Friday, September 7, 2012

Folklife Friday: Moonshinin'

Moonshinin' was still popular in Middle Tennessee in the early 'sixties when I started remembering things. Prohibition was long gone, but it just griped people to have to pay taxes on their own liquor.

 I remember one sunny Sunday afternoon when we were entertained by walking to a site in the woods where a still had been recently destroyed by those pesky revenuers. Some of the more rowdy boys in our group were sampling the sour mash that remained in the pot, still lumpy and real stinky.

If a farmer could coax a hundred bushels of corn from his hillside patch, he could get a few dollars for it at market.  Or, he could mix the corn with sugar and good spring water and run it through a still and makes lots and lots of dollars from it.  One moonshiner's wife declared that her husband could stay in the 'pen' for half the year and still make more money than anyone else in the neighborhood.
It was dangerous work, though. Sometimes, people got shot.

As far as I know, none of my immediate family was involved in making moonshine, but they did their part in keeping the demand up.  These photos are not my family; they are from a demonstration at the Coon Day Cemetery on Labor Day.  They didn't make any real moonshine, at least, not while we were there.

In the early seventies, my brother-in-law was just out of college and had a new job as an auditor with the Internal Revenue Service.  He stopped at a Tennessee bar one night and some good ole boy asked him what he did for a living.   Some tense moments followed until he could make them understand that he didn't go around breaking up stills.

In the South, some things take a long time to die.