But the Chug—a—Lug is a longstanding tradition hereabouts and I am sure that the local hepatologists must love it—there can be few sights as fiscally pleasing to the eye of a liver specialist than watching thousands of people willingly damaging their livers to the point where they will need medical assistance—just as much as our local gendarmerie must hate it. The Chug—a—Lug offers them little except a constant stream of complaints from the public about the behavior of the morons and the thankless task of trying to keep the more belligerent partiers from harming themselves, other partiers, and the indigenous population. This is not always possible, of course, and so the situation often requires the judicious use of pepper spray, German Shepherds, and tasers. Tasers, however, are not altogether effective, especially against the extremely inebriated, who seem to regard the electric shock as a somewhat unpleasant side effect of the vast amount of alcohol they have consumed and not as a warning to cease and desist their belligerency. Tasers complemented with a truncheon, on the other hand, do seem to work effectively. Extreme blunt force trauma will solve many a law-enforcement problem that sweet reasonableness will not.
And, as you might imagine, the Chug—a—Lug offers the political class here no end of opportunities to bloviate, pontificate, and otherwise make themselves feel useful. The problems this annual bacchanal generates are the same every year—I’ve mentioned just a few of the tamer aspects up above—and every year the outraged populace demands that someone on the city council do something about the problem, and every year the city council, which seems to regard the outraged populace as a petty annoyance whose only goal in life is to disturb the city council’s monthly pinochle tournament, tells the outraged populace that something will be done about the problem next year. The city council will do nothing about the problem, of course, and so we can expect a major onset of déjà vu at about this time next year. The only reason we’re not getting déjà vu this year is because last year it rained like hell on the Chug—a—Lug and so most of the drunks stayed inside and urinated on each other instead wandering all over the cityscape in a stupor and peeing in people’s rose bushes.
But for those of us old enough to remember, the Chug—a—Lug and its attendant debaucheries was also the setting of one of the worst outrages in the history of our happy little burg, the desecration of Billy Yank. For years—just how many years no one is quite sure of—a bronze statue of a Civil War soldier everyone called Billy Yank stood in front of the old City Hall, his eyes turned south in eternal contemplation of the march from Atlanta to the sea, at his feet a scroll listing every battle the county’s regiment had fought in from its first [Gettysburg] to its last [Bentonville]. We were all kind of proud of the old boy; no matter what changes came to our happy little burg there he stood, reminding us all that liberty and union were one and inseparable, now and forever. Generations of high school seniors had their class pictures taken in front of Billy and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that more than one local soldier has gone down to see Billy Yank just before they shipped out to take one more look at him and the scroll at his feet and hope that they’d come home in one piece just like Billy did.
All that ended about thirty years ago. No one’s really sure how or why a gang of twelve Chug—a—Luggers from Connecticut decided that Billy had to go; they may have been peace activists manqué or a mob of Confederate sympathizers who, like the Japanese holdouts in the Pacific islands, never got the word that the war was over, or maybe they were just a bunch of stupid drunk kids who decided to do the sort of incredibly stupid thing that bunches of drunk kids decide to do—I’m partial to that last explanation myself—but they did decide he had to go, and so after the sun went down they rounded up some chains and a pick-up truck and in a burst of enthusiasm that left burnt tire tracks from the front of old City Hall to Main Street they pulled Billy off his plinth. I think that they were going to put Billy in the back of the pick-up and then chuck him into the river, but that plan didn’t work out as Billy weighed several hundred pounds and the twelve of them together couldn’t lift him into the pick-up. I should rephrase that, I think; the twelve of these knuckleheads working together could have easily lifted Billy into the pick-up, it’s just that coordinating the actions of twelve incredibly drunk morons in the dark is a much easier thing to say than to do. They started to drag Billy behind the pick-up, but at this point our crack crew of cops pulled up and arrested the lot of them for criminal mischief and trespassing and public drunkenness and being idiots from Connecticut. That last one used to be a capital offense here in the Vampire State, along with being an idiot from Jersey, but bleeding heart liberal types changed the laws back in 1938 for reasons I’m not sure I understand now. It may have had something to do with the Great Depression. In any case, Billy rested in a municipal warehouse for about fifteen years after his misadventure, but I am sure you’ll all be happy to know that he is back on his plinth, a much taller one this time, in the veterans’ plot at the local rural cemetery, on the slope of a hill where he still stands facing south towards Atlanta and the sea with the men who marched with him, and their sons and grandsons and great-grandsons resting in final peace at his feet.