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Mon Nov 29, 2021, 11:06 PM

Moonshine and Politics

Moonshine has been native and indigenous to the mountains for a very long time. When I was 4 or 5 years old, I would go with Dad to places that small children should not have gone. Or for that matter, adults probably should not have been there either. Mom would jump all over him and they would argue about ‘having that kid out all hours of the night”.

I recall how five or six men would sit under the beech trees and play poker on a piece of cardboard box. I thought it was exciting. There was suspense and intrigue in poker. It was a great way to study the character of people.

A few times I recall driving up the head of Greasy Creek and stopping at ol' Sam’s place at the head of Ingram, or driving up to the top of KayJay Mountain and stopping at Tee Jones' fine establishment. (There was a road that formed a semi-circle as it went around the back of his home. Someone would just swap the "shine" for money through a small opening at the back of the house. He never showed his face. However, judging from the instantly improved demeanor of his customers, those “bootleggers” were probably the most highly-respected businessmen in the county).

When the county had gone dry, “bootleggers” had sprung up almost everywhere. There were a couple of ladies that bootlegged down the side of the hill as you went up Log Mountain. There was another “bootlegger”, that sold his wares out of an old Motel, on the way to Middlesboro.

In the early 1950's, two of the hot spots in Middlesboro to buy booze were the Majestic Hotel and the Middlesboro Taxi Lot. The taxis were the middlemen. They would talk of John Dillinger and the Majestic Hotel as, at one time, one of his business ventures out of Chicago.

Of course, they could have driven another 3 or 4 miles and gone over to Cumberland Gap, TN and bought it legally. Still, it would have been illegal to bring it back over to Bell County, KY.

One of the hotspots and “meeting places” in Pineville in the 1950's was the Regas Pool Hall on Pine Street. It smelled like a pool room - full of cigarette and old cigar smoke, with a strong scent of piss in the back. With the joking and laughing and bravado, with five or six conversations going on at one time, it was full of interesting characters.

The actual transactions usually took place in the adjoining taxi cab lot. They would sell booze out of the trunk of their taxis. There was bootlegging going on in Old Pineville.

There were a few bootleggers doing business outside of Pineville. They lived up Straight Creek or up Clear Creek. There was a big store, on the right, going up Straight Creek and just as you left the city, that did business for a long while. But, if you wanted good moonshine, Clear Creek was the place to go. The farther you went, the better it got.
~ ~ ~

As a general rule, the people of the mountains are generous folks. Experience required them to be, in order to survive. They had to help each other.

The Depression was especially tough on mountain people, because there were so few jobs. The coal mines were all they had. Those that scoff at the coal miners of Eastern Kentucky, as polluters of our atmosphere, do not understand the history of the people.

Through it all, they have kept their sense of humor, their good hearts, their independence, and their faith. They have always been interesting. That is a big part of what makes mountain people special.

The courthouse square was the usual meeting place for anyone that went to town to "trade", which is what we nowadays call "shopping". They would meet their old friends and talk about church and politics and swap pocketknives.

It was not uncommon to meet folks you hadn't seen for several months, or even years. On those hot and muggy days, most folks would be standing under the shade trees. A few of the women would be slowly fanning themselves with those wooden-handled paper fans from the funeral home.

As the story goes, there were a couple of farmers that lived just outside of town and whenever they would clean out their barns, they would hook up their horses to their wagons and haul that horse manure right through the middle of town. The people called them "honey wagons." If the wind was blowing just right, you could smell 'em before you could see 'em. So they would drive those "honey wagons" straight thru town -- right past the courthouse square.

It seemed there was always a group of people milling about the square and those unmistakable smells would be wafting thru the air. The horses hooves played a joyful melody on the pavement. It was quite a distraction, to say the least.

As they passed by, the old men in their overalls would simply turn their backs, spit their tobacco juice, and continue to swap stories and pocketknives. The women in their sunbonnets would turn their heads away and start talking about last Sunday's church service and gossip about who was sleeping with the deacon. The leaves would lilt in the breeze as the unforgettable aroma would soon drift over the trees and be lost to the clouds.

On one hot, muggy evening, a local politician -- I think he was running for County Sheriff -- happened upon a fairly good crowd in the courthouse square. Being a "politician' and being in a hotly contested race, this was as good as a packed crowd at Yankee Stadium. Well, by fortune or circumstance, an empty "honey wagon" was on its return trip back thru town. That unmistakable aroma was still lingering.

So someone yelled, "Homer, why don't you jump up here on the back of this wagon and say a few words to the folks!" So Homer, not wanting to miss an opportunity to get a few potential votes, jumped up on the back of that almost-empty wagon and waved to a few people, looked down at his boots, stuck his nose up in the air and got a good whiff of that heavenly fragrance. He thought for a moment, then he said.... "You know, I've been a Democrat all my life and this is the first time I've ever given a speech on a Republican platform."

But some took their politics seriously. On one election day, I can recall that a brother stabbed his brother over his choice of candidates. Another candidate complained that his opponent was somehow unethical in offering $12 dollars a vote when he, himself, was only offering $10 per vote.... It probably happened more often than we now care to admit.

kentuck

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Arrow 9 replies Author Time Post
Reply Moonshine and Politics (Original post)
kentuck Nov 29 OP
bahboo Nov 29 #1
Hoyt Nov 29 #2
The Magistrate Nov 29 #3
Ziggysmom Nov 30 #4
Bayard Nov 30 #5
jalan48 Nov 30 #6
KS Toronado Nov 30 #7
abqtommy Nov 30 #8
kentuck Dec 3 #9

Response to kentuck (Original post)

Mon Nov 29, 2021, 11:32 PM

1. that was a fun read...thx for posting....

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Mon Nov 29, 2021, 11:42 PM

2. Used to find destroyed stills in North Georgia all the time.

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Mon Nov 29, 2021, 11:45 PM

3. That Was A Treat To Read, Sir!

Thank you.

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Tue Nov 30, 2021, 12:04 AM

4. Loved reading that! I remember my grandpa telling stories about John Dillinger's mob

paying farmers like him good money to hide booze in their barns. It helped several local farms hold on during the depression. Gramps tried his hand at home brew once. He said he and my dad bottled the stuff up and put it down in the basement. But something went wrong or they used too much sugar, or bottled it too early. Late one night, BOOM! The home brew stuff all blew up. The bottle bombs ruined half of grandmas canned jars of vegetables and fruits. Poor Gramps never heard the end of it 😊. I love those kinds of stories. Thanks for sharing yours.

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Tue Nov 30, 2021, 12:13 AM

5. Great word pictures!

I had to look up where Middlesboro is located. My trips to the eastern side of the state have mostly been to Lexington.

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Tue Nov 30, 2021, 01:08 AM

6. Great read. Thanks for posting.

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Tue Nov 30, 2021, 01:51 AM

7. Believe you could write a best selling book.

Loved the "Republican platform."

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Response to kentuck (Original post)

Tue Nov 30, 2021, 05:40 AM

8. Thanks. Your poetic writing here reminded me that I've seen many of the

situations you describe in the movie "The Education Of Little Tree", which I also
highly recommend.

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Response to abqtommy (Reply #8)

Fri Dec 3, 2021, 08:32 AM

9. :hi:





Aloha. !?

Thanks to all the commenters.

Peace

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