Monday, July 18, 2011

A Slip of a Sip by Suzanne R. Robinson

Losing my parents when I was in my twenties, left me with an appreciation of every little snippet of a story they shared about their families.  That appreciation evolved into an intense desire to develop my roots through "creative non-fiction" if you will.  One such story came from my dad about his grandfather selling a "recipe" to a certain gentleman in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Here is my imagined story from that one snippet.

A Slip of a Sip
Poppa Copeland had a "recipe" for medicinal purposes only, it was used by the entire family for such maladies as in-grown toenail or croup. One thimbleful was all it took to be relieved of the uncontrollable chills of a fever or a simple toothache. When little Ada was teething, her squeals of pain were soothed by Poppa's recipe being gently rubbed on her tender gums. Even the tiny town of Huntsvllle, Tennessee, knew of Poppa's recipe because he sold it in tiny quantities in his specialty store. - The Epicurean's Emporium. Some of his "high-falutin"' customers wanted Poppa to call his tonic the more socially acceptable after dinner "liqueur", but even that sounded too close to the hated "likker" of this predominately dry community. Prohibitioners were getting a little thick in the town and Poppa hated them snooping around his store more than he hated the alcohol itself. One chilly October evening in 1886 Poppa's recipe took
a ironical turn in some hidden history pages.
On this fateful October evening, William's partner, Jasper had been invited to dinner to the delight of the entire family. The children always thought he came just to play with them. Only five-foot-two and looking much younger than his thirty-six years, "Uncle" Jasper was always quickly selected over their more stiffly formal father for playtime. This delightful bachelor would either find himself on the floor playing horse for a unsaddled cowboy or his bouncing leg subject to being a bucking bronco for a less courageous cowgirl. Finally William was able to rescue Jasper from the children's hold and led him into the parlor for an after dinner smoke and a touch of Poppa's No.6 01' Time Tonic.
"Thank you, William, this tonic is just what my or knee needs after that bit of a workout."
William leaned back in the parlor's plush green velvet sofa and watched his partner take sips of his new batch of recipe. Finally after five partially successful batches he knew that this No. 6 was the best yet. He was still a bit dubious of this gregarious young man and his risky ways of doing business, however if it hadn't been for some of those risky endeavors Poppa's emporium would not have survived the South's reconstruction years. He knew he owed a lot to Jasper.
Jasper had been peering into his tiny glass goblet of
specialty recipe as if it were a crystal ball. Each sip of the smooth amber liquid excited his tastebuds as well as his entrepreneuring mind.
"Will, you have something different here this time, is that a hint of hickory I detect?"
The corners of William's mouth pulled out to form a hint of a smile. "You know better than that, Jasper. My own wife doesn't know how ! make this."
Slightly acknowledging the admonishment, Jasper shook his head to resist. "But, Will, have you considered going big with this? Cm still working on that distillery idea south of here. That creek water..."
"Now stop right there, son." This is no common "bourbon." I have enough trouble with those pesky prohibitioners at the store. The last thing I need is for them to think that I'm selling 'shine."
"Oh, I didn't intend to give you that idea. I just think WfIItarn Copeland's Old Time Old has a nice ring to it." Jasper's enthusiasm in his voice intensified as he continued. "1 can see the label now. We could even use those new photographs instead of getting an artist to draw your portrait."
William interrupted, "Jasper, what part of NO don't you understand? I'll have no part of having my picture on a "likker" bottle.
The emporium has a reputation to uphold and going into the distillery business is not part of that image." And with a thoughtless flip of the hand he added, "I'd rather sell the recipe."
Jasper jumped to his feet, "I'll buy it."
In the matter of only two seconds a fateful deal had been born. Did Poppa really want to sell a special recipe of his own creation? Were his principles winning over his desire for profit? Whatever the reason, we may never know, but what is for sure Poppa did agree to sell, but not without a few promises from Jasper.
As they were discussing the details, William raised a still nagging concern, "Jasper, it's still gnawing at rny innerds that you would bottle this as a bourbon. It sounds so "common," and you have to admit my recipe is nothing common"
"I couldn't agree with you more, Will. I promise you this is going to be the finest Tennessee whiskey in the land. I'll even get it patented. You can rest assured that Jasper "Jack" Daniel is a man of his word. Are you ready to shake on it?"

1 comment:

  1. Suzanne - How really entertaining this story is. Even with a small "snippet" from your father, I am sure that your intuition is more right on as this story unfolded. What interesting characters. While snippets abounded in my family, too, I really believe that when we piece it all together, there is an uncanny realism. Some of us aren't interested in family heritage and some are. Obviously, you are. E


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