With a throbbing, broken nose, swollen lip, swollen eye and stiff arm, I was thrown back into the soccer game. I'd been "knocked" silly just 15 minutes before. And now I was to play again?
It was 1968, and I'd taken a break from a winery intern program in France to visit my newfound friend Ian at an annual gathering of some 500 Scotsmen just south of Brest. After stupidly mentioning I'd "played" soccer (in high school P.E., that is), I found myself in the middle of a pasture with a bunch of rugged Scots who took soccer very seriously. Within four minutes, I was down on the ground with a broken nose.
Ian's sister, Jenny, accompanied me to the first-aid station, where a doctor unceremoniously stuffed something up my nostrils, gave me a pill and sent me back to the field — where I thought I'd be watching from the sidelines, Jenny still on my arm.
But after Jenny had a brief talk with one of the coaches, the action stopped, a player left the field, and I heard, "You're back in, mate."
I walked onto the field to a round of heartwarming applause. And after just a few minutes, I was relieved of play for good.
Jenny, being a Scot, knew that if I'd let a little knock put me out of play, I forever would've been known as that wimpy American. Just the fact that I showed up on the field again was huge to everyone involved, not just the players.
It was a smart, tactical move on Jenny's part to get me back in the game, and my acceptance with the gathering was irrevocably secured.
The gathering, held every other year, attracted Scotsmen from around the continent who were well-equipped for a two-week, no-holds-barred party. Jenny told me her family had attended since she and Ian were children.
I was the Securer of Drink, and my job began at 4 p.m. at the wine wagon. The gathering had, by now, consumed nine 50-gallon barrels and there was one left for this, the last evening. The keg beer wagon was also winding down with only five small barrels (about 13 gallons) of ale left.
I reported to duty early, now with Jenny helping me, and poured the last of the wine into pitchers and thermoses. The other wagon (a flatbed truck) was also getting to the end of the ale, all of this timed perfectly for the closing ceremonies in the evening.
I had told the winery co-op manager, where we purchased the barrels of wine, that I would report to him when the empty barrels would be returned so he would be prepared to pay us back our deposit. Of course, this was well before cellphones, and the only way I could make good my promise was to go back up the coastal highway and visit him in person.
Jenny hopped onto the back of my motorcycle and off we went. It was a beautiful fall afternoon ride to the winery cooperative. When we arrived, the manager took one look at my face and shook his head. His look confirmed that not only did I feel like a wreck, but I looked like one, too. Any romantic notions I thought of pursuing with Jenny were going to have to be put on hold for obvious reasons. The manager was grateful that I had kept my word and we made our plans for the next day.
When we arrived back at the gathering, Jenny jumped off my bike and ran across the field — directly into the arms of a man standing by his car and they kissed. I sat on the BMW for what seemed an eternity. It was only later that I realized that I had stalled the damned thing out.
Lorn Razzano is former owner of the Wine Cellar in Ashland and still works there part time. Reach him at email@example.com. For previous columns on his adventures as a winery intern in France, visit www.dailytidings.com/razzano.