The My-Bitty Bottle Bill By Bill Helmer In one of its Finer Hours, the Observer fronted for Bill liquor-by-the-drink. This was the second in Helmer’s cogently-argued series, in which he attempted to serve as the Paul Revere of Texas topers. Ed. June 21, 1968 Austin My startling expos \(see Obs., Connally’s plot to bankrupt liberals and other heavy drinkers has apparently succeeded in alerting thinking people everywhere to the threat posed by liquor-by-the-drink legislation.’ Yet the very magnitude of the conspiracy had made it difficult for some of our slower citizens to grasp, and our enemies are as crafty as they are treacherous. Reacting to the groundswell of enlightened opposition, our governor, in a stroke of evil genius, now seeks to stun us into helpless confusion by introducing legislation whose provisions are a monument to madness. I refer to the Itty-Bitty Bottle Bill. Until now the threat was a simple and straightforward one. Liquor-bylthe-drink, while in many respects desirable, would double or triple the cost of on-the-town boozing by banishing the old brown bag. Thousands of people foolishly voted Yes in the mixed-drink referendum because they didn’t realize this. Myopically, they were able to see no further than the big, juicy carrot of “mixed drinks” being dangled before their eyes. Like bait in a trap, the mixed drink can be obtained at the cost of calamity, and only when it is too late will the victims come to know what evil lurks in the hearts of men! Especially the men of the Texas Legislature, which, as the Observer has often warned, abounds in scoundrels, blackguards, and rascals of every description. The exhilarating prospect of mixed drinks has blinded many people to Connally’s chief reason for proposing a liquor-by-the-drink law in the first place. Did anyone ever think he wanted to modernize and civilize the law, so a man could, as the Good Lord clearly intended, get in out of the hot sun and order himself a cool, relaxing daiquiri or whiskey sour? 2 Great garbage, no! He wanted to wring extra money out of every poor soak in the state by taxing not only the bottle, but every drink poured out of it. The power to tax is the power to destroy! 3 But not even the Establishment politicians can shove mixed drinks down the throats of adamant Baptists, even for the purpose of taxing drinkers. Consequently, the mixed-drink proposal is currently masquerading as a liquor “reform” law designed to “clean up” the state’s liquor laws. Already the bill is a mountain of minutiae and impossible provisions \(“drivel,” reform not drinking, goodness knows, but only the drinkers. To get past the fanatical drys, any mixed-drink bill is going to have to provide enormous licensing fees, drastic enforcement provisions, and unreasonable penalties against any bar or restaurant owner who gets faked out by a cleverly forged ID card. Thus the good _governor would render unto God and Caesar equally by taxing sin, and things are tough enough on sinners under the present system, where Liquor Control Board rulings cannot be appealed and agents can raid private parties in private homes. Since politics is the art of the possible and since nothing is possible in this state without concessions and compromises, the prospects of any sensible mixed-drink law have already vanished. What we have now is the Itty-Bitty Bottle Bill. Under its arcane provisions, no one still is going to walk in, sit down, and be served a whiskey sour. He is going to be served a tiny bottle on a tiny tray. He will then be asked to witness a bit of ceremony the breaking of the seal! whereupon the waiter tiny bottle back to the bar so the bartender can mix a drink with it. Imagine the fun this is going to be in a crowded bistro The Damn Fine Funeral of Charley Surprise By Lyman Jones Dec. 27, 1962 Corpus Christi When I go, finally, I hope I can do it like Charley Surprise. Charley was a seaman. For 40 years he sailed in wooden bottoms and iron bottoms over all of the big and most of the little seas of the world, from Corpus Christi. A few years back, Charley got sick. His doctor told him he had four, five, maybe six months left. Charley, unmarried, alone except for a sister, made a will and deposited it, together with $400 or $500, at his union hall with instructions that it be opened upon his going. On the day of his death, it was. His union brothers were instructed to have his body cremated and his ashes strewn at sea in the Gulf, since that was the handiest salt water. But before all that, said Charley’s testament, “I want everybody to get together and throw a big party. Everybody get falling-down drunk, then get a boat, load it with me and enough booze for the trip out and back take me 24 The Texas Observer out into the Gulf,” and, said Charley from his memories of many a sea burial, “commend my soul as a brother departed unto the Deep.” Charley’s seagoing buddies made ready, bought the booze, and made an appointment at the crematory. But then Charley’s sister intervened. Charley, she said, couldn’t be cremated; his religion and hers forbade it. Otherwise, she said, have at it. The boys shifted arrangements and got Charley properly laid out in a wooden coffin, and the binge laid on. About midnight, aglow with boilermakers and memories of Charley, the mourning brothers set sail, Charley’s box amidships serving as alfresco bar and extra sitdown space. Two or three miles. offshore, they heaved Charley over unceremoniously, as instructed by the departed’s last message. The hell of it was, the box refused to sink. It bobbed, seaworthy as the SS United States, up and down in the gentle Gulf tide, ready as the Flying Dutchman for circumnavigating eternal voyages.
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