Friday, May 19, 2006

A Root Beer Related Interlude

Every so often a Root Beer interlude comes to mind and today offers one of those moments. While puttering about, listening to my youngest sing "Wake Up" while banging on a Chinese drum, I had a Root Beer moment flashback to a long ago summer when my family and I were living in Gulfport, Mississippi, prior to departure for an overseas assignment. We had an apartment in Orange Grove, just north of Interstate 10, in the same complex my Aunt Linda, (known as Aunt Dodo, due to my inability to speak well as a toddler) and her family. That was a pretty good summer, especially having my favourite high strung Aunt around. (Note to Yankees: Ya'll don't have Aunts like we Southerners do. Ours make a lifetime habit out of threatening to whoop someone's butt for messing with family. It even happens now and again. And they never stop drinking coffee.!)

That was a good summer for me. The sun always seemed to shine, it never became too oppressively hot and Barq's Root Beer lined my pockets with money. Not tons of money, but it certainly kept me in Icee's, comic books and the occasional movie. How did Barq's Root Beer manage to do that for me? Simple. There was a bit of a building boom in Orange Grove at that time, a bank here, a building there and what have you. Since it was Mississippi and summertime it was inevitable that the work crews would have to have a few bottles of Soda during the day and most of them had a Barq's. Or two. When their workday was done I would make may way around the sites and gather up the bottles left behind or tossed hither and yon and take them over to my friendly neighbourhood 7-11 and cash them in. At a nickel a pop, I managed to do pretty well for myself.

There was the occasional Coke, Dr. Pepper or 7-Up bottle, but the vast majority of those bottles were Barq's. I did this virtually every day, up until we left for our overseas destination and I cannot help but think that Barq's, the ones I drank and the empties I collected made for a great summer. That was the last time I ever lived in Gulfport, but it certainly wasn't the last time I went back.

We made it a habit to visit the Gulf Coast for the past decade or so and we managed to do it last year, just before Hurricane Katrina wrought its devastation on my old home. On our way back north we stopped in at a roadside stand in Orange Grove to procure a unique Southern delicacy, some delicious boiled peanuts, (I would have liked to have found a tamale stand somewhere, but that fine old Southern Mississippi tradition is, unfortunately long gone in most places. For those who aren't familiar with it tamale stands were once more common than McDonalds in Mississippi!). We had already taken the time to drive slowly by the place I used to live, the bank they were building is there, finally completed. But that 7-11 which had sheltered me on those hot summer days was gone. The apartments still stand, looking much as they did way back then even if their age is showing. Despite time and the ravages of storms you can still count on one thing, tho. On that slice of the Gulf Coast you'll always be able to get a Barq's Root Beer and it'll be in an ice cold glass bottle. Some things, thankfully never change.

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