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  • Writer's pictureTodd Stevens

Kenny, Ditto, and the red wine fiasco

The little town in western Montana where I grew up had maybe 350 people in the 70s and early 80s. There weren’t many entertainment options before I was old enough to drive. When we weren’t finding ways to make a few bucks, we fished & hunted, we also played sports at the school. We shot baskets, played football, and baseball, if there was a sport we played it. It was a time just before cable or satellite TV had made it to that part of the world, and video games were around in some places, but not so much in Victor Montana. As a result of this entertainment void, we found simple and sometimes dangerous ways to entertain ourselves. One late spring when I was about 13 a friend and I were wandering through some old dilapidated buildings out in a field just to see what was there. I had 2 single cigarettes, so I gave him one and I had one, I lit them like I’d been smoking since I was 5 and pretended to be a veteran smoker. We sat on an old gray oxidized tin wash tub and puffed away quietly. There were big fat mustard colored barn spiders in every corner of that ramshackle old shed, each one sitting in the middle of perfectly constructed webs. I was watching one in the corner when we heard what sounded like two gravel voiced dinosaurs screaming and yelling and cursing at one another. We stomped our cigarettes out quickly and tried to wave away the smoke before looking out a window which was nothing more than jagged chunks of glass clinging here and there to the frame. Two old men came walking out of a little creek bottom screaming at each other, and I instantly recognized them as two local characters that virtually everyone knew. They were brothers, and were either named Kenny and Ditto, or that’s simply what everyone called them. Their voices sounded like a combination of gravel, marbles and barbed wire being shaken in a metal can. I had no idea what they were saying, but they were saying it loud and they were obviously angry at each other. Kenny was out in front and he was stomping mad. He had about 4-5 days of gray stubble growing and he wore a heavy red and black flannel jacket as he clomped through the grass back towards the road. Ditto followed along, and he was also unshaven. He wore an old blue insulated wind breaker. One would bark, then the other would follow. Back and forth they went, fighting like 70 year old 4th graders until they were back to the road. They were known to take the “occasional” drink, so my friend and I figured they must’ve been on one when they’d passed by. We came out of the building and walked toward where they’d come from. Somewhere along the line we had picked up a couple of survey stakes that were each about 3 feet long. We sword fought each other and chopped off tall yellow grass with them as we walked along talking. Through the center of that field ran a main power line. Somehow we came up with the idea to throw the stakes up and try to get them to balance across two lines, maybe causing a giant short out…(I have never claimed I was very smart) We must’ve thrown those stakes up there about 25 times when my stake fell into a patch of tall grass and stuck pointed end down like an arrow. I walked over to retrieve it and right where it was stuck into the ground was an unopened gallon jug of Carlo Rossi sweet red wine. I called my friend over and we just stared at it like we’d discovered the Holy Grail. The possibilities ran through my head. It was obviously Kenny and Ditto’s, did I leave it for them….OR, did I do something stupid? The answer was obvious and part of my idiotic makeup, I took it. 13 year olds walking around with full jugs of wine do tend to get noticed, so we we went full on commando on the way home. We followed fence lines, dodged behind trees, did unnecessary barrel rolls, and just about anything else dramatic we could think of. Once we got home we took it out to my garage and divided it equally into big glass soda bottles. There was an 8th grade dance that night and we planned on using our newfound treasure as social lubricant. I’d tasted beer and “classy” wine before and could barely stand it, that cheap wine was different. It was sweet, fruity, delicious to a kid, almost like an un-carbonated grape soda. Once it was dark, we carried it over to the school yard and stood beside a big brick boiler room. We took turns taking big pulls off that wine until it was gone. That’s a lot of wine inside a 120 lb kid. It wasn’t until we were in the echo filled “old gym” where the dance was being held that the wine began working it’s magic. I remember Boston was playing, “Rock and Roll Band”, and my friend and I thought we were the coolest kids to ever grace a school dance. We were 10 feet tall and bullet proof…for about 20 minutes. Then the world started spinning and I could feel the brown bottle flu hitting, and hitting hard. My friend and I ended up out at the south end of the football field trying desperately not to excise our souls along with everything else inside of us. I told myself, NEVER AGAIN, but that turned out to be a lie.

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