Metro-East Living

Patrick Kuhl column: Have luggage, will travel

I don’t have any luggage disasters to gripe about. But I have had some extremely close calls.

It was the late 1970s and we were living in Austin, Texas. My in-laws were flying in for a visit with a couple of suitcases and an extra one filled with meat.

T-bones, ribeyes and beef roasts.

They lived on a farm near Troy, and they had just had a steer butchered. They wanted to share some “real meat” with us transplanted Texans.

You have to understand this wasn’t just any old meat. My father-in-law treated cattle like part of the family.

He scooped buckets of grain into their feeding trough, along with hay he had baled. He tied baling twine for them to walk under and scratch their backs. He patted them on the heads, talked to them and let them listen to polka music and Cardinals baseball games on the radio down at the barn. They had the run of choice pastures and could walk under the road bridge to get to a different one if they thought the grass was greener over there.

By the time one was ready for butchering, he had had a very good life. (Except maybe for how he became a steer in the first place.)

Every time we came home, we commented on how good their meat tasted compared to what we would buy at the grocery stores in Austin. So, when they came to see us, they decided to surprise us with their home-grown beef. They packed the frozen steaks in the suitcase with some dry ice and took off.

Great idea.

When we picked them up at the airport, however, the meat suitcase was missing. We called the airline so they could track it down, but I failed to mention it was full of meat rather than socks and underwear.

It was an uneasy night as we had visions of the suitcase sitting in a warm baggage area, blood dripping out and pooling on the conveyor belt.

Would the police think it belonged to a mass murderer? Or a vampire?

But the worry was all for naught. The airline called the next day with good news and delivered the suitcase to our door. When we popped open the latches, it was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. Everything was still frozen solid.

In no time, we thawed a few sirloins, fired up the grill and celebrated our good fortune. The most tender steaks I had that side of Waxahachie.

The smuggler

My wife was on a business trip to Florida. The meal in the hotel restaurant was good, but the tea was phenomenal. “Best tea I’ve ever had,” she told the waiter.

The next thing you know, the waiter brought her a clear plastic baggie filled with chopped, dark tea leaves. Muchas gracias, senor.

Later, she wedged it between clothes, packed it in her luggage, and headed for the airport.

The bag didn’t make it back to St. Louis with her. When they delivered it to our house the next day, a tag showed the suitcase had made a side trip to Mexico City. “I thought you went to Florida,” I said. She opened the suitcase, rummaged through it and pulled out the tea-filled baggie to show me.

“Look what they gave me in Florida,” she said.

“Oh, my gosh. Tell me you didn’t smuggle in a bag of marijuana!” I said, dimming the lamp and and closing the blinds.

“Huh. ... I didn’t think about that.”

Neither did the customs officials, thank goodness.

Ship has sailed

In February, we headed to New Orleans to board a Caribbean cruise. We had to fly to Atlanta and change planes to get there.

Once in New Orleans, we caught up to our luggage on carousel 5. All but my son’s bag.

The airline had no idea where it was and told us the next plane from St. Louis wouldn’t be in until the next morning. The ship was scheduled to leave after noon.

My son was not happy. The next day, he wore the same jeans and T-shirt as the day before. The rest of us were in shorts and T-shirts by then.

We razzed him. I told him he could borrow a pair of my shorts. Get real, Dad.

If his luggage didn’t come before the ship left port, I kidded him, you could use my old college trick. Spin your underwear around — a 180 — on the second day. On the third day, turn it inside out. Day 4 gets another 180. Four days for the price of one. Genius.

Fortunately, his bag showed up at our cabin door just before we set sail.

“You were kidding about the underwear, right, Dad?”

I’ll never tell.

Beating the odds

As always, Pop had the answer for luggage disasters. He never went beyond Carlyle or St. Louis, so he didn’t need any luggage.

Until we talked him and Mom into coming to Corpus Christi to see us.

“It has its own ocean,” I told Pop. Well, it was really the Gulf of Mexico, but what’s the difference when your only frame of reference is Carlyle Lake.

I finally got my brothers to put them on a Greyhound bus and point them South. When I met them at the station, they were easy to spot. They had two ancient suitcases with 2-foot-tall K U H L spelled out from masking tape on both sides. Pop had heard horror stories about travelers’ luggage being lost and he didn't want to take any chances with loose little luggage tags.

Worked like a charm.