There I was, lying flat on my back in the middle of a pasture across the coastal highway from the English Channel. I had been unceremoniously knocked silly minutes into a soccer match involving some very rugged Scots at their biannual "gathering" of around 500. This would be the second time in as many days that I found myself carried by a host of Scotsmen from one part of the gathering to a spot not of my choosing. The first time was a toss into the Channel.
Now I was being carried to one of the aid stations with what I knew, without being told, was a broken nose. I had broken my nose twice before and knew the feeling intimately. I had the disjointed feeling of unreality. Here I was, in a winery work-study program in France in 1968 and now headed for an aid station after being "knocked" by an unseen Scotsman on the field of play. How had this all happened just weeks into my internship program?
I was dumped rather roughly on a cot in the aid station and the Scots left, unmoved by my plight, to head back to the soccer match. They told me they expected me to do my "duty" at the wine wagon at 4 p.m. Since I had secured the wine for the gathering, I was deemed the "dispenser" when the alcohol was allowed to flow at precisely 4 o'clock.
One of them turned to me from the tent flap on his way out and said, "Get to it," then left. So much for empathy.
The attendant in the tent was a general practitioner who quickly pronounced my injury as a "knock" in the nose. It was funny (well, in retrospect) that my soccer injury was called a "knock" and that from that time I was known variously as the "Securer of Drink" or the "Knocked American."
The doctor stuffed something up my nostrils, handed me a pill of some sort and sat me up. It was then that I felt my hand being squeezed, and I found this very lovely redheaded woman about my age staring very concernedly at me. She was the sister of Ian, my winery buddy from Beaujolais. She helped me from my cot. I could feel my nose swelling by the minute and I was still feeling rocky and more than a little in shock. We began walking, slowly, the 200 yards back to the field, arm-in-arm. I guess I could watch the rest of the match with this lovely woman on my arm. I could play the wounded hero and soak up as much sympathy as I could gather. Good plan.
The crowd had swelled in the minutes I had been away. When I arrived with Ian's sister, I received the expected pats on the back and well-wishes, but hardly a word. After a short while, she left me by myself and I watched the match, thanking God that I had only been "knocked" and not killed outright. These were serious lads. I stood there watching the action when the match stopped and a player left the field looking in my direction. I heard, "You're back in, mate."
Incredulous, I looked around me. I was going back in?! I got a gentle nudge from behind from the reappeared sister, and there I was, on the field of play. Little did I know, she had single-handedly saved my honor in front of the entire gathering.
Lorn Razzano is former owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland and still works there part time. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For past columns on his adventures as a wine intern in France, go to www.dailytidings.com/razzano.