Moonshine Tales

There was a day last week designated as National Moonshine Day. You’d think after all these years I’d know there was such a thing.

That same day was also National Gingerbread Day, National Running Day, and National Veggie Burger Day.

Nobody seems to know how National Moonshine day was assigned, but I’m guessing someone came across the day honoring running, gingerbread and veggie burgers and decided it was a date that needed something good going for it.

Evil spirits that I might be familiar with

Evil spirits that I might be familiar with

I’ve only experienced true made-in-the woods kinda ‘shine a couple of times in my life.

Probably the best-tasting stuff was provided by my neighbor, Frank. Frank had been a mayor and a state representative and was a good ol’ boy with lots of good ol’ boy friends.

One of his friends was a judge in a tiny North Georgia town who had a still.

A judge. The same guy who sentenced bootleggers was one.

Frank claimed the judge wasn’t a bootlegger because he didn’t sell it, only gave it out to trusted friends.

That’s a finer point of the law I don’t know, so I didn’t judge. As the Good Book says, judge not lest ye be judged by a judge with the keys to a jail cell and the authority to put your ass in it.

My favorite moonshine memory is Ernest.

Ernest was a care-taker on a friend’s family farm in rural South Georgia. He was an affable, older black gentleman who was friends with everyone.

Ernest’s job was tending the farm. He mowed, did light repairs and fed dogs.

And there were dogs.

The remote location of the farm made it an easy spot to drop off an unwanted dog, so strays were always showing up. Ernest and the family he worked for were quite happy to welcome those orphan hounds.

Ernest was easy to like. Whether or not he ever knew my name, he knew I was on the radio. Whenever I accompanied my friend to the farm, he’d flash that big jovial grin and say, “There comes the radio man!”

I don’t recall ever going to the farm when Ernest didn’t have his big cast-iron kettle of corn mash is some stage of preparation out in the yard behind his trailer.

One cool fall night, three of us high school buddies decided we’d grab a couple of six packs (drinking age was 18), head to the farm and build a fire.

Since the old farmhouse and Ernest’s trailer shared a yard, Ernest came to join us. He didn’t want our company as much as he wanted our beer.

His offer: a gallon of his corn mash in exchange for a 6-pack of what was very likely Schlitz Malt Liquor back then.

Judge not. We were young with undeveloped taste buds.

We accepted the offer and a gallon jug of Ernest’s fire water soon began circling the fire pit.

If you want to know how this saga ended, you’ll need to ask one of my other buddies.

I’m pretty sure that night I determined one of those stray dogs was a camel and rode him to Egypt.

Socrates