Saturday, May 10, 2014
We would head South out of town toward the Red River and cross over into Texas. Once inside Texas we drove straight to the Liquor store. Loaded up two or three cases of whiskey and headed back across the Red River into Oklahoma.
My sister-in-law's father was a bootlegger. Once he got home with the liquor he would take the bottles out of the case and distribute them in hiding places around the house until a buyer came by to pick up a pint or two.
I liked Henry. I liked him a lot. He was a quiet man with an easy going disposition. He took me on his liquor buying trips to have somebody to talk to and maybe I made him less of a suspect to the Highway Patrol sitting on the side of the rode just inside the border looking for bootleggers.
I lived with my brother and his family when I was young. My sister-in-law and her father were close so I spent a lot of time at Henry's. I watched men and women, usually men coming in and out. The police watched this also but he paid them off so they never bothered him. One day I was at his house when the police came unannounced. They walked around in the house for a few minutes, raised the table cloth up from the kitchen table, looked under it, put it down and said, "there's nothing here" and left.
Henry had once worked full-time at Fort Sill, a nearby army base. I don't know what kind of work he did but he had lost some of the fingers on one of his hands. All the time I knew him he made his living from bootlegging and playing Moon. Almost every day he could be found in the back of a pool hall playing Moon. He was very good at it and always had a roll of money.
One of the high lights of my youth was a trip I made with Henry, his girl friend, my brother, his wife and their young daughter. We all piled into Henry's Ford and drove from Oklahoma to California and back. It was a great trip for a young boy who had never been anyplace outside of Oklahoma except to the liquor store in Texas and that was just fifty miles away.
Even as a young boy I never thought liquor was a good thing. I didn't drink it then---or ever. I didn't think it was a good thing to break the law and I knew that bootlegging was against the law. And I didn't think I was breaking the law by being friends with somebody who did. Henry was such a nice man that he didn't seem like a criminal to me. I was glad when the law changed and Henry got on the right side of it. He eventually opened his own liquor store.
I never did learn to like the idea of people drinking whiskey. Because so many times they end up getting drunk. And that's bad.
Henry's gone now. The house where he lived and bootlegged from is gone. My brother and Henry's daughter are gone too. I have a lot of memories from those Oklahoma days so many years ago.
For two years while a student at Abilene Christian College in Abilene, Texas I crossed over the Red River back into Oklahoma to preach for a little country church. I drove over the same road that Henry and I had traveled together several years before.