The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Running The Corn

By Marion J. Darracott © 1987

Issue: April, 1987

Sitting by the fireside near -
Recalling his days of yesteryear,
Is Grandfather in his rocking chair
For us, the grandsons, a story to share
"Now in my day..." with his voice so loud
"I've done some things of which your granny is not too proud"
"But as a young man where I was born -
It was custom to help run the corn."
Such a puzzled look in our eyes he'd never seen
For what in the world did "run the corn" mean?
"Well it's easy to see by the looks on your brow
That your school learnings have fallen short somehow.
Now settle down and let my story begin
About the taste of sweet corn and the wages of sin.

In leaner days when the going was rough -
The amount of government liquor around just wasn't enough
Even for those who could afford the stuff -
But mountain folks in hard times survive
For that's when their ingenuities thrive -
And for the taste of that sweet corn a game was born,
A game throughout the county known as "running the corn."

"Now me and some of the older boys
Gathered spare pipes and barrels and kettles for toys.
It was very unfair for any lawman to peek
So we hid the game down near the creek -
And in our county and two or three others for many years -
The taste of that sweet corn caused many cheers.
There's just no way to explain the taste of that pure White honey,
But for two dollars a jar, it was well spent money.

The sister widows who lived across the holler
Said it was worth each and every dollar -
And the old man who lived on Walker's hill
Swore to the Lord it was better than any pill
For whatever happened to make him ill -
And old man Thompson who on several occasions
Drank more than he oughta
Tried to swap two jars for his oldest daughter -
And the youngest of the Jenkins' boys got into a helluva stew
When his mother caught him drinking "that devil's brew."

"Now this game was played for many seasons
And a lot of the boys quit for different reasons.
Some just grew tired of "running" and wanted to relax
And the government was mad about us paying no tax -
But it wasn't the law as much as your sweet grandma
The prettiest girl that I ever saw
That showed me the evils of my ways
And put an end to my corn running days.
For the night we were wed, that beautiful lady said,
That I'd dread the day I was even born
If she ever caught me "running the corn."

"Now the years have passed as quickly as the hours of this afternoon,
And I know you have to go, but I hope you'll come back soon,
For I have many stories with you to share
But before you leave and close the door,
Would one of you hand me that jar over there -
The brown one sitting on the floor
Marked "Honey" next to Granny's chair."