John Barleycorn HTML version
Back on the ranch, in the Valley of the Moon, I resumed my steady drinking. My
programme was no drink in the morning; first drink- time came with the completion of
my thousand words. Then, between that and the midday meal, were drinks numerous
enough to develop a pleasant jingle. Again, in the hour preceding the evening meal, I
developed another pleasant jingle. Nobody ever saw me drunk, for the simple reason that
I never was drunk. But I did get a jingle twice each day; and the amount of alcohol I
consumed every day, if loosed in the system of one unaccustomed to drink, would have
put such a one on his back and out.
It was the old proposition. The more I drank, the more I was compelled to drink in order
to get an effect. The time came when cocktails were inadequate. I had neither the time in
which to drink them nor the space to accommodate them. Whisky had a more powerful
jolt. It gave quicker action with less quantity. Bourbon or rye, or cunningly aged blends,
constituted the pre- midday drinking. In the late afternoon it was Scotch and soda.
My sleep, always excellent, now became not quite so excellent. I had been accustomed to
read myself back asleep when I chanced to awake. But now this began to fail me. When I
had read two or three of the small hours away and was as wide awake as ever, I found
that a drink furnished the soporific effect. Sometimes two or three drinks were required.
So short a period of sleep then intervened before early morning rising that my system did
not have time to work off the alcohol. As a result I awoke with mouth parched and dry,
with a slight heaviness of head, and with a mild nervous palpitation in the stomach. In
fact I did not feel good. I was suffering from the morning sickness of the steady, heavy
drinker. What I needed was a pick-me-up, a bracer. Trust John Barleycorn, once he has
broken down a man's defences! So it was a drink before breakfast to put me right for
breakfast--the old poison of the snake that has bitten one! Another custom begun at this
time was that of the pitcher of water by the bedside to furnish relief to my scorched and
I achieved a condition in which my body was never free from alcohol. Nor did I permit
myself to be away from alcohol. If I travelled to out-of-the-way places, I declined to run
the risk of finding them dry. I took a quart, or several quarts, along in my grip. In the past
I had been amazed by other men guilty of this practice. Now I did it myself unblushingly.
And when I got out with the fellows, I cast all rules by the board. I drank when they
drank, what they drank, and in the same way they drank.
I was carrying a beautiful alcoholic conflagration around with me. The thing fed on its
own heat and flamed the fiercer. There was no time, in all my waking time, that I didn't
want a drink. I began to anticipate the completion of my daily thousand words by taking a
drink when only five hundred words were written. It was not long until I prefaced the
beginning of the thousand words with a drink.