Tuesday, May 28, 2019

The true story of the pickled foot

Finally, a news story I have some personal experience with: Will hospitals give back an amputated limb if you ask for it?

The article is about a year and a half old, but it somehow showed up on a website I was recently reading. The short answer is: Yes, they will.

How do I know this? Because I was, back in the day, an occasional customer of the prestigious Up Your Glass bar in Corson, S.D. The name of the bar was reflected in the elite crowd who frequented it. It was on my way home from work, had cheap, cold beer and a pretty barmaid, which combined to meet my qualifications for a 5-star joint.

Keep in mind, by "back in the day" I refer to that brief decade or so when I was walking on the wilder side. Now, 22 years without a cold beer, rehashing these stories seems like a lifetime ago and with a different person. But, what the hey, it's a great story.

If you've read the novel, Bags of Rock, you will recall that it begins with a glimpse of this story, as several of my recollections during that time in my life appear in various publications.

So the nut of it is this:

A motorcycling enthusiast, named Snake, owned the bar. He had a long black beard and diabetes. He laid his Harley down on the road one day and ended up having his foot amputated. He did what any of us would do and asked for it back.

I didn't know that (it's not like were BFFs or anything) until I wandered in one Happy Hour and saw a foot inside a pickled egg jar on the shelf behind the bar next to the rumple minze schnapps (of which I have on good authority if you bought the barmaid a shot she'd show you her nipple ring). I asked the barmaid and frequent companion of Snake's if that were indeed a real foot.

She said it was and let me look at the jar close-up. I verified that it was indeed a real foot. And when Snake limped past me on crutches, it added further authenticity to the story.

As the weeks went by and I stopped in on Friday at 5, the foot gradually began to deteriorate. I think they pickled it with vinegar and not with the more effective, but harder to obtain, formaldehyde. So, pro tip, if you're going to pickle your foot, don't do it on the cheap. Because the water had become cloudy. Skin began peeling. The toenails began curling. And the top of the swelling foot that had been sutured began oozing. It was indeed a conversation piece. And not a pretty one.

A couple weeks after it had become a public safety issue, perhaps reaching biohazard status, the jar and the foot disappeared. Just gone. As any enterprising journalist would do, I asked the barmaid: What happened to Snake's foot?

And now is when the story gets gross. Now, you say? Yes, now.

It seems there's a little rougher clientele at 2 a.m. than there was at 5 p.m. when I would stop in. And one of those clientele, a fellow motorcycling enthusiast of Snake's, accepted a challenge. A bet. A double-dog dare. And for 20 bucks, one Andrew Jackson, he said he would take a sip from the pickled foot jar.

As it was replayed to me, the jar was placed on the bar, and the lid unscrewed. The member of the motorcycle gang I won't mention so as to avoid retribution, lifted the jar to his hairy lips. Apparently, the odor was jut too much, and he ... puked all over into the jar. The smell did him in. We're talking one of the baddest, toughest dudes in South Dakota. And it was too much for him.

It was also too much for the bar. Because it's one thing to have a rotting pickled foot in a jar on your shelf, but it's another to have a rotting pickled foot with vomit in a jar on your shelf. It just loses it's allure.

Just goes to show, everybody has their line they won't cross. Sometimes it just takes a while to get there.

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