The Great Genesee Beer Chase began one early summer morning tooling around carefree and aimlessly along the North Country back roads in my '76 Dodge Aspen wagon. I don't remember exactly where I was when I chanced upon this funny round house, only that it was somewhere in a placeless and featureless landscape, where grown-up pastureland of bygone farmsteads melded with second-growth woods of aspen, elm and pine -- terrain typical of the North Country landscape of today.
I ground the Aspen to a stop, and backed up to get a closer look at the strange cylinder-shaped domicile. Scattered about the house were various broken and rusted relics of earlier times, and my panoramic scan of the scene froze at the mailbox, where I was suddenly seized with a bizarre impulse to have a drink - a beer, actually, though the earliness of the day toldtell of an eastern sky still faintly pink below the blue, and the emerging goldenrods were still dripping wet with dew.
At that moment I began to calculate the distances to various North Country taverns that catered to early bird imbibers (and in the North Country there are many), yet my eye seemed still strangely locked on the name on the mailbox.
"Yogi," I thought to myself. Then it hit me. Could this be the very same "Yogi" who owed me a case of Genesee beer from a long ago bet he'd lost to me?
I stepped out of the Aspen, and strode up the driveway, noticing out of the corner of my eye a slight shift of the curtains in a window near the door. As I approached the stoop, the door creaked open just enough to allow a head to poke out. It was the head of an old man, his face creased and leathery, with a bulbous nose and a sparsely bewhiskered chin.
"Is Yogi here?" I asked politely, not wanting to rile this character, as he looked as if he might be dangerous.
The old man paused, cocking his head and peering at me through squinty blue eyes. He then lifted a bony hand to the hoary whiskers on his chin, and scratched at them with an air of deep thoughtfulness, as if my inquiry carried great meaning.
Quite a time of whisker-scratching ensued, and the old man finally managed:
"No-ooo," in that Yankee drawl you don't hear much anymore.
Well, I thought, I guess that satisfactorily answers that question. The old man continued to stare at me, motionless, his head still half-cocked with the eyebrows slightly raised, as if to ask, "next question?"
"Have you ever heard of 'Yogi'?" I implored.
I wished I had never asked that question, because again the hand went back to scratching at the whiskers, the brow furrowed, the beady eyes taking on a faraway, meditative look. I impatiently shifted my weight from left to right, my eyes shifting left and right, focusing in and out of the various oddities in the yard. Finally, the old coot managed:
"Yea-ess," he then again drawled in the old Yankee accent.
But this time the eyebrow raised a bit more than the last time, and I faintly detected a slight inflection in "yea-ess," indicating to me that his reply might actually yield a follow-up. And it did.
"And you might find him if you follow the trail of the revenue agents."
With that, the door slammed shut.