called him Whiskey for obvious reasons.
A cowboy who worked on ranches
along the Concho River in the top part of McCulloch County, Whiskey was known
to take a drink or two or three.
He won his nickname when he got so desperate
for a drink that he traded his horse and saddle for a gallon of whiskey.
Whiskey cowboyed and drank back in the 1890s, long before the founding of Alcoholics
Anonymous. His friends probably didn’t even know what the word “intervention”
meant, but out of concern for their near-always sodden co-worker and friend, they
resolved to resort to a little tough love in the hope of at least slowing down
Whiskey’s whiskey drinking.
Before relating the details of Whiskey’s intervention,
it’s important to understand the place and times. One of the principal communities
of northern McCulloch County was Rochelle.
The town offered all the necessities
of life and when the cemetery was started in 1894, at least one of the necessities
of death. One business the town did not have was an undertaking establishment,
but the burial process was not nearly as complicated as it would become.
someone died, his or her survivors took care of preparing the body and “laying
it out” at home for visitation. A woman would cut and hem the shroud, while the
men folks built the dearly departed’s coffin, using 1” by 12” planks and lining
the box with white silk or satin. That amounted to a lot of work for a bereaved
family, so it was taken as quite a sign of progress when the general store in
Rochelle began stocking factory-made coffins.
Some families, worried that
sudden death might catch them short, bought a coffin and kept it in the barn until
the need arose.
All this was of little concern to Whiskey, who was still
young enough to believe that he would live forever.
But when someone
noticed him lying passed out in public, once again having drunk himself into a
deep stupor, Whiskey’s friends looked on it as an opportunity to have a little
fun and perhaps teach their pal a lesson as well.
They scooped him up
and carried his limp body to the general store. Next, they lowered him into one
of the coffins the store had in stock and folded his arms across his chest. Then
When Whiskey’s eyes began fluttering as the alcohol started
wearing off, the boys gathered around his coffin, doffed their cowboy hats in
mock respect and broke into a somber hymn.
For a bewildering moment or
so, Whiskey thought he was on the verge of being buried alive. He rose from the
“dead” so scared that he vowed never to drink again.
As someone who knew
the story later related, the incident touched Whiskey so deeply that he stayed
sober for a whole week.
Whether Whiskey ever put the plug in the jug is
not known today, but he long since had a real funeral, whenever or wherever that