I have a problem. Sometimes I can’t tell what’s real and what’s not. So if you’re looking for a blog that’s always going to tell the truth you should probably move on. I’ll tell the truth the best I can, but looking back over the years I can’t always remember what was real and what wasn’t. The reason for that is pretty simple. Sometimes the truth just doesn’t fit in with the way I wanted things to be, so I remember thing the way I wish they were. My wife doesn’t appreciate that as much as I do but, personally I think its awsome.
Moonshine has played a part in my life for nearly as long as I can remember. My family’s roots are from the Appalachian Mountains, and moonshine stills and the mountain men who brewed their illegal brew are synonymous with my mountains. Descendants from several branches in my family line were moonshiners. When I was eighteen I was offered my first job driving a tanker (a specially adapted car to haul huge quantities of shine from the mountains to the cities). This helped finance my college education. I can’t remember my first quart jar or my first swallow of shine, and I still haven’t taken my last. Making it is an art, and many of the men who have made their living at it take pride in their art. A bad run in a bad still by an unscrupulous person can produce a deadly mixture, and for most people that’s probably the extent of their knowledge of moonshine. How many times have I heard someone say, “You ought not drink that stuff. You never know when it’ll kill you.” And those people are right, it can be deadly. Only a couple times in my life have I drank any shine unless I knew who made it. Bad shine, brewed too fast and too hot, can make you wish you were dead if it doesn’t kill you. Good shine can send you flying like a bird in a way no other alcohol can match.
Many years ago on an Appalachian mountaintop I was with about two dozen friends camping out, partying and just plain raising hell. Everyone was drinking shine and having a good time. We’d ridden there on horseback on a winding mountain trail till we reached our party spot. Some of the people were drinking shine as we rode, and one of the girls had too much and fell off her horse. The next morning she didn’t remember falling off her horse and she had no idea how the blue, horseshoe-shaped bruise got on her thigh.
That trip ended in tragedy, and the only moonshine-related death I’ve ever personally known about. After a couple days of drinking we ran out of shine, so we sent a relative newcomer to our group into town to get a few more gallons. He never returned. We later learned he’d bought some bad shine and was drinking it on the trip back. He died before he ever reached the bottom of the mountain. That gallon of shine had been made in a car radiator and was a lethal drink the moment it was made.
The old days of moonshine are over now. Sure, a lot of the illegal stuff is still being made and sold because the old-time shiners still make better stuff than what can be bought legally. But that’s changing now, and I’m proud to say that my family, specifically my nephew, is at the forefront of the legal moonshine business. My nephew was recently granted a federal license to open a distillery to make shine and sell it through the state-run Alcohol Beverage Control stores. His still, located in western North Carolina is named Howling Moon Distillery http://www.howlingmoonshine.com
He’s using the old family recipes passed down through the ages, and he’s working with Morgan Fairchild, who has two gold records and is a member of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Mr. Fairchild has been known for his fine shine for many years.
One disclaimer I believe I should make. In this blog post, and in others to come, there may be statements that might cause someone to think either me or some members of my family may at times break the law. But that not true at all. The law is gray, not black and white. So while no one has broken the law, they may not entirely abide by it. Sometimes in the living of life people are forced to do just a little bit more than the law will allow.
But remember – the law is gray
Welcome to my world.
Much of the time I live in a different reality from the rest of the world. Its a world in my head. I don’t know if it came with the original product at birth or was acquired sometime during my childhood. I’ve always had a vivid imagination which turned into a actual need to tell stories. I made up stories when my daughter was young and I put her to bed each night. I read her all the children’s books,some of them many times. I told her every fairy tale I had been told in my childhood, but she wanted more. During her early childhood I must have made up literally hundreds of different children stories. I told my daughter so many stories that I ran out of ideas, so I reached the point where I decided to just open my mouth and start talking randomly. Sometimes the stories were random and truly senseless. But sometimes when I opened my mouth a really good story emerged, and oddly enough when this happened I never knew how it was going to end. So just as my daughter, who lay listening, I was interested in listening to what my mouth was saying. In my conscious mind I truly didn’t know the path the story would take nor how it would end. Sometimes, particularly on some of my longer stories my daughter would fall asleep and I would continue the story to its end. Sometimes the story was good and I was glad I had told it to myself. I don’t understand that but that’s me but another writer would.
My love for storytelling resulted in my becoming a newspaper reporter, a magazine writer and finally a novelist. Fortunately during the course of my lifetime I started and operated a successful business, otherwise I would have starved. The unfortunate truth of writing fiction as a career is that very few people become a James Patterson or a Stephen King. So for most writers the telling of stories and putting them into book form so that others may read them, is a labor of love. You have to love to write, and you absolutely have to have that strange kind of insanity that allows stories to grow inside your head and force themselves out.
So here I sit in front of this computer giving away my secrets. The secret is not a secret at all, it’s just that any artist in any field of art, possesses some kind of insanity they can never understand or explain. In my books I’m able to explain the lives of people who are created inside my head but I will never be able to explain why my head lets them inside in the first place.
An interesting story about the artistic insanity involves the late great actors James Dean and Dennis Hopper during the filming of Rebel Without A Cause, Dean and Hopper got into a heated argument about which one of them was the craziest. They each wanted to be crazier than the other because it was commonly held that in order to be a truly good actor you had to be somewhat insane.
That’s where books come from.