My “Remember When…?” discussion group at a local nursing home wanted to talk about moonshine last month. Bootlegging in the middle of the last century also has been the topic of compelling conversation in some of my Life Stories classes.
Knowing that their stills and unlawful production could be raided by excise police at any time, moonshiners in our rural county put some thought into concealing their work. But hiding jugs of corn liquor under floorboards in the barn or even under manure piles in the barnyard didn’t always let them go undetected. A more fail-proof hiding place, according to a couple of people with firsthand knowledge, was under a couple’s marital bed. When an excise officer came calling, the wife was sent abed, nursing some vague illness. Fearing a scandal, most excise men wouldn’t touch a bed with a female in it.
One woman shared the story of excise police coming to her home when she was a young teenager. She and her father were home when the officers showed up in a caravan of police cars with their lights and sirens going. The girl stood by in disbelief as the visitors ransacked her dresser drawers in search of moonshine (which existed, but not in the girl’s bedroom).
One day one of the nuns teaching at a local parochial school asked her young students, “Who makes the sun shine?”
The response came quickly from one of the boys in the room. “God makes the sun shine. And (name of a well-known community member) makes the moonshine.”