Then there’s Bill. He was a guy who lightened the load no matter what was going on. I don’t remember Bill’s last name. I knew it then, but it never mattered. Everyone in Small Town and far beyond simply knew him as “Bill.”
To put it bluntly but still kindly, Bill was the Small Town Drunk, very much like the fellow Andy Griffith regularly tossed into the Mayberry tank “to sleep it off.” This was back when the word “drunkard” or “drunk” was used and people knew what you were talking about.
As many people know from harsh experience there are “Mean Drunks” and there are “Happy Drunks.” Bill was a Happy Drunk. In fact, I’m ashamed to say it, but Bill was a Hilarious Drunk, partly because he was funny to begin with and when he got just a little sauced, which was about every other day, he’d let loose with gut-splitting comments about everything from presidents to preachers to people close by.
I recognize that Bill’s addiction is a sad thing and that it plagued him through the end of his life. So I don’t celebrate his inebriation. But as a character he was classic. He was the kind of guy that looked for ways to get out of work, yet everybody liked him. He told raucous stories but never mean-spirited ones. He loved baseball, had I don’t remember how many wives, kids, and grandkids, and thoroughly, infectiously enjoyed life. People, even hard cases, brightened whenever they got within twenty feet of him.
I smile as I remember Bill but am saddened by the fact that this fellow who possessed great charisma and a Reagan-like sunny disposition still found it necessary to fill the hole in his heart with what used to be called demon-rum.
Bill and I talked a few times about spiritual things. He knew I was in Christian college, knew what I believed, and could talk his own basic Christian-knowledge, yet he stopped short of embracing the Lord. He took this stance primarily, I think, because he thought he’d have to quit drinking. I told him it wasn’t about drinking—it was about the Lord—but still, he didn’t or couldn’t trust the idea he could come to Christ without first discarding his bottle.
I feel for Bill now even as I remember. I’m glad I knew Bill, but his life, to me, is one of those over which you write “What could have been.”
© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2010
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