It’s no secret that I’ve had a few chest pains lately. And my energy level is hovering around ground zero. I’ve had more EKGs in the last month than Carter had little liver pills. And I’ve given enough blood to be in contention for the Clara Barton Award.

Someone during this process suggested it might be beneficial if I gave up Coca-Colas. Listen closely here folks, I ain’t that sick!

We drank milk for breakfast when I was a kid. And we’d have another glass with lunch. And we drowned those turnip greens and cornbread with a big ole glass of milk for supper (we’d never heard of dinner back then….if we’d had, milk would have been the only beverage on the menu).

Mother undoubtedly was making a little money on the side as the spokesperson for the National Dairy Association. Or they had some kind of promotion at Woodrow Kennon’s Grocery if you bought a certain amount of hog jowl and chitlins, they threw in a gallon or two of milk for nothing. Or maybe Bessie and Elise were just having banner seasons……

I can’t exactly remember my first Coca-Cola. Mother would bring home three of those small six ounce, green tinted bottles maybe once, sometimes twice a summer with the regular groceries. She allowed it was a treat for me, David Mark and Leon. Boy howdy, was it ever! The taste was special. And it was way more “cool and refreshing” than advertised.

It was also one of the first indicators to us that life may not be fair. Milk flowed like it was pouring out of a broken spigot……and Coca-Cola only came in those aforementioned small bottles that you could gulp down in a nanosecond. And it cost a whole nickel!

Mom carried on like a broken record as to the benefits of milk. We needed the vitamin D and the calcium. The colas she declared were simply a superfluous luxury… be enjoyed sparingly, bearing no nutritional value.

I’m sure she was right. But I have never heard of anyone fighting over a glass of milk! I’ve seen donnybrooks break out if Leon thought David snuck a swallow of “his” Coke.

There was an art to drinking those summer treats. We learned quickly not to gulp them down. It would be gone before you could enjoy it. We drank very slowly, swishing it around in our mouth to savor every molecule. The taste was too good to rush. We sometimes would take a few sips, put the cap back on and store the bottle in the refrigerator to reopen and drink again at a later date. The later date was usually about five minutes…..but you were “making it last”.

We’d take an ice pick and jab a small hole through the metal cap. You could only drink a drop at a time…..and keep that wonderful taste coming “for a while”. On extra hot days we’d pour it over some ice in a Mason jar or sit it in the freezer until we had a half frozen Coke.

As we grew older we discovered Dr. Pepper, NuGrape, Strawberry Soda and Orange Crush. What a special variety! We tried them all. Some captured our attention and taste buds more than others. Some seemed to fit a certain time or place…..

After the all day baseball game over by the Pajama Factory me, Buddy and Ricky would walk back by Pat Houston’s grocery. If one of us—or all three collectively—could come up with a nickel, we’d share a Root Beer. During the summer programs at the high school Mountain Dews and Upper 10s were the rage. I tried Pepsis a few times. But the peanuts didn’t seem the same shoved down the neck of a Pepsi as they did in a Coke.

And let me tell you, it took a special art to cup your hand “around” the top of a Coke bottle and judiciously pour that small pack of Tom’s Peanuts down the narrow opening……without spilling one peanut! And there was nothing better than a Saturday afternoon western at the Park Theatre accompanied by a Coke and some hot buttered popcorn. Unless, of course, you were sharing a Cherry Coke out at Frank’s Dairy Bar with your best girlfriend.

I told Mom on several occasions as I was trying to hide the small amount of Coke left in my bottle from Leon, “One day I will be making my own money and I am going to drink a Coca-Cola every day!”

And believe me, I have tried all my life, with all my heart, to live up to that promise! So you can see the dilemma I’m in this morning. I am worried about my health and I do need to make some serious life changes…..and I believe I have found a solution.

I have decided to stop drinking milk.