Pepsi ruined my family

Adolphus Pepsi killed my great-grandfather. And made off with his treasure map.

The year was 1903. The place — the lawless wilds of Utica, New York. My great-grandfather Eustice Hezekiah Belknap, a good Calvinist, stopped into a roadhouse to enjoy a carbonated syrup elixir, as they were called at the time, on his way west to seek his fortunes as a prospector in the Yukon. To his enduring misfortune, he struck up a conversation with one Adolphus Pepsi, then an itinerant glocosier, as the custom of the time was to call a traveling salesman of glucose syrups. The two became fast friends and resolved to travel westward together for a spell.

My great-grandfather, a guileless man even by the standards of the day, confided in his new friend that he had in his possession a map that would lead the bearer thereof to an uncommonly rich vein of silver to be found on the northwest face of The Devil’s Waistcoat, a peak of such treachery no Christian man had yet been able to tame her.

The two men shared a modest berth in the steerage compartment of the barge the S.S. Anachronista, which plied the Great Westward Canal that was the swiftest means of traversing the continent at the time — why a man could board her in Cincinnati, and disembark in San Francisco in under three fortnights. But the passage west was anything but a balm for poor Eustice. For the Dastard Pepsi snuffed the life from my great-grandfather as he slumbered.

The Scoundrel Adolphus Pepsi. Known murderer.

The rest is more widely known, of course — Adolphus Pepsi did indeed strike an uncommonly rich vein of silver on the northwestern face of The Devil’s Waistcoat. He then parlayed that windfall into the the Carbonated Syrup Elixir empire we know today. I won’t presume, obviously, to make your mercantile choices for you, but this much I can tell you: the Elixir of that murderous fiend shall never pass over these lips.

You can find longer essays, satire, fiction, and info on the workshops I teach in Chicago on my site: — also, check out the WRITE CLUB podcast

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