SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Uncle Eddie's Sipping Life, Waking The Sleeping Tiger

By Bob Weaver

Uncle Eddie made home-brew in the Village of Hur, having never married, he lived with his mother until she passed at almost 100.

Life was slow in the Village of Hur, and Eddie was not bent on doing much between his frequent naps. Basement beer making and beer drinking was a useful enterprise to occupy his long days.

He was a "sipper."

With pride he "set the crock" in the coolest part of the cellar with beer fixins', giving it time to work its way toward alcohol content, he poured the elixir into old amber beer bottles, using a bottle caper to seal the product for later consumption.

Sitting on the enclosed front porch with grandma listening to her radio preachers, you could hear some of Eddie's bottles blow their caps, fermentation amuck. He would quickly rise from his couch and go to the basement to fix the problem or drink the remains.

I never saw him intoxicated.

He was a reformed addict, having become addicted to opiates during the 1920s and 30s, readily available at the local drugstore for general ailments. By the late 30s, allergic to work, he took to the bed with a multitude of aches and pains and handfuls of pills.

Grandpa McCoy took Eddie to every doctor within 75 miles of Calhoun to find out what ailed him, with at least one trip to John Hopkins. The doctors were puzzled by his condition, but attempted to relieve the problem with better pills.

Eventually, a physician told the McCoy family that Eddie's primary problem was addiction, and the family embarked on a plan to detox him, no small task.

They threw out all the pills and sat with him four or five days and nights while he went through the tortures of withdrawal, at times tying him down with bedsheets.

In the years that followed, Eddie did better.

He then mailed-ordered virtually every home cure or medical device offered in farm magazines.

Between drinking home brewskys, he would down his morning dose of Hadacol and pop a handful of over-the-counter pain killers before the morning milkin' and hog sloppin'.

The hollow behind the McCoy homestead was filled with Anacin bottles.

Following his morning "treatment" and a couple chores, it was time for his early morning nap.

Eddie was the King of Naps.

Following his early morning nap, not long after breakfast, he had his after-lunch nap, to be followed by his mid-afternoon nap. Then there was the after-dinner nap, and a little dozing before bedtime.

When asked to come and eat at family gatherings, he denied the invitation, always saying he wasn't hungry. After prodding, he came to the table and consumed large plates of food, generally out-eating all the gatherers.

Eddie had lots of family critics over his laxidasical behavior, also having fathered a child "out of wedlock," and never allowing himself to contact his son who died years later in an alcoholic stupor in a Stubenville, Ohio hotel.

His son died penniless and alone.

Without exception Eddie was very kind to me, and most of his nieces and nephews.

His mother was his staunchest supporter, Eddie having stayed with her for 26 years following grandpa's death. He contributed to her well-being.

Family members called him "tight," or as my dad would say, "He wouldn't give a dime to see a piss-ant eat a haystack."

Driving the old family truck to Grantsville, he would cut off the engine on every downgrade to save gas.

Eddie would rush to the hen house to gather eggs before the "girls" could use them for cooking, hiding them in his basket to take to the A & P on Saturday's for ready cash.

Like most of the McCoy boys, he had a terrible Irish temper when aroused. He once threatened his younger brother with a gun over egg ownership, his brother's wife had wanted to use some eggs to bake a cake.

He buried his cash in the ground, and late in life wrapped it in plastic and placed it in the freezer section of the old Servel gas refrigerator for safe keeping.

Following his mother's death in 1976, he developed leukemia and passed away at the age of 80 in 1983.

After serious prodding, Uncle Eddie gave me my first glass of home brew. I wanted to become a sipper too.

Unfortunately, I liked it better than I should have.

Sipping was the awakening of the sleeping tiger that was my alcoholism - one drink too many and a thousand is not enough.

My life as a sipper was short-lived.

I certainly do not blame Uncle Eddie.

With power surpassing my own, I got sober in 1979 and transcended to working in the treatment of alcoholism and drug addition, having been involved with about 13,000 clients.

As a recovering person, I have continued to try and help some Calhoun folks get sober and clean, now 44 years sober.

As years have passed, for the most part, I still have affection toward him.