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I was watching a television commercial some years back when I heard the term "Friends don't let friends drive drunk." Actually, that was not the first time I heard that saying. The first time I heard that statement was sometime in 1964 or 1965 when I was in the United States Army, stationed at Bassett Army Hospital, Fort Wainright, Alaska,

I was about seventeen years old and had never had any form of freedom. If not locked in a cage at the Children's Home Society Orphanage in Jacksonville, Florida; I was out running the streets and searching for food and shelter. As a boy, I never really had the time or inclination to use alcohol or drugs as we kids had to be alert at all times because of the police hunting for us runaways orphans.

When entering the Army, I began to drink a little as that is what most of my buddies were doing during their free time. I never really cared for the taste of it but when there is nothing to do, drinking is better than nothing to do. Late one evening, in the middle of winter, several of my army buddies and I drove to the Malamute Saloon. It was located out by the University of Alaska campus. The bar was an old wooden building with a sawdust floor and more logs than anything else. If I remember correctly, it had double swinging doors, just like the saloons I remember seeing in the western movies on the little black and white Zenith television at the orphanage.

The five of us sat drinking for five or six hours waiting to see if any ladies might show up. As the ratio of men to women in Alaska was 50 to 1, the likelihood was not in our favor.

Raymond Ferranti, Joseph Dabenigno and I generally conducted ourselves in a proper manner at all times. The three of us had a habit of looking out for one another should something unusual happen. However, this night two other young men, Private Curry, owner of the car and Private Owens, came along for the ride.

Private Curry was a short redheaded fellow and he had quite the temper. It appeared, the more he drank the more obnoxious he became to everyone around him, including his friends. At about one o'clock in the morning the bartender asked the five of us to leave. By that time, Curry was so drunk that he could hardly stand much less drive his car in extremely icy and snowy conditions. Constantly raising hell with everyone around him, Curry took the car keys out of his pocket and slammed them down on the table. Raymond reached out to pick up the keys when Curry slapped the keys, causing them to fly across the barroom floor. The two of them immediately headed for the keys and began to fight over who would drive us back to the base. When the two of them finally stopped tumbling around the floor; Ray stood up and jingled the keys above his head.

"Friends don't let friends drive drunk," said Raymond, as he wiped the blood off his mouth.

"Come on Ray, let's call a cab. Forget that stupid idiot," said Joe.

"I can't let him drive that damn car. He'll kill himself or someone else before the nights over," Ray told him.

"Give me my damn car keys or I'll kick your ass," mumbled Curry.

Ray took the car keys and placed them into his front pocket. Curry stumbled over to Ferranti, slapped Ray across the face as hard as he could and said," Give me the damn keys."

Ray just stood there, shaking his head "no." "Friends don't let friends drive drunk," Ray stated again.

Again, Curry slapped Ray in the face, and then again and then again. Dabenigno ran across the room, grabbed Curry by the throat and pinned him against the wall. "You even speak and I'll break your damn neck you puny little piece of crap," he told Curry.

Slowly, Curry slid down the wall and just sat there on the floor, leaning in the wooden post.

We called a cab and returned to base, leaving Curry in the corner of the saloon. The next day he was back at work at the hospital but nothing was ever said about the incident.

I learned, right then and there that certain people, some might even be considered friends, are not worth that type of punishment and humiliation. Should I ever find myself in that situation again; I will take the keys and leave them right where they stand, or sit or lay. Not so much for their benefit but for the benefit of some innocent family who might have to cross their path.

And then again; I suppose there are some people, with certain types of attitudes, who are just not worth having as friends.

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