Today is my 46th birthday. One month shy of 25 years as the burntguy.
I don’t know if it is the proximity to being 50 or the birthday cigar and birthday whiskey talking, but one or the combination of all of the above got me thinking.
A few days ago, I drove to get 9 big bags of 100% organic soft red winter wheat. I took it to TOPO Distillery in Chapel Hill, NC so that it could be used as God intended it to be used. I made the trip once before a few months ago for 10 bags on May 26th, 2016.
...and that is where I wanna go back to light the fuse that starts this story...
I’m fortunate enough to work at Topo Distillery. We do it right and we do it by hand.
When I say we do it right, I mean we do grain to glass…making vodka, gin & whiskey from locally sourced wheat grown in Scotland Neck, NC which we pick up from Rocky Mount, NC every few months.
When I say we do it by hand, I mean we wash, label, fill, and package every bottle by hand. I’m a distillery grunt, so I get to do some of that and more. (In my free time during cigar & whiskey moments, I like to think I am part of quality control.)
As I started driving I realized, damn, this is the first time I’ve driven, let alone been in, a truck any where near the size of the one that "got me". (This one’s actually bigger.) In September of 1991, one month after turning 21, I was driving a half-ton (what we called a mid size moving truck) to cary some gear from Campbell University to Fort Bragg, NC so we could teach the younger cadets water survival skills. Long story short, it wrecked and exploded on me before I got out. A lot of years and a lot of friends and a lot of things got me from that time to now.
But that, my friend, is a story for another time.
This story is gonna focus on my drive taking that beautiful grain to a place where it will be used to make some of the best liquor on earth. On that day, the adrenaline was pumping. That big muscle we all have in the middle of our chest was thumping against my rib cage in a way that made me take notice and my hands were gripping the steering wheel. I did not freeze but I was certainly aware and alert.
This is strange.
I drove the truck day before. Drove around the block with our head distiller to prove I could without a second thought. I remember joking that as long as the gas tank wasn’t behind the seat, we’re all good. Maybe my mind was in the “he ain’t really doing this” mode. Maybe it was such a short loop that there was no time to process it all.
The fact was that now, a half hour in with an hour to go, my blood was pumping and my chest was thumping. It dawned on me that the drive from Chapel Hill to Rocky Mount was not much different in distance than the drive from Buies Creek to Fort Bragg was those many years ago. It kinda took me back to that day in 1991. This day, the truck was a bigger, but it definitely brought back thoughts. I remember thinking move faster...make sure my win isn’t close this time around if that demon, that tried to take me out last time, pops up wanting another shot at the title. I didn’t freeze, but the adrenaline was definitely flowing and I was gripping the wheel. Had it really been almost 25 years.
I own a “big boy” truck. I had driven the neighbor's tiny uHaul moving a few items down the road. None of that counted but this, in my head, did count.
I made it there and by the time the grain was loaded and I was driving back to Chapel Hill, my mind had processed it all and told the rest of me “woohoo, we made it”. As I drove back, I was comfortable enough to call a good friend of mine and pick her brain. We are very close and I value her opinion as a friend and a burn survivor. She survived a bus accident and I wanted to know if her guard went up in similar fashion around buses. We questioned the strange moments in life due to the fact that she was following a bus the exact moment I called. She does pay attention to where she sits and is aware of the places others sat and how they fared in the accident. We shared observations like the fact that fire wasn’t the trigger but the method it was delivered to our feet certainly was. I told her thanks for the good talk and hung up just in time to get pulled over by the police.
That too, is another story for another time, but you know I rolled up my sleeves to show off the burns to my arms, hunched over the wheel and grimaced a bit when he approached…all geared up to play my burn card and get out of a ticket that was not my to get anyway.
I hope my story meant something to you.
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Thank you for spending some time reading what I had to write.