From the December 2010 magazine.

Soldier of misfortune

Vietnam and caring for a handicapped child were nothing next to the wrath of John Barleycorn

I GREW up in a small country town in upstate Pennsylvania. When I was young there was not much to do but watch the grass grow and play. I'm from German, Native American and Irish blood, and I remember as a young man there was always a party for something or other--a birth, death or wedding. Whenever something happened there was a party. I remember walking around and drinking out of some of the drinks on tables here and there. My family would just laugh and say, "Look at the little drunken sailor."

I grew up in a time of black-and-white TV, when people still had narrow minds. My...

-- JOHN S.

Fresno, Calif.