I read the article As Wise as Socrates today and it reminded me of Grandpa Rufus. He wasn’t my grandpa, or anyone’s grandpa as far as anyone knew. He was a bum that hung around the liquor store buying booze for us kids, after he bought some for himself, with our money of course. We just called him Grandpa Rufus, not even sure if his name was Rufus, but he did tell us he was born somewhere in the hills. Where those hills were, we never did find out either. Grandpa Rufus was the wisest man any of us had ever met until then, but when you’re 10 you’re not burdened yet with knowing everything like when you’re 16.
He always bummed our cigarettes, but when we asked him to take a drag off one of those skunky, sweet smelling hand rolls he was always smoking he said, “You’re too young. Wait ‘til you’re older, like 12, then I’ll give you a hit.” Thank God he was wise enough to make us wait a couple of years otherwise who knows how I would have turned out.
One day he insisted we take a swig or two off the Boone’s Farm he bought us while he bummed one of our cigarettes and dispensed a few words of wisdom.
Things like “Never french kiss your sister, ‘cause you might also be frenchin’ your mom.” That might have been a hint of where those hills were. But being 10 and feeling really, really awkward we hid our embarrassment by taking a swig of Boone’s.
Most of what he said we really didn’t understand, “Let he who is without sin be pitied, ‘cause he never knew fun by spending a Tuesday mornin’ at the strip club drinkin’ dollar pitchers while tryin’ to guess by the stretch marks how many kids the girl on stage had.” Not knowing what a strip club was yet, or stretch marks, we took another a swig just to be safe.
Some bits of wisdom we only understood a few years later like, “Your bird in your hand is worth more than two in the bush. A Devil’s Threeway will scar you for life.” Blank faced and not understanding, none of us took a swig, expect for Billy. Billy was old, he was 14 and just saw his first porno the month before. Red faced, he swallowed half a bottle Boone’s then stared at the ground and shuffled his feet. If you don’t know what a Devil’s Threeway is, Google it… and keep a big bottle or Boone’s Farm handy… and for God’s sake, go out and get a life.
As we lurched away that day feeling light headed and a little confused, Grandpa Rufus spoke the wisest words I’ve ever been told, “Don’t go ‘round to one of them fancy colleges and get yourself an education, try learnin’ somethin’ instead.” He was right. If you think you learned anything in school, think back, I bet the most important lessons you learned in life were outside the classroom.