Have you ever stopped for a moment to think about the peculiarities in life?
I'm a big fan of traditions. Always have been and that's why I will always answer Mr. Hank Williams Jr. every time he asks, "Why do you drink?" Come to think of it, that's a tradition in and of itself. Walk in to any bar in the south (actually this probably holds true anywhere, but I'm not willing to test that theory), slide a $10 bill in the cover band's tip jar and request "Family Tradition." As sure as the sun sets in the west, as soon as the first line of the chorus hits, every beer bottle in the bar will be raised and eager to answer, "To get drunk!" It's not even a lyric as far as I know, but we all do it proudly and without hesitation. I always wonder about the first drunk guy who decided to sing back to the chorus. He practically changed the world. I, for one, have made many life-long friends when bonding over this chorus. Family traditions are something else.
Now it should come as no surprise to you that I am a big fan of bourbon. That is not peculiar. There's just something about the taste of corn liquor and charred oak that makes me feel at home. What is peculiar and should come as a surprise to you is that so, too, is everyone in the Bible Belt. Jesus may have drank wine, but to my knowledge he never drank any corn liquor. I was raised in Kentucky, which is a very interesting state. It's a state where there are more barrels of bourbon in the state than there are people. I would also venture to say that the number of church pews in the state is also right up there.
It's a funny juxtaposition this state. Ever since Daniel Boone forged through the Cumberland Gap and set up camp we have been making room for both the Lord and bourbon whiskey in our blood. There is a church on nearly every corner in this fine state, all filled with the sweetest old ladies. The kind that carry Werther's Original and peppermints loose at the bottom of their purses handing them out like it's a parade route. The kind that also inscribe the family Bible with every newborn offspring's weight and measurements as each branch is bloomed on the family tree. My grandmother was no different.
Granny lived across the street from our little Baptist church until the day she died and the good Lord lived in her house just the same. If there wasn't an afternoon baseball game on, you were sure to walk in to her house to find the sounds of an evangelical preacher on the television or the sounds of an old gospel song echoing down the hall from The Gaithers. My mother always said that Granny had her wilder days. I'm sure my grandchildren will say that of me one day as well (hopefully not knowing the worst of it), but the Granny I knew was a Godly woman. So Godly that we had to drink the good eggnog (you know what I'm talking about) in the driveway during the holidays growing up. No liquor or alcohol of any sort was permitted at Granny's house. In Kentucky; however, I cannot be certain that bourbon falls under the jurisdiction of being classified as a liquor or alcohol. Rather, it is a staple. Next to condiments like ketchup and mustard you will find in nearly every Kentucky household...bourbon.
If you should ever fall under the weather in the south, there is a magical drink that will surely cure you if it doesn't make you sicker when prescribed. I was probably only 2 years old the first time I had the drink. I don't remember it, but it's not because I wasn't old enough to remember. Granny was keeping me one afternoon while I was sick. She had been a nurse nearly all of her life and was a firm believer in home remedies and old wives tales. The drink they call 'Hot Toddy' is by all definitions a home remedy and that Godly woman, my Granny, had served me a full grown man sized dose of it. Again, I love bourbon, but there's something about the combination of bourbon whiskey, lemon juice (or crushed peppermint depending on who is serving), and honey that will surely empty the contents of one's stomach in a split second if you are sick. I don't know what it tasted like that day many years ago or even how I reacted, but what I do know is that my family has never stopped talking about the day that my God-fearing Granny got me drunk on corn liquor and cured pneumonia. I've taken some good bourbon naps in my college years, but from the stories of my family none will ever compare to when Granny was my bartender.
I'm honestly not even sure where old southern ladies get their bourbon whiskey for a Hot Toddy. I've been in a lot of liquor stores throughout my life (sorry, Granny) and I've never seen one old woman. In fact, Granny would always call my mother to stop by the liquor store and pick up a pint when she was baking something that required a special ingredient. She wouldn't step foot into a liquor store, but she would certainly use their bourbon. I got a lot of traits from Granny, this was not one of them however.
That's the thing about Kentucky, there's a worn out Bible on every coffee table. We all know every Commandment before we can even count to ten. But there's also a bottle of bourbon on the highest shelf of the kitchen cabinet just out of reach of the youngsters. If you're at the right house, there will even be an old charred oak bourbon barrel turned on its side and split open with the freshest array of spring flowers sprouting from it in the front lawn. That's Kentucky, even your grandmother who sits on the same old pew every time the church doors are open also has a little bourbon in her blood in one way or another. It's a place where bourbon can be a tradition, not a sin. That's peculiar and I love this place.