Chapter 7Proving Himself

A comfortable and predictable routine took hold of Booker's life as he entered his thirties. He moved his family next door to the Big House in Bardstown to be closer to Aunt Mimi, Jim Beam's daughter. Annis got a job as a medical technician at the local hospital and little Freddie grew fast. The family received bad news in 1963, when Booker's father, Pinkie, died of a heart attack while walking across Stoll Field in Lexington after a UK game. “I think I need to sit down,” he said, clutching at his chest, and just like that he was gone, passing away on sacred ground.

Despite this unexpected setback, Booker's career continued its upward trek. He logged long hours at the distillery, frequently arriving at the plant before seven. After putting his lunch (usually a meat sandwich of some kind) on the top of a steam pipe to keep it warm, he would make a slow and thorough inspection of things. Booker liked things just so.

“Big Man's here,” the workers would yell when they saw him coming.

“Damn right I'm here,” Booker would yell back. “Damn right.”

His first stop was the rack houses, where he would check in with his brother-in-law Jimmy Wickham. Since Jimmy was family Booker would make it a point to be tough on him, because he never wanted to be accused of playing favorites. After quizzing Jimmy on the state of the aging barrels and after he received what he thought were acceptable answers, he'd head down to one of the two lakes on the property to gauge their ...

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