Our MGP cask strength releases take the name "Eleanor". In order to tell her story, we asked The Whiskey Preacher, Gordon Atkinson, to write it in 12 chapters of under 100 words each.
Here are the first 9 chapters.
The Story of Eleanor
Chapter One - 1856
Valentine Weiss said he fell in love with Eleanor the day she beat all the boys at school in a race. They sulked but she didn’t care and flounced away with her chin held high. She didn’t notice him standing alone, watching her and smiling.
The next day an apple appeared on her desk with a tiny wreath of braided grass hanging from its stem. Eleanor whirled around and looked at the boys, one by one. When her gaze fell on Valentine, his head was down and he was writing on his slate.
Chapter Two - 1858
At 14 Eleanor stole the hearts of all the boys. She thanked those who gave her gifts but returned them. She curtseyed when they complimented her but was unmoved.
Perfect red apples began appearing in surprising places. In her lunch pail, atop a fence post along the path to school, and once behind a science book that only she ever read. With the apples were small notes that said nothing about her but spoke of life and meaning and beauty.
She ate the apples and kept the notes.
Chapter Three - 1860
That summer there was a party for the graduates of the Franklin County schools. The boys would take up their father’s professions. Most of the girls were preparing for domestic life. Eleanor was leaving town to attend a women’s college.
At the end of the evening, Valentine found her and touched her elbow. She turned and he said, “Before you go, I have something for you.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a red apple.
Her mouth fell open, and she gasped.
“It was you!”
Chapter Four - 1862
They had been engaged for 6 months when Valentine was called to join the militia, along with his brother Napoleon. Their father loaded a wagon and they left at sunrise.
Eleanor handed him a covered basket. Then she pulled a pin from her hair and let it fall onto her shoulders. He put his hand on her cheek, leaned close, and whispered something.
She waved until the wagon disappeared around a bend in the road. He sighed and lifted the cloth from the basket.
It was full of apples.
Chapter Five - 1864
The last letter they got from Valentine was in May. Napoleon came home in December missing a foot and 30 pounds lighter. Eleanor ran across town to the Weiss porch where family and friends were gathered to hear the news.
“Valentine is alive, but he’s at a prison camp in Georgia.”
Hiram Weiss held up his hand and everyone stopped talking.
Napoleon looked at his father and then at Eleanor and then at the ground.
Chapter Six - 1866
When Valentine came home from the war he weighed 106 pounds and needed a cane to walk. Eleanor greeted him with hugs and kisses but later collapsed in tears behind the house.
She nursed him back to health, and they were married 6 months later. After the ceremony she opened her hand to reveal a tiny wreath of braided grass.
“You kept that all these years?”
She nodded and slipped it onto his finger beside his wedding ring.
“Valentine Weiss, you will always be the apple of my eye.”
Chapter Seven - 1868
Chapter Eight - 1870
Half the men of Franklin county died in the war, and the local economy fell apart. Times were tough and the Weiss hardware store couldn’t support both Napoleon and Valentine. A war buddy offered Valentine a position in his family distillery in Kentucky. If the job worked out, he would send for Eleanor.
His telegram arrived six months later.
KENTUCKY IS HEAVEN ON EARTH. DISTILLERY IS FLOURISHING. CAN MAKE A NEW LIFE HERE. COME TO ME, MY LOVE. WE’RE GOING TO BE WHISKEY MAKERS.
Chapter Nine - 1872
PREPARE YOURSELF FOR BAD NEWS BROTHER. WAGON OVERTURNED ON THE SWIFT RIVER WEST OF GOSHEN. I BROKE MY BACK. LAID UP BUT RECOVERING. ELEANOR HELD ON FOR A FEW DAYS BUT PASSED PEACEFULLY. LAST WORDS: TELL VALENTINE I LOVE HIM AND I KNEW FROM THE BEGINNING HE WAS THE ONE LEAVING THE APPLES. NAPOLEON.
Chapter Ten - 1882
They called him “The Shadow” because he walked in darkness both to and from work. Many had never heard him speak. His cabin was an alchemist’s laboratory, billowing smoke at odd hours and littered with old stills, vials, and gauges.
His distillery produced a bourbon renown throughout Kentucky, but insiders went to his back door for the good stuff.
Ten years after she died the master distiller quit his job, packed up his equipment, and left town without a word. Valentine was going home.
Chapter Eleven - 1884
Valentine arrived with a wagon full of equipment. Folks thought he was a tinker and ignored him as he plodded along and finally came to a stop in front of the house he built 15 years earlier.
There were 5 mature apple trees out front, limbs heavy with fruit. Napoleon spoke from the porch. “I give ‘em away to whoever wants them.”
“She’d have liked that.”
“It was her idea. Round here most of the pies come from your trees.”
“It’s settled then. We’ll sell whiskey and give away apples.”
Chapter Twelve - 1887
"Dammit, Valentine, how much longer before we can drink this whiskey?"
Valentine took an unlabelled bottle out of a cabinet and poured him a sip. Napoleon threw it back and let out a whoop.
"Did you bring that from Kentucky?"
"I did. Ours won't taste exactly like it, but that's the idea. It takes four years. One more to go."
"What will we call it?"
Valentine corked the bottle and put it back in the cabinet.
"I know what we're gonna call it."