The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Bootleggin' Grandpa

By Jennifer Perkins © 1991

Issue: April, 1991

Grandpa stood pounding a nail into the fence post. A mighty fine fence, he thought to himself. He looked up from his pounding and watched Sheriff Wilson's car churning up dust on the road to his wheat ranch. As the dust settled, the sheriff got out of his car and walked over to Grandpa and the new fence.

"Good afternoon, John. Building a new fence?"

"Yep, the old one was falling down and the cows kept getting out. What brings you out on this hot afternoon?" said Grandpa.

"I've got some serious business to discuss with you, John," said the sheriff.

Grandpa pushed back his straw hat and wiped the beads of perspiration off his forehead with his red bandanna.

"Must be, to bring you way down here on the hottest day."

"I've heard you've been making and selling a little 'shine. You know bootleggin' is against the law."

"Now, who'd be telling you a story like that?" asked Grandpa with an injured air.

"Let's just say I got it from a reliable source."

Grandpa reflected for a moment. Did old Jimmy McCall get tipsy and spill the beans to his sourpuss wife?

"Sheriff, you know I'm a law abiding person. My Dorothy is the granddaughter of a preacher, she wouldn't cotton to a still or shine."

"You wouldn't be the first one in these parts to bootleg some 'shine. You mountain folks all have your family recipes."

"I've got nothing to hide, you're welcome to take a look around."

Maybe old Mrs. McCall was wrong, thought the sheriff. "Okay, let's have a look."

The sheriff began his search in the barn. He found a pitchfork and started poking into the hay stack and in all the stalls. Next he searched the tool shed and the bunkhouse but found no 'shine. He took out his bandanna and wiped his sweaty face and bald head.

Maybe I'd better check out the chicken coop, he thought. After scattering the chickens, he checked underneath each nest, but found nothing suspicious. "See you've got mash, that for your 'shine?"

"Sheriff, you can see it's for Dorothy's chickens and geese," he said with a grin as the old red rooster pecked at the sheriff's boot.

"Guess you're right." He searched through the outbuildings and peered inside the dog house. Brownie gave a low growl at having his afternoon snooze disturbed. Sheriff Wilson was sure Mrs. McCall was right. As an after thought, he even moved the doghouse to see if anything was hidden underneath. Nothing.

"Well, sheriff, you about done lookin'? I got a fence to finish before dark."

"Let's have a look down in your fruit cellar." Grandpa opened up the wooden cellar door and they walked down the cement steps. Grandpa pulled the string to turn on the light. Sheriff Wilson poked and pried on all the cellar shelves and tapped on the walls. "Let's have a look in some of these fruit jars."

"That's just Dorothy's canned juice."

The sheriff unscrewed all the lids and sniffed each jar. "Guess I was wrong," said the sheriff.

Grandpa escorted Sheriff Wilson back to his car and watched the cloud of dust as the car drove up the road and out of sight. He walked back to the fence and wiggled the fence post where he had been working. He removed some of the loose dirt with his hands and pulled out the jar of 'shine. Grandpa surveyed the other fence posts that hid the rest of the jars, then gave a mock toast toward the receding dust of the sheriff's car. "Mighty fine 'shine," he said aloud.