my first shot of whiskey

My grandmother holding me (left) and my cousin Andy in 1962

The other grandkids called her Granny, but when I tried to say it, it came out Mammy, so that’s what I called her. 

I loved going to the grocery store with my grandmother because I could get most anything I wanted.  But I always got the same thing when I went to spend the weekend with her. 

A pint-sized carton of chocolate milk to stick in the freezer until it was frozen solid and I had to dig it out with a spoon. 

Strawberry pop tarts hot out of the oven with melted butter in front of Saturday morning cartoons. 

Banquet TV dinners with fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn while we watched Sanford and Son, followed by Chico and the Man


Shake ‘n’ Bake pork chops with macaroni and cheese.  Not just any macaroni and cheese – the Kraft Deluxe box – and even that wasn’t good enough on its own.  My grandmother believed that a stick of butter and a can of Pet milk made everything better and she was right. 

When I wasn’t much taller than the aluminum table in her kitchen, I loved to swipe the corner off of the stick of butter setting out on the table  and eat it.  Once she caught me.  

“Now you can do that at Mammy’s house, but don’t do that anywhere else.”

It was at that same table that I got my first taste of whiskey. 

I’d been rummaging around in the kitchen cabinets and found a bottle of Hiram Walker’s.  When I asked her about it, she told me to get it out and bring it over to the table. 

I was only eight, but I knew what it was.  That was what all those cowboys on Gunsmoke were drinking when they went into the Longbranch.  And I wanted to see what it tasted like. 

So my grandmother took on the role of Miss Kitty, and I, of course, chose to be Festus.  She poured us each a swallow and then sat back in her chair to watch me down mine.  I sputtered and shook my head while it burned all the way down, and then asked her why anybody would want to drink that.  

She didn’t say anything.  She didn’t have to. 

Today she would’ve been 105.  Can’t wait to sit with her at that table again.




10 Comments Add yours

  1. Dusty Austin says:

    What a sweet and funny story!

    1. sallygary says:

      She was a hoot, Dusty – you will love her! And she will love you, my friend.

  2. Barry says:

    Okay. Confession time. My first taste of whiskey was given to me by my great-aunt in Arkansas. I had come down with a bad cold, maybe even bronchitis. While my parents went out visiting kinfolks, she watched over me. I got to coughing badly and she gave me some “medicine” and said it would help. I can recall stumbling a bit not long after that, and she helped me upstairs to a bed. I can also recall hearing my mother raising her voice when she found out why I was acting the way I was! Precious people!

    1. sallygary says:

      Precious people, indeed. Thanks for your ‘confession,’ Barry!

  3. Beverly Marshall says:

    Discovered your blog. Working today and bored. Read everyone of them. Wonderful!!I got into blogging myself some time ago and mine is entitled Out of My Head Advice from an Old Lady. I always knew you were talented but the blogs make me feel good, My grandmother had the same whiskey under her sink (well to be honest I don’t remember the brand) and I knew if you coughed, you would get whiskey, honey and lemon juice, Did not understand then that people drank that sort of thing for pleasure (I had kled a sheltered life and didn’t really see that) and now that I know it I still don’t understand how you can think it tastes good, I still think it should be taken in a teaspoon holding your nose, Love you, Beverly

    1. sallygary says:

      Beverly, it’s so good to hear from you! Thanks for being in touch – I’ll have to check out your blog. And please tell Jim I said hello – love you both!

  4. PeggyCorder says:

    Again, Sally, you bring such good memories to share! (Some might say this was not a “good” memory!) You have described your grandmother the way I want my grand daughters and coming soon grand son to remember me. A fun, happy place to reside. Don’t know that I will have the opportunity to share with them the Hiram’s but I do share all I can……..of me! Have a great day remembering her!

    1. sallygary says:

      Sweet Peggy, I have no doubt that your grandkids love every minute they get to spend with you! Just make sure they have plenty of chocolate milk and pop tarts! You know, my grandmother was quite the teetotaler – only kept that stuff to make cough syrup when she had a cough or sore throat. That experience with her is a great memory for me because it reminds me of how powerful silence can be. How smart she was to not freak out at my finding that bottle in the cabinet and forbid me to go anywhere near it – how wise to let discovery be my teacher, with her guidance in that moment, instead of preaching a sermon there in the kitchen on the evils of alcohol. Now if I could just follow her example the next time I’m tempted to preach…..

      1. PeggyCorder says:

        You are so right! Silence is one of those great teachers we could all learn to use! Mine girls love chocolate and I keep lots of cheese because one only eats nachos! In fact, they are staying with us tonight and spending the night! Hope you have a great summer!

      2. sallygary says:

        What fun! Hope y’all have a wonderful summer, too!

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