One of my Theriot aunts, Bridgette (the one who lived to the age of 103) married a Sicilian emigrant by the name of Senias Palombo, and they had fourteen children (two sets of twins). 'Nonc Senias was one of the homeliest men I ever knew, but was a nice, kind person. He also made the best bootleg whiskey in this part of Louisiana. He was quite old when the law caught him, and because he would not promise the Judge that he would stop making moonshine, he was carted off to the pen for about 18 months. I am not sure, but I believe that Tante Bridgette and her older sons carried on the "family business" while old 'Nonc was out of town, because when he got back, he went right back to work making moonshine, just being a bit more careful who knew about it.
Every year in the early Fall, we went to spend the day at Tante Bridgette's, and I got to play with the children who were near my age, and Daddy would lay in his year's supply of whiskey (for medicinal purposes, of course.) He kept a small bottle of it in a kitchen cabinet, and on cold mornings when he woke up early, he'd tip-toe into the kitchen and take a sip of "medicine." He must have been still half asleep the morning he grabbed the wrong bottle and took a swig of vanilla, instead. Then he accused Mom of trying to poison him! She was laughing so hard she couldn't even answer that one.
But on one afternoon in June of 1928, my baby brother was born prematurely, weighing less than two pounds. He looked like a little skinned rabbit, poor baby! There were no incubators in Kaplan at that time, so Dr. Abshire had Daddy light a fire in the fireplace, and wrapped the baby in cotton batting and put him into a shoe box which he placed against the warm bricks of the fireplace.
Mom had lost her vision because of high blood pressure (which was why she had gone into early labor) but during the night she heard the baby making little mewing sounds. She called my older sister to her bed and said, "Dee, the baby is hungry. You will have to feed him." Dee told her that the doctor had left no instructions for feeding the baby because he did not think the baby was going to live. So Mom told her, "I will tell you what to do, and if you can save him, he is your little boy." (We realized later that Mom was sure she was going to die.) She then told Dee to go to the kitchen and boil some water. When it cooled, she was to put about one ounce of water into a glass, add a few grains of sugar and a teaspoon of 'Nonc Senias' whiskey which she would find on a shelf in the pantry. Then she was to feed this slowly to the baby with an eye-dropper. He survived on that until he graduated to Eagle Brand sweetened evaporated milk.
Baby Jerry is now almost 74 years old, is married to a beautiful woman named Clara (Herzik), and the father of eight children and a grandfather several times over. He and Clara love to dance and one year were Polka King and Queen of their District in Texas.
So, you see, 'Nonc Senias' whiskey was, indeed, good medicine.
Copyright © 2001 Aline T. Meaux, Abbeville, LA
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