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.

11 thoughts on “Mint For Juleps (A Family Story)

  1. Great story! I love family stories. My dad use to tell us stories all the time and I sure miss that. Do you tell stories every Wednesday? If so, I’m going to put that one on my list of things to do. Woo Hoo


  2. THAT was a fantastic story! Obviously he had a great sense of humor, John. I’m sure you’da gotten along well. 🙂


    1. I am, too. I can think of a lot of people who died before I had a chance to get to know them. My Dad had a sister that died before he was born, and he had aunts and uncles I never met that I would have liked to. sigh

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great story, John. I don’t know either of my grandfathers and only knew one grandmother. Wish I had asked her more questions before she passed. I bet she could have told me some good stories too. Glad you have these memories and thanks for sharing!


  4. How amazing! I wish my kids could have met my dad, and more so their kids. The stories is what makes a man a legend though, I hold an arsenal full of stories…as I was ten when he passed, stories is really all I have. Your grandpa and I would have gotten along, except he probably did it for heart, while I may just have a short temper for poor customer service.

    There was a time recently that I was in line behind someone who did not have the full amount, I want to say there were like two dollars short, now we are in corporate america so haggling is ultimately non existent, but I honestly think it came as a surprise to the lady that her coupon wouldn’t work. There was much going back and forth as my toddlers slowly began to meltdown and my goods lay thawing on the conveyer. Just give it to her, I kept thinking, attitude does not help her, or the customers in line behind her, and she did not seem the type to be running any scam. I thought had this been me, and I had a line of customers I’d find something in the inventory to mark as “damaged” and discount as I saw fit so that the full amount fit within the amount of cash I was hidden. I mean it was ten dollars, not some astronomical amount. Finally I hit a point, “I have a ten dollars in cash, if I pay you ten dollars can we move along!?”


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