Wednesday, February 10, 2010

February 10 in History

Charles Darwin was born in England on February 12, 1809. He is best known, of course, for formalizing and publishing the theory of evolution which is a hell of a lot more fact than theory but we won't go there now.

In the Biology Department at the University of Wisconsin - River Falls we used to annually celebrate Chuck's birthday by getting excessively inebriated for no apparent reason other than it was February, cold, and Uncle Chuck wasn't alive to celebrate his birthday so we elected to do it for him.

On Monday night February 10, 1975, we celebrated Chuck's birthday at the home of my Plant Taxonomy professor Jim Richardson, himself a victim of arrested development and unable to accept that he was no longer a kid. To this day I can't remember why we celebrated the birthday two days early that year but we did.

Ruth, my now ex wife and I arrived at JR's house about 8:00 p.m. that evening armed with a fifth of excellent Cutty Sark Scots Whisky. This was back in my scotch days.

We drank and raised hell all night in JR's house. At one point a fellow biology student whose name I cannot now remember, came up to me, curled up in my lap, put her arms around my neck and made it abundantly clear that she wanted more than just a sip of whisky.

My ex wife who had Rottweiler tendencies (especially after filing for divorce) nearly beheaded this woman when she saw her sitting in my lap. Myself about three sheets to the wind saw nothing wrong with the scene - it was out in the open and I didn't even have my hand on her breasts (or did I???). Anyway, Ruth ripped into this woman like white on rice asserting her place in the hierarchy of things and at the time she was queen of the hill.

As the night wore on the amount of whisky in the bottle slowly diminished. By 4:00 a.m. on February 11, only perhaps one inch of Cutty Sark remained unconsumed. Only Ruth and I had been imbibing and Ruth wisely drank only about one inch of the bottle.

The rest was gurgling around in me.

By 4:00 that morning there was no way I could walk. Luckily we had come to the party with fellow graduate student Wayne Norling whose car was parked in JR's driveway.

To extract me from the house, I can remember JR taking my left arm and swinging it up over his shoulder. John Hudson, the Chairman of the Department and a member of my graduate committee took my right arm and swung it up over his shoulder. Together John and JR dragged me to Wayne's car.

I remember leaving their house. The next thing I remember was waking up with biting cold on my face and seeing headlights glaring on the highway and little yellow dots passing beneath me.

JR and John Hudson (and probably Wayne and Ruth) had tied me to the hood of Wayne's car like if you had shot a deer and were taking it home. Wayne and Ruth were in the car laughing their collective asses off. I'm laying on the hood not knowing that I was tied down - I thought they just laid me there!

Adrenalin kicked in and I suddenly became sober!! I remember trying to dig my fingernails into the hood of Wayne's car to keep from falling off. It was a hell of a ride. Getting me home, Ruth and Wayne untied me from the car and helped drag me into the house.

The next morning I awoke at 9:00 a.m. and spent the day doing a winter hawk population census/survey that I was doing along the Mississippi River south to Alma Wisconsin. I remember leaving home that morning feeling a bit like I had been hit by a brick but other than that I was fine. I completed the hawk census and returned home in late afternoon.

Today if I even thought of drinking two glasses of Cutty Sark I would be in the hospital.

It was a Charles Darwin birthday that I will never forget, and I think fondly of the silliness each and every February 10. Its too bad Chuck isn't around now to drink with us. He would have probably given me a Darwin Award for stupidity that night long ago.


  1. You may not have realized it, but you were actually celebrating Sara Jones' birthday which is actually Feb. 10. Charles Darwin's b-day is not nearly as much an occasion for celebration. As for me, I imbibed in a wine glass filled with sparkling green tea to celebration the occasion. Long past birthdays may have found me tied next to you on the hood...if I managed to escape decapitation at Ruth's hand. All it took for me was a bottle of wine...Cutty Sark would have put me in a coma. Happy to report I'm older and wiser today.

  2. Sara - when I was a kid in Barron County all it took was a bottle of blackberry brandy. The best girl-pick-up enhancer in Northern Wisconsin in those days. We weren't into wine back in high school. But blackberry brandy - damn. And it worked. Well. At least the stories that other guys told suggested that it worked.

  3. Pabst Blue Ribbon worked well too.