By Ada Brownell
Their wine is the poison of dragons, and the cruel venom of asps.
In the early 1920s, Rita Shpeherd took an axe and discreetly followed her husband to the bootlegger’s still, hidden in the trees near a lake.
When he and his boss left, Rita, 21 years old, stuffed most of the bottles in gunny sacks and whacked them with the axe. She stuffed several full bottles into the shed’s chimney and then she dragged one sack of unbroken ones into the water. Those would be evidence for the Revenuers, who policed and prosecuted bootleggers during Prohibition, when liquor sales were illegal.
That afternoon, the bootlegger knocked on Rita’s door.
“I’ve been expecting you,” she said and pointed to an empty chair. “You should be ashamed of what you’ve been doing—taking food out of children’s mouths, clothes off their backs, and the sense out of their father’s heads.”
The redhead when on about the evils of strong drink. “The Bible says, ‘Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging and those who are deceived thereby are not wise.’”
The next day, Rita and her husband, Joe, had to run for their lives, carrying and protecting their baby, Virgil.
Rita was my mother. But it wasn’t spunk or her abilities with an axe that gave me a healthy desire to stay away from intoxicating beverages.
As with anyone who grows up, my mother’s principles weren’t enough for me. I needed my own convictions about the matter.
When we lived in a tiny town where most of the 100 residents lived for the weekend to drink and party, one of our friends discovered I’d never tasted beer. He grabbed a can, snapped it open, grabbed me and tried to pry my mouth open so he could pour the stuff in. Redhead that I am, the wildcat personality came forth and I didn’t taste a drop.
In the 1960s as a young newspaper reporter I attended a company picnic. A photographer, already tipsy, noticed I had no beer. When I told him I didn’t drink, he emptied his beer on my clothes—“so I’d smell like I had a good time when I went home to my husband.”
I wasn’t even tempted to drink. At one staff meeting in the managing editor’s home where they had a “dutch lunch,” I asked for a soft drink in advance. While I walked around with a Coke, I noticed some brilliant co-workers who drank one beer after another begin to act as if they were mentally challenged. I thought, What’s the fun in that?
A time came, however, after I quit work and stayed home 15 years with my children that I worried I could be tempted to drink socially. I’d been back to work a short while and we attended a church where I discovered the deacons drank wine and a youth worker had beer in his refrigerator. I heard someone took beer on a youth outing.
I thought, Who am I to condemn them? They appeared to love the Lord. Yet, I still had four children at home, and in the news business for me I knew temptation to drink would be more of a problem after I discovered people in my church imbibed.
After praying and worrying about it, I resigned the youth class I taught, and we changed churches. My problem wasn’t to try to change brothers and sisters in Christ, but do for our family what I thought was best. I did not want my children to grow up thinking intoxicating beverages were all right, and I didn’t want to break down my own resistance to them.
A special person to me found the barrier breached between being a teetotaler and partaking at a church picnic where beer was offered along with soft drinks. That was about 40 years before she died, her liver severely affected and her esophagus eaten by Vodka.
My reasons for not drinking intoxicating beverages go way beyond my experiences, however. It’s rooted in my commitment to Jesus Christ. Two other factors: so I won’t be a stumbling block to others and so that I will not become a slave to sin.
Here’s a verse I think of: For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—(Romans 6:6).
The quickest way to become a slave to sin is to practice something that is habit forming and destructive.
There is no sense to partake in anything that affects the way I think and what I do. Sure, it’s legal. as is marijuana in Colorado and perhaps soon other states and then dangerous habit-forming drugs. But so is rat poison and lye. That doesn't mean I should consume it.
©Copyright Ada Brownell