By the time the city hall clock officially pronounced that it was 6 p.m. on
Christmas Eve, downtown Peoria was starting to quiet down. Most businesses
had long-since closed and many were making their way to family
homesteads outside the city – except for Dan and a handful of
whiskeydaddlers who were still at work at the Great Western, making the last
few deliveries before they could start celebrating with their families.
Dan was looking forward to getting out of the smoky downtown if only for a
few days, to going home and staying in his old room, sleeping in his old bed
(which he had completely outgrown, although it didn’t matter to him),
enjoying his mom and aunt’s cooking, allowing his nieces and nephews to
climb all over him and just relaxing in general.
But all of that was going to have to wait until later. Right now, there were still
three barrels of Ravenswood Bourbon that he and the boys had to daddle
up the West Bluff to the Langton home, which was more like a mansion as
Using their daddle handles and hooks, Dan and his team of three
whiskeydaddlers – Julius, Christopher and Maurice – quickly loaded the
barrels onto their daddle wagon and stood them upright. Dan devised a
system using leather straps attached to metal handles attached on either
side of the wagon’s bed to keep the barrels in place – critical when making
the steep climb up to the homes on the West Bluff.
While they were busy loading in and strapping down the massive barrels,
occasionally a small spotted paw could be seen darting from beneath the
wagon at the hanging leather straps. Next to bringing mice to Dan and
sleeping in any conveniently located swath of sunshine, there was nothing
Whiskers enjoyed more than batting the ever-swinging straps until Dan pulled
them tight around the barrels. Sometimes she would jump into the wagon
and go along for the ride just to make sure Dan was okay and to protect him
from danger. But tonight, she decided to stay back and protect the almost-empty
distillery. Plus, she thought she saw something moving between those
barrels over there.
As Dan and his team left the Great Western that night, they exited onto
Edmond Street and, with their back to the river, made their way two blocks
up to Adams Street where they took a right, then went a couple more blocks
before turning left onto Cedar Street. The streets of Peoria were brightly lit as
the darkness of the night inevitably took over and barely a soul was out. Dan
and his daddlers quickly made their way up Cedar Street until they reached
Webster School, where they negotiated a corner and found themselves on
Saratoga Street, which would take them from the edge of downtown Peoria,
all the way up the bluff to Moss Avenue. This was the beginning of the most
difficult and physically demanding part of the trip for Dan and his daddlers. It
was about 15 blocks to the top of the bluff and a gradual climb the entire
way. Luckily the weather was good, the roads were dry and the barrels were
holding fast as they made the slow climb up towards Moss Avenue and the
With his team of huffing-and-puffing daddlers nearing the peak of the bluff,
Dan moved to the back of the wagon to help give it the final push that was
needed. They then turned left onto Moss and saw the Langton home brightly
lit just a block away.
As they rolled onto the wooden boardwalk in front of the home, they could
hear the piano playing and the unmistakable voice of Mrs. Langton singing
and they could see a chorus of little heads peeking out the windows at
them. Before Dan and his daddlers reached the home, the front door burst
open and a swarm of children bounced down the steps towards them – this
was after all the winning whiskeydaddle team from this past summer’s
Whiskeydaddle Festival. Dan felt almost like he was at home with his nieces
“Alright kids, leave these nice men alone,”
said Jean, who had stopped singing and come out to see what the commotion
was about. She turned to Dan, on whose outstretched arm two small children
swung back and forth.
“I hope they’re not bothering you too much,”
she said looking up and down his massive frame. The top of her head barely
reached the bottom of his beard.
Just like Daisy’s family, the Langton’s had spent part of the 4th of July
celebration watching the Whiskeydaddle Festival. Jean and her husband
Gary, who was now out on the porch with wines bottles in each hand,
remembered Dan very well as he had delivered whiskey to their home
before and always seemed to be more articulate than the rest, though they
all were very gentlemanly in their demeanor and especially in the fastidious
manner with which they kept their imposing beards.
“Okay, kids, back inside. You’ll catch a cold out…,”
said Gary, as he walked down the steps.
“Actually, it’s pretty nice out here tonight. But back inside anyway. I think
Aunt Daisy just pulled some cookies out of the oven.”
And that was all it took. The children quickly dismounted the daddlers and
mounted the steps into the home. Dan watched their little heads pass the
windows as the herd headed towards the kitchen.
“Gentlemen! Why don’t you take the barrels around back and bring them
into the cellar,”
said Gary with a bit of a flourish.
“And while I know you probably would love nothing more than to daddle back to your
homes to be in the bosom of your kith and kin, it would do my family a great honor
if the Grand Champion, All-Mighty Team of Whiskeydaddlers would join us for a
quick toast on this Eve of Christmas.”
Dan looked at back at Julius, Christopher and Maurice, who looked
expressionlessly back at Dan. He knew they were thirsty after the long
“Thank you, Mr. Langton, we would really enjoy that,”
Dan said. They quickly maneuvered the wagon around the back of the home to the ramp
leading to the cellar. After swiftly unloading the barrels (and loading on two empty
one), they brought the wagon back around to the front of the home, where
Mr. Langton was standing, looking up at the December night sky.
“Gentlemen, we should be thankful for this glorious weather as the cold will
be here soon enough,”
he said while still looking up.
“Winter is coming, indeed.”