The Story of Rupert and the Wine
There once was a man named Rupert who owned a small but well-to-do vineyard in northern California. The vineyard was world renowned for producing a fine white wine with a pleasant bouquet, and a taste that was suitable for dining, quiet conversations among friends, or for celebrations of high form.
Even though Rupert's business was booming and he was set for life financially, he lived to innovate. He therefore decided that he would create a new flavor that would capture the heart of the world once again.
He heard of a tribe in the deepest part of Africa that lived in a lush and quite secret grove that produced the richest grapes ever tasted by man. The problem, of course, was that it was secret and no one knew where it was. At least no man from the civilized world.
Rupert thought about how to find the tribe. He racked his brain for a while and then decided that he would write to famous African geologists, geographers, explorers and archeologists with he hope that one of them might have heard or come across it.
Weeks passed and turned into months, yet he received not a single response. He grew dejected and barely went out anymore. Slowly but surely his business started to fail because he lacked the energy to pay the kind of attention to the process that were required by his standards.
After six months to the day after sending out the letters, he received a reply!
Rupert unfolded the delicate and aging map of Central Africa. Near the upper right-hand corner was a small red symbol that looked like a cluster of grapes! This was it, he thought, this is where I must go!
I have received your letter well and am delighted to inform you that you should seek out the Ooochy-Koochy tribe in Central Africa.
Enclosed is a map with the tribe's location.
Sir Edward Duncan
Famous Explorer Extrordanaire
Going to Africa in the early part of the century was not as simple as it is today. There wasn't much in the way of guides and while return from the country was practically assured, whether or not you'd be alive or have any meat on your bones was another story. In fact, so risky of a journey was it that only the bravest and most determined of men made it back alive.
Rupert wasn't particularly brave, but he was determined to a fault. He vowed that he would seek out this tribe and return with grapes, seeds, soil samples and whatever else it required to produce the world's second finest wine.
For a month Rupert made plans. He chartered a ship, bought supplies and hired a score of brave men to accompany him on the voyage, and wrote ahead to have trained explorers awaiting him in Africa. He also arranged for his eldest son, Elroy, to take care of the vineyard. He reviewed everything in his mind and was satisfied that everything was perfect. They were to leave in the morn.
The morning came and it was a beautiful, perfect day. The ocean was calm and the skies were clear. There were no unexpected delays and Rupert and his crew set off in good spirits.
The good spirits faded as evening approached and brought with it a storm.
Lightning! Thunder! Crashing waves!
Water flowed over the deck and swept away cargo, some livestock and two crewmen.
The next morning was clear and bright again as Rupert surveyed the damage. His heart was saddened over the loss of the crewmen, but his determination was such that he decided to press on.
Many a man would have turned back. At least out of respect for the dead. Rupert stayed firm to his decision.
The crew was noticeably unhappy. There were whispers of mutiny.
And this was only the first day.
Eventually, as the weeks passed and nothing disastrous occurred, morale began to rise again. A feeling of confidence returned to the crew and everyone was happy. Until very early the next morning.
"Aiiiieeee!" cried a voice in the middle of the night and was quickly silenced.
"A sea monster!" cried another.
"All hands on deck!" bellowed a third, "grab your harpoons and pray to the all mighty!"
Rupert was awoken by the commotion. He arrived on the deck and saw a huge purply red tentacle strewn across the hull. Slowly out of the water rose a huge dark figure with eyes as big as a man and teeth as big as two. Fear took hold of him and he turned to flee.
But you can't run from a ship.
He did the next best thing...
He stealed himself deep into the cargo-hold where he crouched behind some barrels, crates and sacks of grain. He covered his ears.
It wasn't enough to keep out the screams.
Hardened grown men were begging for their lives, screaming, and crying. It was nearly unbearable. The ship was being rocked and pushed and pulled as if it were a child's toy.
But Rupert remained hidden.
Not one muscle did he budge until not only had the cries and jostling of the ship stopped, but also until the sun began to peek through the timbers of the now badly damaged ship.
Rupert's muscles were sore and he stumbled when he tried to stand. He slowly made his way to the stairs and up to the deck where he saw an Apocalyptic site that made him vomit on the spot. Bodies were strewn everywhere. Good, strong bodies, broken like fragile porcelain, crushed like sponges, leaking ochre goo.
He fell to his knees and began to weep.
Not a single crewman was alive.
He was alone on the ship.
Rupert was disgusted with himself. He was not a man. He was a coward. Lower than low. He was the one that deserved to be dead, not any of these men.
After time, he pulled himself together and remembered his quest. He vowed that his men's death would not be in vain and that he would find the hidden grove and its secrets and return victorious. That was his pledge.
The dead bodies appeared unimpressed.
The ship was now unsailable. Even if it were, it wasn't a job that one man could do. Rupert retrieved the compass, sextant, and several weeks worth of supplies and rations. He readied one of the life boats and was set prepared leave.
He set the ship ablaze and lowered the boat. He paddled it a distance and watched the ship burn and finally sink into the murky depths.
Rowing at night when it was cooler and using the compass for navigation, he somehow--miraculously--made his way to the African shore two weeks later.
It was a short trek to a nearby village where he rested for another week before taking a wagon to the town where the hired explorers were waiting.
The explorers were surprised to see Rupert because he was more than two weeks past due. Some had already left, thinking Rupert wasn't going to show at all.
"Where's yer crew," asked one of the explorers, a Oxford educated man named Wentworth.
"Resting. They're resting."
According to the map and Wentworth, the Ooochy-Koochy tribe was about eight days journey away through some of the densest and fiercest jungle.
"I suspect there won't be much trouble given the size of are party, sir. We're more than large enough to scare away the jungle beasts."
"That's a relief," breathed Rupert.
The expedition set out and it didn't take long for the routine of trudging, making camp, breaking camp, and trudging again to become a way of life.
The fourth day changed that routine.
The men began to fall sick.
This was a jungle beast they couldn't scare away.
Some were too weak to go on and had to be carried back by others.
Some were to sick to be moved at all and died.
"What is going on?" asked Rupert to Wentworth.
"It's 'the sickness'," replied the explorer and then was silent without explaining more.
He spoke again a while later, "We better get going."
We meant him and Rupert. Everyone else was not in condition to travel.
Four days later they made it to the secret grove and the home of the Ooochy-Koochy tribe.
The tribe was friendly and made Rupert and Wentworth welcomed and honored guests.
As luck would have it, they also had no qualms in the slightest about revealing their grapes to Rupert. They led him to the area where they were grown. Rupert looked at them. They were big and round and gave the impression that they would burst at any moment. He looked at the tribesmen that led him there and pointed to the grapes, silently asking if he may taste them. The tribesmen nodded and Rupert plucked off a grape and popped it into his mouth.
It was the most exquisite taste he had ever experienced! Sweet and rich; it would make the perfect wine. He would be famous anew.
That night, while sleeping the the guest cabin, Rupert awoke and sat straight up in bed. He felt a rumbling in his stomach. Next thing he knew he let out the mightiest burp he had ever burped.
"Hey, cut that out," said Wentworth who was sleeping in the next bunk. "What are you trying to do, poison me?"
"Quite sorry about that. Must have been something I ate."
"Uh huh," Said Wentworth as he rolled onto his side away from Rupert.
The next morning, Rupert was permitted to collect everything he needed to start growing these grapes back in California. That afternoon he and Wentworth bade farewell to the Ooochy-Koochy tribe.
The journey back to town was uneventful. Rupert paid Wentworth handsomely and they took leave of each other.
Not wishing to buy another ship, Rupert paid for a small room aboard a ship laden with miscellaneous building supplies. Three weeks later the ship docked on the Californian shore.
Hiring out a wagon, Rupert eventually made his way back to his vineyard. He went to work modifying the soil and planting the grapes immediately.
It takes a few years for grape plants to mature to a level where they are suitable for making wine. Rupert used this time to advertise and promote his new wine. It was the biggest promotional blitz of the era and newspapers as far away as England, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, China--well, practically everywhere in the world carried the story about Rupert's new wine.
The grapes were ready for harvest. They were crushed, bottled and set aside for several more years.
The day came...
For the first tasting.
Several thousand people showed up. Kings, queens, noblemen, politicians, writers, artists, musicians and many other famous people from all over the were gathered at the vineyard.
Hundreds of bottles were placed on tables that were arranged throughout.
Rupert climbed onto a stage that was specially constructed just for this event.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," he began, "After much hardship and many years of preparation, I present you with the perfect wine." He raised a glass of the clear liquid, and everyone else followed his lead.
"To your health!"
"And to yours!" exclaimed the crowd.
Smiles broke out on everyone's face at how wonderful the wine was. It was as Rupert had said, perfect.
Everyone's face suddenly changed.
In near unison, everyone--including Rupert--released an astoundingly large belch.
"Rupert! What form of wine is this that makes us belch like sailors?" Rose a voice above the crowd.
"My friends, please, remain calm. This is quite normal, I assure you:"
"To air is human, do forgive the wine."