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Philosophers Fist Fight For UFOs and Corn: A Story Dedicated To Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali

Updated on December 27, 2011

My harvest of hops was complete, and it was once again time to bring my rare "Fighting Bob" breed of Bavarian hybrid beer-fruits to my local family owned brewery. I had been making this trip for just over a decade, it was my favorite errand to run by far. All that work leading to an aromatic crescendo and a country drive out to a place where they make my favorite beverage with my own family farm grown hops. But by far, my favorite part of the visit, was checking in on the two old philosophers at Clay Brewery.

Frazier Johnson was a man of multifarious fortitude, a Bottle Capper by trade and a philosopher by nature. His coworker M. Alphonso Lee was also a philosopher. His expertise in beer bottle labeling paled in comparison to Johnson's productivity, but he made up for it with cerebral largess. Both men excelled at their profession, and both enjoyed an exuberance for diversion sparring in argument. Quid pro quo between two husky old men that had lived equally interesting lives with diametrically opposed drawn conclusions was it seems, the spine behind how Clay Brewery operated and I was thankful for the dynamism.

Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali battling gentlemen goliaths

This creative commons image was digitally resampled by Ben Zoltak
This creative commons image was digitally resampled by Ben Zoltak | Source

"I called you a big gorilla." Al stepped closer too. Both men began to puff out their chests, rooster-style.

I walked through the brewery and found the usual rag tag group of brewery workers who were all eager to help me unload the wonderfully odoriferous hops from the back of my truck. As that task drew to a close I asked George, a tall, heavyset foreman who was friends with both Frazier and Al, where they were at, and he pointed a long reaching arm out towards the back, "Those two? Ah, they've been on extended break in the back, they're arguing about corn this time."

"Corn?" I replied incredulously.

George shrugged his shoulders, "Last week they were arguing about the politics of murder in Jamaica, you know how they are..."

"Thanks George", I laughed, "this I have to see for myself."

With that I headed out back towards a field on the side of the brewery that was more or less the official smoking lounge. The very first time I met these two they were out back, Frazier arguing about having a good smoke and a drink, while Al stood by the virtues of Teetotalism. The argument grew heated, chests puffed out eventually and I took that as my sign to leave them to their devices.

I opened the door and found Frazier, who was an inch or two shorter than Al, pointing a muscular finger at Al's chest. He said sternly, "You see, we don't need a space program, we've got the Watchers taking care of business up there." He took the same muscular finger and pointed it to the sky.

"Now you listen," grumbled Al, "If you want to believe in UFO's and little green men that's your business, but the rest of us down here working for a living want real protection from asteroids. That's why the human races' number one priority should be space exploration. All it's gonna take is one mega-quake to release crude oil off all the shores of the world, not to mention meltdowns at most if not all nuclear reactors. Put that in your pipe and smoke it Frazier." Al leaned up against a rope fence in the sun, and waited for Frazier's retort.

These two were more engrossed in heated argument than I'd ever seen, they didn't notice me sit front row on one of the benches out there.

"We grow corn, we feed the world. Plain and simple. Yeah you have to lay down a lot of pesticide to kill off nonharvestable weeds, but you get the highest yield crop in the history of man!" With that Frazier lit up a cigar and blew smoke towards Al's face.

Al wafted the tobacco cloud out of his face, "Listen here you big gorilla, you can have all the corn you want and it's not gonna matter if an asteroid the size of Australia smashes into our planet. Or if a supernovae or other astronomical phenomena realigns the Earths' magnetic poles and sends out shockwaves over the tectonic plates unlike anything seen during the written history of the human race."

"I have not idea of most of what you're talking about but...", Frazier moved in closer to Al's face, "... but what did you call me?"

"I called you a big gorilla." Al stepped closer too. Both men began to puff out their chests, rooster-style.

"After all I've done to help you with your money problems? Alright, eat one of these." In a lightening-like flash Frazier swung a huge left hook up at Al, it landed on his right cheek, and sent the slightly taller man careening back, further into the rope fence. Frazier then took aim at Al's kidneys, left right left right and one last left. Tired Frazier stumbled back a step.

I shouted, "Gentlemen gentlemen, is this necessary?!" Both men glared at me, with that stay-out-of-this look so I complied reluctantly.

Just then, as if propelled by a rocket, Al zipped past Frazier and clocked him in the left ear like a ship dropping an anchor into a Otolaryngological coral reef. Frazier hollered out in agony.

By and by a gathering of coworkers assembled beside the field, shouting and jeering at the two staggering idea-men-turned-pugilists.

Frazier bellowed, "You're gonna have to kill me...or get out of my way!"

He charged at Al, delivering hook after hook in his face and torso. His adversary was no slouch, fighting back with a tidal wave of combination punches: a left shovel hook, a right jab, a right shovel hook, a jab, another jab, another jab, a cross, finally an upper cut.

Frazier stood there, wobbling a little, Al lamented, "Go down you stupid chump!"

...the end of the fight...Frazier Ali adversaries and friends

Al stumbled over again towards the crowd, holding his bleeding hands together, apparently asking someone to get some help.

With that, Frazier shook some sweat off his forehead and stepped forward. He began an arduous repetition of hooks at Al who leaned again against the rope fence and braced for the assault. But this time the hooks took their toll, battering Al as blood oozed from his left eye and his lip wept with puss.

Both men, swaying now like tattered autumn leaves yelled at each other.

"People were right Frazier, you're all washed up. You're poisoning the place. Big farms will ruin the world, not your organic family horse manure. ! You can have your rovers and little green men," Al put up his guard again.

Frazier replied, "You heard wrong boy, better life through chemicals! I'm gonna beat the pulp out of you... you dumb rich kid."

Al retreated towards the crowd that gathered, someone yelled out, "Knock it off you two!" But to no avail, Al seemed to hear that request as a battle cry. He fired another orderly pile of combo punches at Frazier, who first bobbed and weaved past the first round of blows, but then fell victim to the third, fourth and fifth set of unpredictably speedy hard rights. Frazier's eyes had completely swollen shut, his mouth a jumbled mess of fluid and swolen gums.

Al stumbled over again towards the crowd, holding his bleeding hands together, apparently asking someone to get some help. At that moment George marched out of the warehouse, pushed the others to the side and walked over to Frazier, who could at this point no longer see. "What the hell are you two crazy old men up to, good God!" He said as he looked Frazier over and realized the extent of the damage.

With that the hops harvest was over. It was the greatest fight I ever witnessed. A strange event, when two men with different histories, a potent perception of humanity and the world, took aim at each other. Each believing they could beat the other, each having been lied to some by their supporters, each motoring head first into the fray anyways, for the love of the fight.

A few months later Frazier passed away to liver cancer. I went to the wake and towards the end, sitting out by a bench next to a manilla colored curtain, I saw Al. He was showing signs of Parkinson's, and trembled a little as he nodded at my presence. Ironically he confided to me, "Frazier was the best fighter in the to me."


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