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John D. Wyker's Cat Tales - Eddie Hinton


October, 2005

In The long, hot, stinking summer of 1984 Eddie Hinton caught a Greyhound Bus back into my hardware store, Hammer Swingin' Life...This was Hinton at his worst...No Nothin'...but a mean and bad attitude...and a bad body odor that was a mixture of human sweat built up in layers until their was almost a fine crust on him...fruit flies had built a few nests in his long unwashed hair, and were continuing to live and breed in his hair right before your very eyes....I said somethang about we needed to get somethang to kill the fruit flies once and Eddie seemed to get so upset...he said "Even kill the little baby ones too ?" They were the only friends that Eddie had left at that time.....he looked so damned sad about it that I never brought the subject up again...

Hinton's smell or body odor was unique unto him...and it was the mixture of various types and proofs and percentages of whiskey and beer and wine and tequlia....and gin...Did I mention scotch...how about bourbon ? PGA ? And I don't mean the Golf Tour either....you get the idea .....and mix all that with the pungent smell of cigar smoke...the sweet stink of a big TAMPA NUGGET or TAMPA SUBLIME mixed with various brands of non filtered cigarettes.. Eddie was all about Old School..Pabst Blue Ribbon would do but he preferred Falstaff because that's what his singin' idol Dan Penn drank... and of course the old Baseball player turned radio announcer...Dizzy Deanwas also a Falstaff fan !

But Hinton knew what he wanted on that long hot smelly Summer day in 1984 ...he wanted a drink... well that's not exactly the truth, he really wanted a whole damned ocean of whiskey and long tall waterfalls of wine and shooting, spewin,' sprayin, fountains or geysers of beer and bubblin' baths made out of only the best of beads of Chilly Clear French Champagne...to paraphrase a quote of one of Eddie's songs from his first solo album "he did not want just a little bit ....Eddie wanted it ALL !

But on that seemly never ending cat on a hot tin type roof day back in 84', Hinton found himself in the river citywith nothin'.....but a bad need for an illegal drink in Decatur..Okay, many drinks...he did not tell me about this adventure that I'm about to pass on to all of ya'll until after he had been through the whole odyssey - or maybe he thought he had already tapped me for assistance one to many times....

So instead he did the next logical thang in his highly imaginative and creative mind.....He set out walkin' to Florence, Alabama...which is 50 miles away by hard road....he later told me that it took him 12 hours to walk that distance...he said that the small one horse town of Town Creek, Bama-lama gave him a free ride from one side of town to the other....just to get him out of their the City Limits....I don't blame them a bit - he would scare a ghost back in those days...long side burns...looked like this Super Hero cat I think his name is The WOLVERINE or somethang like that...Hinton was a scary lookin' dude back in the day...and scary actin' as well !

So after walkin' for 12 straight hours he shows up at Donnie Fritz's house and asked him if he would lend him 38-dollars and some odd cents....He told Donnie it was to pay for a weeks rent in a boarding House....So Donnie put Eddie in his car and drove him back to Decatur and gave him the money he asked for...at that time Decatur was Dry...which meant that you had to know a bootlegger if you wanted a drink or you had to drive 15 miles to Madison, Bama-lama and buy it and turn around and drive back another 15 miles and there was always a Sheriff that ran the County in between Decatur and Madison that tired to bust as many folks as he could for havin' booze in their car as they drove through his Dry County...

So Fritz drops Eddie off after givin' him the money he asked for and drives off into the sunset....and Eddie immediately goes to where he has all of his stuff stashed away and he gets his small worn-out handless brown Samsonite suitcase and dumps out all the contents and closes the old suitcase back up and then he tucks it up under his arm like he was carring a football across the goal line for his all time favorite football team ....The Univeristy Of Alabama's CRIMSON TIDE !

One of Hinton's favorite fantasies was to own a football team like The Atlanta Falcons....it would be like Eddie was the teams Owner/Coach/and player in critical times...like when his team needed that big play, Eddie would hussle into the big game runnin' onto the field still wearin' his wing-t ipped street shoes ! And he'd call and execute the big play of the game and then he'd run off in victory and go back to doin' more important thangs like havin' another beer and another until the team needed him to save their
asses again !

Anyhow Eddie put The siutcase up under one arm and adjusted his nuts with his other hand and then he sets out again, walkin' ....destination Madison County, Alabama....and he never even missed a step...no tellin' how long that Cat had been up without any sleep at all at this point...He made the 15 miles that he needed in The burnin' hot steamin' Alabama Hell for Sunshine...Hinton had finally arrived at his ultimate destination and goal The ALABAMA STATE LIQUOR STORE.....that was just about all there was in Madison back then...just a long row of beer stores on both sides of the highway and one big green front store...that is what both of my granddaddy's called it way way back in the time....and finally after all of this endless walkin' and walkin' and sangin' and talkin' to himself out loud and walkin' some more and it gets light and then it gets dark and he's still walkin' ....Finally Hinton gets the big chance that he's been walkin' and workin' so hard to get to this point ...to be able to purchases all the whiskey and as much beer as either he had the money for or how much room he had in that little old brown suitcase. I never though about that small detail until just now ... but Hinton had to make a hard choice ...maybe the hardest choice of his whole life at that moment....and he had to be practical as well because he could only buy what he could carry back on his long 15-mile walk back to the river city....and like I said it was even harder on Eddie because the old suitcase did not have a handle to carry it with...truth is there was no easy way to carry that suitcase... it would make your underarms so sore and raw...and weighted down with whiskey it would have had to weight at least a metric TON on that long hot endless Self induced Summer Death March in The Summer of 1984 !

Eddie did tell me later that he wanted a drink so bad ...anybody would if they had gone though all that Eddie did and when he finally got somethang to drink he went out behind the state liquor store...there was a little clump of trees out behind The State Store and he was able to find a safe place to sit for a little while and open maybe a bottle of 190 Proof Pure Grain alcohol....but he couldn't get as "high" as he wanted too because he still had 15 miles to walk..before he could allow himself to really get drunk as you wanna be...which is why he started all this walkin' in the first place...

The part of this Cat Tale that really broke my heart is that when Eddie was about halfway back to The River City...in fact he was right where I-65 crosses Highway 20 by the Race Track Gas station right down the road...Eddie thought he saw a State Trooper car comin' up from behind him to check him out so he quickly tossed the suitcase over in the high weeds beside the road....and Hinton kept on walkin' with a slight limp this time...he told me one time that he thought that the Cops would have a little pity or show a little more mercy for a crippled man...so he had developed a great little limp...

...turns out The State Trooper did not even look Eddie's way much less even slow down... and Eddie said that when he got back to the suitcase and checked that there was not a drop of anythang left...it all broke when the suitcase hit the ground beide the highway! All of this was goin' on when the beer advertisements were all about stuff like " You've been shoveling miles of piles of pigmy shit all day long and now you deserve to get so totally wasted that you puke on your new cowboy boots tonight ! This Bud's for you and all that you do!

When Hinton told me that incredible story I knew what I had to do....I had to take him shoppin'....where? in Madison of course...30 more mile over there and back...but we were in The Hardware Store truck this time rolling on Rubber tires filled with air....not the shoe leather express . We were headed to get Eddie some groceries ....as I said earlier..you could not get the kind of groceries Eddie needed in The River City because it was still a dry town and also a dry county!

John D. Wyker is an Alabama music icon, having worked in Muscle Shoals and in Macon at Capricorn. His band Sailcat charted in 1972 with "Motorcycle Mama" and he was a close personal friend of Eddie Hinton. Wyker also wrote "Baby Ruth," recorded by Delbert McClinton, among others.

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