL?!” was the one that got me. My brain cells, the ones that survived and actually chose to work that morning, were linking my father’s words to memories of the previous night. I think a “gulp” left my throat as the synapses aligned as best they could and a semi-clear memory of flying chicken manifested in my mind.
My father turned to me after he slammed down the phone. I’m dead. “YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT CHICKEN IN THE POOL? SOMEBODY THREW CHICKEN IN THE POOL AND THE ENGINEERS TELL ME THE BACTERIA LEVEL’S TOO HIGH TO OPEN THE POOL NEXT WEEK!”
I managed a weak, “no” as I tried to keep the chicken from exiting from my stomach and throat. Oh, I’m so dead. But the God of Mischief was on my side that morning and my father just left it at that.
I’m sad to say, the pool did NOT open on schedule. And the entire housing area was pissed. Mumbles could be heard everywhere of “if we ever catch the jerks that did that … lynching … torture … death by firing squad …”
Fortunately, my friends also kept the secret, probably for self-preservation sake.
And the dog never ratted on us either.
Now let’s jump forward 30 years. I decided the drinking life was getting me nowhere and I was hurting a lot of people in the process. I’m in a recovery program. Part of that recovery program involves admitting to all your past misdeeds (as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else to do so).
I had a long talk with my sponsor about that particular night. I mean, Good Lord, I had NO IDEA what the consequences would be of my actions. All we did was throw chicken bones in the pool so the raccoons would have fun!
There were a LOT of other things I’d done that were far worse and over the coming years, I’d made up with those I’d harmed and made things right to the best of my ability.
Except for the damn chicken.
You can’t believe how many times I’ve balked at telling my Dad about that. How many times I’ve talked to my sponsor about it. It’s ridiculous!
Last month, 9-years sober, I finally told my Dad. He laughed. He thought it was hilarious.
Shit. Some desperado I AM!
Sorry again, Dad. I had no idea.
There's just so much I need to warn you about - And yet, tragically, I cannot.
3 weeks ago