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Amateur Moonshiners and The Stupid Things They Do

Updated on August 24, 2016
kenneth avery profile image

Kenneth has been a member of HubPages for five years. He is retired from a 23-year career in the weekly newspaper business.

To be honest

Moon shining and drinking moonshine in my uneducated opinion, are the two most illegal things that are enjoyed the most in our country today. I know. I know. You thought that I had left out illegal drugs. I did. I am not giving that filthy area of our society anymore publicity that it needs.

Grow angry at me if you like, but in all honesty, moon shining is more of a historical art than it is anything else. When our forefathers settled our country, most of them made their own Rye Whiskey and other brews at their homes. (e.g. George Washington--not a moonshiner, but a brewer and merchant of his brewed products). Some men later in our country's history resorted to making and selling corn liquor to have money enough to feed their families due to no jobs being offered thanks to The Big Crash of 1929. Look it up.

Typical early American moonshiner
Typical early American moonshiner | Source

"Moonshine is like the original root of Kudzu. You can try to kill it. You can try to starve it out. But it keeps coming back."

— "Popcorn" Sutton
Dan  Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton       Oldest moonshiner in Tennessee  who was never arrested
Dan Marvin "Popcorn" Sutton Oldest moonshiner in Tennessee who was never arrested | Source

Crime or starvation?

It was not long until mob boss, Al Capone and other wretched gangsters saw that buying illegally-brewed liquor was a sure-fire way for them to increase their already-huge profits, so the "speak easy's" were born and some operated right under the noses of the local authorities. Just another confirmation that money and power can open (or keep shut) many doors.

Of course the Capone's and other entrepreneurs of illegal brew "made a killing," during Prohibition and I need not explain that era to you. But when this law was repealed, Capone and other "moonshine moguls'" operations surely took a hit, but by lowering their prices, they still kept their "speak easy's" operating by adding live bands and dancing.

Do you think that moonshine should be made legal in our 50 states?

See results

Not to split hairs

I am not a drinker. But I do not condemn anyone, man or woman of legal age who enjoys a "moderate" amount of fermented brews in their own home, but I do have a huge problem when that "moderation" grows into "abuse" and these same drinkers start thinking (foolishly, I might add) they can drive an automobile in a buzzed or intoxicated condition. Then it's a matter of life and death. Theirs, mine and my grandchildren's lives.

There lies the rub. How can "I" give a definite term for "moderation?" I cannot. I might say that moderate drinking might be one, maybe two beers or two shots of liquor. Not one case of beer or a fifth of liquor. Common sense is sure clear in this debate.

The most popular car used to run 'shine
The most popular car used to run 'shine | Source

A car such as the one above

was bought. Then by sheer common-sense mechanical and design skills, it was given over-size springs (to bear the load of moon shine it was hauling) as well as the engine being torn down by the "shine runners" who worked by night to have the fastest transportation in the area. Having the fastest car meant being the most successful moonshine operation.

Moon shining: A risky business

If you, my highly-cherished follower, are considering moon shining as a way to make extra bucks in our strained society, forget it. Federal Law does state that an adult can brew so many gallons of beer for one person over 21 in their own home, but when that same law is broken and that adult starts brewing hard liquor for monetary gain, it becomes a felony. Can you say "p-r-i-s-o-n?"

And if you embark on a moon shining career, you are considered an amateur and you should have given this more serious thought for you are bound to do stupid things to bring you trouble with not only the local authorities, but the A.T. F. (Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) a Federal agency. And these guys love nothing more than to bust up your thriving still and cuff you for transporting you to jail.

So here is a list of things, you the amateur moonshiner, should shun at all costs. I give this piece the name of:

  • Tacking up signs around your still's location advertising "Tasty Liquor For Sale!" and "Now Open! "Bobby Joe's" Moonshine Still!"
  • Paying your cousin, "Hal," who cannot hold down a job to be your tourguide to strangers who do not know where you brew your liquor.
  • Taking a jug of your product to a wedding or anniversary party then getting wasted and running your mouth about your new money-making scheme. Sad though. One person who listens intently to your story of how you started moon shiing is the county sheriff who just happens to be the first cousin of the couple having the anniversary celebration or having the birthday.
  • Thinking that placing your moonshine still in plain sight is a good way for you to gain customers.
  • Not designing a way to keep the smoke from the fire underneath your still from being seen from the air by ATF agents in a plane.
  • Building huge red arrows that point to your still and these too can be seen from the air by the same ATF agents in a plane, but now they are laughing at you for not thinking about your actions.
  • Paying your cousin, "Thad," to walk up and down a busy sidewalk wearing a sandwich sign that says, "Jim's Homemade Whiskey For Sale at Jim Hanley's House, 1443 West Willow Street."
  • Paying your cousin, "Larry," your mom's favorite of her brother "Junior's" children, to use a powerful bull horn to advertise your "Good Old-Fashioned Corn Liquor On Sale at Jim Hanley's House on 1443 West Willow Street."
  • Taking a jug of your corn liquor to the local sheriff's office and asking him, "would you say that this is a good brew or unhealthy?"
  • By doing something (along with the above stupid move) of answering the sheriff when he asks, "Jim, where did you get this?" without thinking, you say proudly, "Hey, I learned how to make this corn liquor. Isn't it good?"
  • Spending thousands of dollars on billboards to advertise the location of your still and corn liquor prices.
  • Showing up at your town's Founder's Day Celebration inside a rented booth with samples of your illegal whiskey for sale to people attending this event.
  • Transporting your whiskey in a diesel rig instead of the trunk of a fast car.
  • Spending your son, "Mike's" college education fund on plastic surgery for yourself so if you are arrested, the authorities will be taking a person who doesn't exist into custody. Question: if you are serving a long sentence for illegal moon shining, how can you work to get the money to have that same plastic surgeon to change you back to yourself?
  • Acting out of sheer cowardice, you make your wife and teenage children operate your still to keep yourself free of the consequences in the event that your still is raided.
  • Getting business cards printed that read, "Economical Moonshine, Inc." and hand them out to everyone in your hometown.
  • Yelling, "I am up here!" if while you are at your moonshine still running off another batch of corn liquor and you hear a voice that says, "are you up there moon shining?"
  • Buying several pound of sugar, yeast, molasses, copper wire, sheet metal in your local hardware store instead of going out of town to buy your moonshine still-making materials.

I would go further, but I feel I have shared enough for you to moonshine (for a short time) without being apprehended. Don't ever say to me that I never helped you.

Good night, Sioux City, Iowa.

It boils down to this: As long as time lasts, moonshiners will always be trodding the quiet woods of the deep South as well as the higher hills of the Blue Ridge and Appalachian Mountain Ranges. This is a gimme.

And the risk one takes either to make ends make or to reap a personal fortune in selling this brew, being arrested is always like the dim ghost of death that knows all of our trails like a book.

 Moonshiner at work
Moonshiner at work | Source

© 2016 Kenneth Avery


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    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      19 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hello, Yoleen, oops, I mean, Aloha!

      Thank you for your interesting comment on this hub about illegal distilling.

      Although it IS legal, there are still locations in the mountain areas of the Appalachian Mountain Range where Discovery Channel shows a hit series entitled, "Moonshiners," and it is really authentic.

      I mean, I do not drink, but if I ever see someone abusing booze behind the wheel, they will be arrested.

      Write me soon and aloha!

    • kenneth avery profile imageAUTHOR

      Kenneth Avery 

      19 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama


      Thanks for stopping by. Just a brief comical view of this part of Americana.

    • Say Yes To Life profile image

      Yoleen Lucas 

      19 months ago from Big Island of Hawaii

      Alcohol is already legal, and regulated so consuming it is safe. I understand some bootleg can make people go blind. It makes no sense to buy - or sell - bootleg when you can get safely regulated liquor for a reasonable price.

      Thank you for this entertaining article!

    • The0NatureBoy profile image

      Elijah A Alexander Jr 

      2 years ago from Washington DC


      Living plants like hemp mushrooms and peyote are not drugs, they are "nature's aids" to assist "human and woman" find their way out of their state of being schooled by parents, religions and governments into believing what their external leaders insist is true. Anything for profit man have altered by heating, mixing with other substances or genetically modifying are drugs and you should tackle that subject since alcohol falls in it. Know also that a letter from George Washington to a French friend suggests he drank "hemp" [marijuana] tea almost nightly.

      However, know I'm not angry at your incomplete understanding, that's the results of being schooled, something I had to break before being able to find truth.

      Thanks for the information I must avoid when/if I were to become a moonshine produce. As a nomad I've tasted both the raw as well as the cooked right from the stills, I prefer the corn for killing colds and flues.




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