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Darrell Huckaby - What is the world coming to?

My Saturday ritual during most of the year is to sleep late - sometimes until 6:30 or 7 - eat a good breakfast and then, usually around 9:30 or 10, make my way down to Ben Evans produce stand on Ga. 20 in Conyers. Well, it's Magnet, actually.

I shop and we shoot the breeze and solve the problems of the world and sometimes I even pick up a little fresh produce. The one thing I like to do to complete my Saturday morning ritual is to dig way down into Ben's old-fashioned drink box and dig out the coldest bottled Co-Cola I can find.

I've waxed nostalgic many times before about the delicious nectar that comes from those little green bottles which used to be the only way you could buy Coca-Cola that I knew anything about. And yes, when I visit Ben Evans on Saturday morning, I still pour peanuts into my Coke and the combination still takes me back to the days of my childhood and Wood's store on the outskirts of Porterdale.

Now I told you all of that to tell you this. When I was about 8 years old I discovered the awful truth about Santa Claus and that Lassie was a boy, all in the same month. I vowed then that nothing in life would ever surprise me again. And then Lisa Marie Presley married Michael Jackson, so that vow went by the wayside. But other than that catastrophe, nothing much does surprise me anymore.

Last Saturday I got surprised. I showed up at Ben's place, just like every Saturday that I am in town, grabbed a sleeve of salted peanuts off the rack and reached into the icebox, digging around among the Nehi orange drinks and RC Colas, looking for my little 6 ounce bottle of Coke - which now holds 8 ounces because the glass is thinner. Y'all won't believe what I discovered.

The cooler was full of the small green bottles of Coke, but they had red plastic twist-off caps - the same caps you find on the giant-sized 2-liter bottles. That's right. The Coca-Cola Company has disregarded the metal bottle cap and blasphemed a hundred years of tradition by putting plastic caps on the Mae West bottle.

What were they thinking? Did they bring back the guy from the '80s who thought "New Coke" would be a good idea? Is nothing sacred?

Look a here, now. Part of the nostalgic kick of drinking a Co-Cola in the little bottle is using a "church key" or a wall-mounted bottle opener to snatch off the metal bottle cap. I said to heck with the whole thing and had an RC and a Moonpie instead - and if Coke loses me, their most loyal customer, over a plastic bottle cap, they might be in trouble, 'cause they are bound to have offended other folks as well.

Later that afternoon, I learned about another sacrilege of which I had been unaware. I ran into a buddy of mine, who shall remain anonymous, who is a cross-country truck driver. I always enjoy talking to him and finding out where he's been and what he's seen. He has tons of stories to tell and I have often threatened to stow away in his cab with him and see the country from an 18 wheeler. So far, it has only been a threat.

Well, this time my buddy told me a story I found hard to believe. He said that he had left Seattle, Wash., barely escaped an early season snow storm in Colorado and delivered a cargo to a distribution center in Laredo, Texas. Now this is what he said that really got to me. He said that in Laredo he picked up a cargo coming out of Mexico and hauled it to some place in Illinois. This in and of itself was not surprising. The surprising part was that the cargo was John Deere tractor engines.

It was a traumatic day, y'all. I found out that Coca-Cola was putting plastic screw-tops on glass bottles and that John Deere was making engines for American tractors in Mexico, all in the same day. And if that wasn't enough drama and stress for one week, Tuesday I found out that a scientist at the State University of New York in Stony Brook is claiming that kudzu is causing global warming.

Now everybody knows that that there is more kudzu in the American South than there are hairy-legged women at a Hillary Clinton rally. It grows at the rate of 200 square miles a year - which is the exact same rate my belly grows during the Christmas season - and now some Yankee scientists are claiming it is the cause of global warming.

Plastic Coke caps, Mexican-made John Deere engines and global warming. We may have more problems in the world than we can solve. But I aim to keep trying.

In fact, I will be with Ben Evans all day Saturday, trying to solve them - and signing my books, too, of course. Come on by and see me. And if you are thirsty, have a Coke. You won't even need a bottle opener.

Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.