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3.2 and Merle By James Giles DeKalb, Bowie, where I grew up, is a dry town. Which means, of course, that one of the Texas initiation rites, getting drunk for the first time, is made somewhat difficult. But only somewhat, because there were \(and the neighboring wet communities. The bootlegger, a much respected community figure, has been the same man ever since I can remember. The neighboring wet havens used to be Wichita Falls or across the Red River into Oklahoma. Now Muenster has joined the list. For the initiation, the bootlegger is not nearly so good as the nearby community because he’s too respectable, and there isn’t much adventure in going to him. The neighboring town option is infinitely better. “All the best authorities say so.” When I was growing up, especially, Oklahoma was better. What you did was to go north about 20 miles and cross that slash of mud and quicksand called the Red River and go to a Beer and Catfish to drink 3.2. It took an incredibly long time to get drunk that way, and you got sick first; but it was more accepted and more social because you saw the guys from all over, and you were away from home by yourself with only five or six buddies. The place we liked best was called Carl’s Peach Orchard. It was just across the river and in a cow pasture, and a peach couldn’t have lived there for two seconds. Rumor, which I never believed, had it that the 12 The Texas Observer place had originally been called the Peach Orchard because of a waitress named Alberta who had worked there. I never met Alberta. But there was this girl there from Rhyne or Durant or someplace whom we called Red River Bottom. She was right nice. She was also a part, one might say a key part, of the initiation ceremony. We I think there were five of us got initiated at the Peach Orchard and got very sick, which of course cost us points with Bottom. Then we drove back to Bowie as men and hit a cow on the way home and tore up the car. But we went back and got hardened to the 3.2 and sat for hours at the Orchard listening to the country music on a magnificent juke box and watching enviously the roughnecks and real cowboys and their women. It was exciting and not respectable, though everyone we knew had done it or would do it. In fact, the world was kind of divided into the “hads” and the “woulds.” The country music was “Fraulein,” “Kawliga,” “I Didn’t Know God Made Honky Tonk Angels.” There would always come the time when everybody put down the beer and sang “Fraulein.” And that night, when you went home and passed the grotesque WELCOME TO TEXAS sign, you were still singing “Fraulein.” * * Last summer, one ritual I had to go through before moving to Illinois was the last visit to the Peach Orchard. I went now with my wife and my mother, and we ordered the best catfish in the world and real beer. was sitting there, wondering if Alberta had ever really existed and thinking about Bottom and the smashed cow, when the juke box came on. Everybody there got solemn and put down the beer. For a split second, I thought about “Fraulein” and was ready to join in, when I heard what was playing. It was Merle Haggard singing, as a declaration, not a song, “The Fighting Side of Me.” I suddenly realized that everybody there had stared at my hair and sideburns when we came in, and I wanted to go home. Only I didn’t know exactly where that was. ENOUGH? CONSUMER this … ENVIRONMENTAL that … Just more sweet words for sour lobby-drafted legislation. TEXAS CONSUMER ASSOCIATION is putting more meaning in misused terms. TCA provides its members meaningful assistance with individual consumer problems. TCA promotes genuine consumer legislation. TCA monitors anti-consumer activities in “regular -tory” agencies at all levels of government. JOIN THE EFFORT JOIN TCA TEXAS CONSUMER ASSOCIATION P. O. BOX 13191 AUSTIN, TEXAS 78711 My membership fee is enclosed \($5, individual; $3, I’m not ready to join yet, but send more information. Name Street City/State Zip Telephone Special Consumer Interest