It was summertime in Athens and hot as a penny on a stove top. I was about 12 years old or thereabouts. I spent summers on my bike, riding all over town. My mom would make a peanut butter sandwich for me for lunch and off I'd go on the bike. I'd generally get back home around 6 PM or so, just in time for supper. My parents believed in everyone sitting at the table for dinner.
I'd spend the day with some of my friends, riding around town, getting into mischief of one kind or another. On a particularly hot day, several of us kids had ridden over to the Vet School. Back behind the Vet building was a cattle paddock, and in that paddock were yearling steers. We stood there looking at the steers, when one of the guys who worked there asked if we wanted to try to ride a steer. I suppose it was a slow summer for them and the prospect of watching some of us little townie-rats trying to ride a steer sounded like fine entertainment to them. Well hell yes we'd like to try to ride a steer!
The fellow climbed over the wooden rails and told us to do the same. He got a steer pressed up against the slats and I climbed on. He backed off letting the steer off the slats and the steer began bucking. I stayed on about 2 seconds, hit the soft dirt, landing on my back. Up went the next kid, same result. We all tried riding the steers and no one did. By the time we had been at it for what seemed like several hours, there was quite a crowd gathered, all laughing at us. Nobody got hurt and I am pretty sure the steers had as much fun with us as the crowd did. We were covered in sweat, dirt, saw dust and cow crap. All tired out too.
We slowly rode our bikes up the Lumpkin sidewalk, headed to 5 Points. I was thirsty, all dried out from the 'rodeo', so we stopped at the gas station (that is now Jittery Joes). The station was closed, but the Coke machine was outside and thatâ€™s what we were after. Coke machines in those days came in several models, the one there at the gas station was an upright machine with a narrow glass door. You put your money in the slot, pulled your bottle straight out of the machine after you opened the door. There was a built in bottle opener right under the coin slot. We all got our 6 ounce Cokes and sat down, leaning against the wall to drink our Cokes.
The bottles were returnables and were manufactured all over the place, so we had a game that all kids of that era played, figuring out whose Coke bottle was from farthest away. The plant that manufactured a bottle would have the town and state formed into the pressing of the bottle. When you finished your Coke, you turned the bottle over to read where it was made. It was considered poor form to hold the bottle up high and read it from underneath before you finished the Coke. Drinking the Coke first allowed time for bets to be made about whose bottle was the winner. And so it was that day.
Damn that Coke tasted good. It went down in about 2 minutes. I don't remember whose bottle won. I do remember that Coke tasting so good, that I got another one out of the machine. I sat back down and took a swig. This Coke tasted funny. I figured it was due to the fact that I drank that first one so fast and that I was so thirsty. Still, it tasted funny, but I kept on taking swigs. Down to the last swig now, and then I turned the bottle over to see where it was from. To my horror, inside the bottle was an old greenish band aid. It was stuck to the bottom on the inside of the bottle and now I knew why that Coke tasted so funny. I wasn't laughing, but damn my friends sure were. I ended up puking, it just grossed me out thinking about that band aid in my Coke bottle.
It was a simpler and less litigious time back then. If something like that happened today, God knows how much the lawsuit would be worth. As it was though, it was worth millions of laughs to my friends, who took to calling me 'Coke' after that day. I don't think I drank another Coke that whole summer. That was the summer I discovered the joys of iced tea. In a glass. That I filled up. And inspected prior to doing so.
We'll continue to repost Tim's stories and other fine articles that used to exist here on athensworld.com.