Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Mint For Juleps (A Family Story)


Time for another family story. The Kentucky Derby ran last Saturday, as you might know, and it reminded Mary to ask me to write this story that I got from Grandma Holton years ago.

I never knew Grandpa Holton; he died in 1939, when my dad was seven. He died of a heart attack while playing bridge one evening. The story goes that Grandma bid two no-trump… Just kidding. I don’t know what Grandma bid, but it’s true that he died while playing bridge with Grandma and a couple of friends. So, I never met him. One day I was curious to know something about him, so I asked Grandma. She told me this story.

Grandpa was based in Cincinnati, and his territory covered a good portion of Kentucky, including Louisville. It happened that he was in Louisville the week before the Kentucky Derby, and as all my drinking friends know, the race is associated with the mint julep, a drink made with bourbon (what else?), simple syrup, and mint. They sell a lot of mint juleps on Derby Day, so you need plenty of mint.

Anyway, Grandpa and a client were in a tavern having lunch one day, and a Black gentleman walks in with a huge bushel basket of mint leaves. He and the tavern owner, who was also the bartender, started haggling over the price of the mint. The guy wanted five dollars (let’s say) for the mint, the bartender wouldn’t go any higher than three. This goes on for some time, all within earshot of my grandfather and his client. Finally negotiations break off, and the guy is leaving. Grandpa called him over.

“How much do you want for the mint?” he asked.

“Five dollars,” the Black gentleman said.

My grandfather took out his wallet and handed the guy five dollars, and was now the proud owner of a big bushel of mint leaves.

He and his friend proceeded to have a great time with the mint, putting it in their hair, throwing it at each other, all while the bartender watched, fuming that these two guys had bought a huge bushel of mint that he needed. They paid their bill and walked out of the restaurant, carrying the mint with them.

I wish I had had the chance to meet Grandpa Holton. I think we have a lot in common.

from The Sound of One Hand Typing

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