Wine is supposed to be sophisticated.

In 2011, I was a missionary in Europe. I wrote about my experiences on a blog I had at the time. Considering most of you have not read those stories, I’d like to post them here from time to time. Here is one from Bad Münder, Germany, on October 19, 2011. Enjoy.

I had my first glass of wine the other day. I was at the pastor’s house in Bad Muender, and we were eating lunch. He asked if I’d like a glass of his favorite wine with my soup. Billy quickly interjected with the agreed upon response, “He’s too young to drink.” The pastor, however, was not deterred. He continued to look me in the eye eagerly awaiting my response. I stirred uneasily in my chair and muttered, “I don’t know.” He quickly added, “It’s very good. I’d like to know what you think.” Feeling a bit pressured, I replied, “Alright.”

He quickly poured the contents of the bottle into the dainty glass. I looked at it placed on the table in front of me just looking like a sin. Everyone grabbed their glasses and partook in a timeless toast of raised clanging glasses. I largely was oblivious to what was going on, so I just began clanging my glass on all surfaces and in all directions as its burned amber liquid rolled about like a slithering something. I was somewhat nervous and on the verge of perspiration. There was no turning back.

Wine is a funny thing. It seems to bring sophistication out of even the simplest of folk. You know what I’m talking about. You get a guy named Bob that can barely pronounce sophisticated and give him a glass of wine and his vernacular suddenly changes. He begins to spout out strange descriptive ramblings that lead to nowhere.

“What a robust flavor; yet with a gentle subtly that is really quite nice. I like the nutty taste in the end as well. A very nice full-bodied wine, indeed. Rather austere wouldn’t you say?” Everyone around really has no idea what he’s talking about, but in unison, they all nod their heads in agreement as they take an equally absurd stab at describing the concoction that’s kicking about amongst their innards.

Then there’s me. I took a sip and thought, “What the heck is that?” The pastor looked on with anxious eyes for a response. Sadly, the first thing in my head came out my mouth, “That was weird.” He grinned – thankfully, despite the fact I somewhat insulted his favorite wine.

The thing I didn’t say was, “I can’t believe people make this stuff and think it’s good!” It tasted like a mixed brew of gasoline and pecans. Needless to say, I didn’t finish the glass. Perhaps, that somewhat takes away from the story, but honesty is important.



Cowboys and Indians

There is a story often told when my family comes together. It seems to be the kind of story that grows new laughs with every telling. Perhaps, the animation and exaggeration grow a bit each time, too.

I believe it was the summer of 1995. I was no more than five years old. It was a day like most all others. The days were hot and long, but no one seemed to mind. The daily routine consisted of riding horses, watching a bit of cartoons, and drinking my weight in root beer.

I was staying with my grandparents, Mima and PawPaw. The day was venturing into early afternoon when I asked Mima if she’d like to play a game. I don’t remember her ever turning down any suggestion I made, so I fully expected her compliance. I was not disappointed. We settled on most every little boy’s favorite, Cowboys and Indians. Considering I was already wearing my cowboy hat and boots, my part in the skirmish was already settled. By process of elimination, that left her as the lone Indian.

I was looking for more authenticity than our normal games provided, so I suggested she wear war paint. We were not readily stocked in face paint, so we settled on her makeup. She handed her lipstick to me, and I went to work on her face. It’s too bad there isn’t a picture. I believe Bonanza would’ve proudly admitted her as an extra.

With cap guns loaded and holstered, we headed outside. I remember wanting to incorporate my horse, Little Britches, in the action, but Mima thought better of it. I eventually conceded. That left us standing in her front yard in Rio Vista, Texas. The battle began. It mainly consisted of wildly shooting my cap guns as we chased each other. There was little plot or strategy, if any, but it didn’t matter.

At some point, I came across a few feet of rope. I stuffed it in my pocket as we kept running. We were both tiring fast, and I was looking for a way to secure victory. That’s when inspiration struck. The flagpole. I continued chasing her to the end of the driveway. The flagpole was now just a few feet away. She was beginning to offer bribes to get the game to end as she slowly backed away from me. I wasn’t yet ready to relent.

Her back was now against the pole. I grabbed for the rope in my pocket and holstered my cap guns. I quickly took her hands. She started to pull away, but I explained I wanted to tie her up. For some reason, she consented – under the stipulation that I would quickly untie her. I nodded my head in half-hearted agreement to her conditions and went about recalling the knots PawPaw had recently taught me.

Once done, I gave a good tug. It seemed tight enough, so I took a couple of steps back. I watched as she began to pull at the rope. It didn’t budge. A smile spread across my face. We continued the Cowboys and Indians charade for a while longer, and then I took a few more steps back toward the house. She broke character, “Andrew! Don’t you leave me out here!” Such barbarous tactics hadn’t yet entered my head, but I began to laugh at the thought. Her voice took a more serious tone.

At that, I began making my way back to the house. I was laughing hard enough now every few steps I fell to the ground as I looked back at her. She didn’t appear to be in good humor any longer, but I found it hilarious. My grandmother was tied to the flagpole in front of her house – right by the busiest road in all of Rio Vista. All while she was fantastically adorned in makeshift war-paint. Needless to say, she was not happy.

I made my way inside and quickly realized how thirsty I was. I poured myself a glass of root beer and sat down. I briefly wondered if I would get in trouble, but I quickly dismissed it. It was only a game – innocent enough. I turned on the tv to a favorite cartoon. Before I knew it, I had forgotten Mima was still tied to the pole.

No less than thirty minutes had passed when PawPaw walked into the room. He asked, “Have you seen Mima? I haven’t seen her in a long while.” Immediately, I remembered! I jumped up and ran out the front door to see if she was still there. She was still there, and she did not look happy. I slowly approached as if I was approaching a dangerous situation. By this point in my life, I had learned if I could get a grown-up to laugh – it was almost certain I would not get in trouble. I began to work my magic.

I could tell she was conflicted. There was a part of her which saw the humor in it all, but there was another part that was slightly sunburned and annoyed. She began to recount her time at the pole – how countless people had driven by as they gawked at her attire and predicament. She seemed particularly upset about a school bus that drove by while kids draped from the windows as they antagonized her. Around this point, I began to detect I wasn’t in trouble, so I no longer stifled my laughter. We made our way inside as she called me a “little brat.”

We were met by PawPaw at the door. I remember the look on his face as he first saw her and simply asked, “What happened?” She then explained the entire game and story from her perspective. I only looked on waiting for his approval. He chuckled, shook his head, and walked to his office. I learned two things that day. I’m really good at tying knots, and my grandmother is a saint.