Rather regularly, the issue would be on the ballot: would the county remain “dry” or would liquor sales be legalized? At the polls bootleggers, moonshiners and churchgoers agreed, but, obviously for different reasons.
Churchgoers believed it their Christian duty to forbid the sale of alcohol, thus keeping the county safer and more Christian. By the same token, a legally dry county ensured lucrative business for those involved in moonshine or bootlegging.
When the rescue squad was called out, the question by radio was our location so someone could pick us up. Frequently, the answer was “just coming by the bootlegger’s.” Everybody knew that location, just as they knew other bootleg locations.
Bootleg and moonshine businesses are different. Bootleggers deal in alcohol legally available in other areas. He or she purchases large quantities and brings it into the dry county for resale. Moonshine, on the other hand, is homemade “corn liquor,” and not subject to sanitation laws concerning its production.
The dry county in which we lived had both – moonshiners and bootleggers.
One time, early in my tenure in the mountains, I needed to speak to the mother of some of my schoolchildren. It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon, so I got in my trusty IH Scout and headed down the creek. When I arrived at the house I noticed several vehicles gathered and thought they must have a family gathering. The menfolk were all together. They were amiable, and we exchanged pleasantries and I continued to the house.
After my business and visit ended, I retraced my steps to my Scout, went home, and thought nothing more about it.
Later, I learned the men had just emptied the still and were in the process of “cutting” the corn liquor, preparing it for consumption and/or sale. I had walked into a moonshine business activity and was none the wiser.
When I learned about it, I kept my quiet and it was never mentioned. I doubt that my Ohio family ever knew of this, either.
Should I have reported the activity? Should I report the bootleg activity everyone knew about? Make your own call.
It seemed law enforcement turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to those businesses, perhaps because they found their services rather convenient, but one time while listening to the scanner I heard my co-worker’s name in a traffic stop. The next day, I teased him about it. Speeding, I assumed. He said, no, it wasn’t speeding. He had just purchased a used car which had been used in bootlegging so much the springs under the trunk were weak and the trunk was perpetually low. He was stopped for bootlegging.
Though we laughed at the moonshiners, bootleggers, and church goers joining forces to keep the county dry, it was true. Whatever our reason, we each had an interest in the vote. Eventually, the county was voted “wet”.
We walk on common ground with those who live their lives without Christ. That common ground is that we are all sinners in need of salvation if we want to spend eternity in heaven. Jesus Christ died for each of us – for me the teacher, for the children I was concerned about, and for those involved in the moonshine business. God is no respecter of persons. Jesus died for all.
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