The kid behind the bar asked what type of beer I wanted. It was a fancy place, so I asked what kinds they had. It was a mistake. There were nine hundred varieties—not a Budweiser in sight.
The kid handed me an iPad with a menu on the screen.
And before he filled my glass with fifteen-dollar suds, he said, “Sorry, we don’t carry Budweiser. This world has changed on you, bucko.”
As a matter of fact, you’re right, kid. You want to know how much it’s changed? My school bus used to drop me two miles from my house after ball practice. Miss Lynn, the driver, refused to go down the hilly dirt roads for fear she’d get stuck. And I don’t want to get cliche here, but what I’m saying is: I walked to school, uphill, both ways, on gravel and mud. A lot of us did.
Go ahead, laugh.
In the summers, the canopies of live oaks, and sugar maples covered our roads. I know this because Daddy gave me The Pocket Tree-Encyclopedia. And for each new tree-find, I’d earn a pittance for my piggy bank.
Piggy banks. We had those. They were filled with coins. Anyone below twelve used silver pieces to buy salt peanuts, Coca-Cola, or taffy. Do I sound like a bumpkin yet? Good.
We got sunburned a lot. We sweat even more. Our shoes wore out, quick. We got poison ivy whenever the wind blew. We plucked so many deer ticks from our bodies we quit counting. Our dogs followed us off-leash, and we’ve been drinking coffee since before we had armpit hair.
Our girls could ride horses and shoot rifles. We spent weekends loping trails and open fields. There were no smartphones, only baseball, fishing, frog-gigging, and racy jokes. We didn’t know about kidney-rotting narcotics, only strawberry moonshine. The worst sins were Red Man chew, unfiltered Camels, necking, and beer.
When we were old enough, there were two beers. Miller and Budweiser. If there was a third, it was forty-five minutes away. Whatever was on tap tasted bad, but you learned to like it. Same as you learned to like manual labor, opening doors for ladies, helping strangers change tires, doing dishes, wetting your hair before church, and referring to anyone with a pulse as ma’am or sir.
The kid behind the bar rolled his eyes.
“Gimme a break,” he said, playing on his phone. “You’re like everyone else, getting all sappy about the good old days.”
You bet your app I am, kid. And I’m grateful to be able to. I only hope that one day you talk about your cellphone so fondly.
Thanks for the beer, bucko.