The Tennessee Smurf

From Tennessee to Kentucky

It had been a long day and as the old school DC9 airplane climbed out of Tennessee’s Nashville airport I settled back in my seat and let my eyelids droop.

DC9 airplane Eastern Airlines DC9 airplane, on calmer days

Being on the verge of sleep I was still aware of background noises, the drone of the engine, the drone of the pilot saying something about wearing seat belts due to expected Summer storms. Against this soundscape I managed to sleep into a deep sleep.

Sleeping barrels in the rickhouse of Jack Daniels, Tennessee

Sleeping whiskey in the Barrelhouse at Jack Daniels, Tennessee

This is going to be bad

I didn’t know how long I’d slept but I was rudely awakened as the plane suddenly dropped sharply, leaving my stomach about 300 feet above us, where the rest of my body had been moments ago. 

The view from my window showed the night sky lit up by spectacular lightning bolts. They also lit up the dark and angry rain clouds that proceeded to hammer our little metal tube in the sky. My eyes met those of the stewardess sitting across the aisle from me. Her forced smile showed just how scared she was and I had one of those awful moments when you admit to yourself, ‘Holy shit this is going to be bad’.  

True to my prediction the left wing dropped almost 90 degrees leaving us suspended by our seat belts. The plane then lurched hard left and commenced an arse tightening 30 second free fall. It may not seem like a long time but when you believe you are plummeting to your death; 30 seconds can be a lifetime. It’s at time’s like this that you realise that even if you are not even vaguely religious, you start praying real hard. As if in answer, a loud bang rang out. Unfortunately it wasn’t the Lord intervening but rather the overhead bins crashing open and raining debris and luggage across the cabin, onto me and the empty seat where my colleague had been sitting.

I had assumed my colleague had been forced to take a seat at the back of the plane on his way back from the John… truth is he never got that far.

He had been sitting in regal splendour when the storm hit. He saw the message light up in red on the toilet bulkhead ‘RETURN TO SEAT’ but was now unable to do so. Trying to brace himself with hands and feet he felt the plane roll hard left and drop… he was now ‘floating’ above the toilet before being banged hard against the bulkhead and then thrown against the ceiling. The scream of the rear mounted engines only just drowned out the prophetic screams of my colleague as blue disinfectant washed across him and the entire cubicle. This ‘wash cycle’ continued for the next fifteen minutes as the plane made an emergency descent into Louisville airport.

The Tennessee Smurf

Even the 'real' Smurfs wouldn't have welcomed this newcomer

As the plane touched down to rapturous applause I was given a tap on the shoulder by a very shaken stewardess who asked if I could pass her my colleague's flight bag. She took it with the look of a woman receiving bandages for a fallen soldier.

About 10 minutes later a noxious ‘skunk-like odour’ wafted down the cabin. It was followed by a man with a thousand-yard stare randomly dressed in a white shorts polo ensemble which offset the distinctly blue colour of the rest of him. Not a great look at the best of times but combined with the associated odour he rapidly cleared the plane.

Old Seelbach Bar, Louisville


Being too tired and scared to process the events as they happened, we bribed a taxi driver to take us into town and after a few hours scrubbing in the shower met in the long bar of the hotel. Over a few well earned shots of sour mash bourbon, he regaled me with his tale of woe and the legend of ‘The Tennessee Smurf‘ was born.

Old Forester Distilling CompanyOld Forester Distilling Company, Louisville


Another story reflecting of the bonhomie & inspired moments I have enjoyed across the years and countries with some very talented & amusing folk 

Mike Collings, Firkin Founder

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