It was 1997 and after months of searching for barrels to make taiko drums, I was on the phone with a Jim Beam distillery in Louisville, Kentucky.
“They’ll cost you $25 a barrel,” said the voice on the phone. “But you have to come get them.”
Paydirt! Twenty-five dollars and a road trip! Good grief!
My brain scrambled, trying to figure out how many barrels I could haul…I needed a truck or a van. Not too big because I had to actually drive it. Not too small because I wanted to bring home a load. I needed to keep the total cost under $200 and be able to fit all the barrels into a cargo van. I decided that seven barrels was the magic number.
“When do you want them?” he asked.
Now. I want them right now. Or at least as soon as possible. I am on my way!
I bounced into FWDC’s office. “I need $200, plus money for a cargo van and gas. I am driving to Louisville to pick up bourbon barrels to make drums for that taiko group we are starting!” It was all just logistics. Rent a van. Map the route. Take my kids to my parents’ house. Convince a friend to ride along. Hit the road. It was late summer and hotter than hell and I cared less that the beat-up van had no air conditioning or radio or cruise control. Bouncing down the road, I was not even sure it had any shock absorbers. But it didn’t matter. I was bringing home barrels!
It only took four hours of driving to reach the land of milk and honey spiked with bourbon, otherwise known as Louisville. The distillery had us pull up to the loading dock. We jumped out of the van, adrenaline pumping and danced and skipped and capered as seven beautiful, just-emptied, 50-gallon oak barrels were rolled right off the line and into the van. The men couldn’t help but notice our giddy excitement.
“What are you ladies planning to do with these barrels?” they asked.
“We’re making taiko drums!” we gushed. Good thing the barrels were empty; we were already intoxicated.
Except they weren’t. They weren’t empty. Not completely. Each beautiful barrel had a small amount of residual whiskey. We could hear the slosh. We could smell the vapor. We parked the van in the afternoon sun while we stopped for a dance workshop on the way home. We climbed back in and were taken aback–fed by the heat, the entire van was awash with whiskey fumes! We giggled and wiggled back into our seats and onto the highway.
Inching through an unexpected traffic jam on the way home, we took the first available exit and pulled into a truck stop. Without getting out, we called to the nearest truck driver. “Excuse me,” we yelled out the window. “Do you know the best way to get around the traffic on the highway?”
He walked over, leaned his head into the window and pulled back abruptly. “Good Lord in heaven, what are you fillies hauling?!” he exclaimed.
“Whiskey barrels!” we laughed. “We’re making taiko drums!”
I don’t think he knew what a taiko drum is, but he seemed to appreciate our excitement and redirected us around the road congestion. We brought the barrels home, put them in the basement and planted the seeds for Fort Wayne Taiko.