This is part 2 in an ongoing series of oddities from the Piedmont region of North Carolina. Pt 1 can be found here: http://biscuitswhiskeyandbeer.com/category/weird-finds/
A month or so ago I was off on a walk down a rural route, and noticed an overgrown but accessible gravel driveway into what was once obviously a bustling center of country commerce. The driveway was overgrown enough that there was no way anyone driving by would notice, and it was far enough from any houses/neighborhoods, that no one really would have any business stumbling upon it. If it had been a week or two later when the trees were in full bloom, I might not even have noticed it. I love old country stores, gas stations, and eateries, so this well preserved discovery felt like I had uncovered Atlantis.
There was a general store, a service garage, a house where I assume the proprietors once lived, and a barn. The buildings were arranged in such a way that if you were pulling in off of the road the service buildings were all on the left, and the house was on the right. After listening for signs of life, I took to kicking some rocks around loudly to announce my presence to any creatures that might lurking inside before beginning my entry into the compound. I’ve played enough Resident Evil, read enough horror stories, and seen probably too many slasher films to be comfortable walking in alone to not pause for a couple minutes. The house was NOT getting explored alone, and the barn and garage were mostly empty, but the general store had an open, almost welcoming doorway.
Inside I found a dusty, dirty, but surprisingly preserved store, and the first thing I noticed was that there was no vandalism. There were odds and ends, an old homework assignment, some Halloween masks…wait what?!
That’s right, those old costumes with the detailed masks, and what were basically trash bags with a logo printed on them were here! I remember wearing one of these in the late 80’s before I was told Halloween was evil, and I was no longer allowed to participate. I was a “karate-man” that year, and it was siiiiick. That is until I hyper-ventilated in my mask while waiting in line for a haunted house in our neighborhood. An older kid in front of us in line had a REALLY good zombie getup, complete with blood capsules in his mouth. My dad was chatting with him, and as he showed the fake blood off, I freaked out. I was 6 or 7, and that was the last time I went trick or treating. Dammit young Charlie, why couldn’t you hang?! It was basically Stan from South Park throwing up when nervous – but real life! Maybe that’s the REAL reason I wasn’t allowed to go again…but I digress, trash-bag costumes were a part of the American Halloween experience for decades, and right here in front of me was a tiger, and a princess! So cool. I respectfully returned them to their boxes and left them to rest (rot) where I had found them.
Whilst poking about, I also found some old liquor and beer cases (empty), including some Old Crow Bourbon boxes! What a perfect segue way into talking about whiskey! Old Crow (or Dr. James Crow’s Old Crow if you want to get proper about it) is a storied, and significant member of the bourbon family tree. Billed as “the original sour mash”, it is recognized as one of Kentucky’s earliest bourbons, developed by Scottish immigrant James C. Crow. These days it is owned by Beam-Suntory, and shares the same mash bill and yeast as Jim Beam white label. The difference between the two comes from the aging and blending processes. It was favored by Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, WWII flying ace Bud Anderson, Mark Twain, Hunter S. Thompson (he loved WT, but wrote a lot about Old Crow too), Fat Mike of NOFX, the Beastie Boys, and the band Old Crow Medicine Show obviously owes their name to this venerable liquid. So knowing now that this budget bourbon is so obviously storied and revered, how is it?
Well, it’s got the color of a Werther’s Original (sp?), and it’s got a really sweet but alchololic, strong nose (seriously, this stuff smells quite loud). It’s loud and brash corn and sweetness up front, with an an afterburn worthy of its spot on the shelf. It comes in a little plastic bottle labeled as “lightweight traveler” which is a bit of a bummer, I do think it deserves the full glass bottle treatment on its history alone, but I guess that helps keep the cost down. There is also a “reserve” variety that I’d like to try at some point to see how it tastes when aged a bit longer.
So back to the store. I saw a little coffee tin, and immediately recognized the brand as something my grandparents kept around. Between the masks, and the coffee tin, I’d be willing to wager this place had sat since the late 80s. It was like a strange wormhole in time, like a museum of things you’d forgotten about from 1988. So, I’m looking around the floor, not wanting to accidentally step on anything, and spot a weird little metal bowl that’s discolored and forlorn, and decide its coming home as a souvenir. I get it home, and with a little Bar Keepers Friend and some elbow grease, it comes back to life! It now takes up a place on a bookshelf to hold knick-knacks.
So there you have it, another adventure, and another whiskey.
Til next time biscuiteers!
PS – Plans are beginning to take shape for this year’s Triathlon-A-Thon, Triathlon-A-Thon 2: The Fundraisening. In light of that, expect more content than usual to distract you at work through the summer.
Here are examples of those costumes: