Thursday, May 04, 2006

White Lightenin'


What better way to follow up a post about Mountain Dew but with its dilutee, Moonshine.

As I type this, the Blue Ridge Institute at Ferrum College, in Franklin County, Va. (self proclaimed "Moonshine Capitol of the U.S of A"), has an exhibit on the history of moonshine and its roots in foothills of Southside Virginia. Unfortunately, the website is not up to date with its exhibits but this gallery just opened the first part of May and will run for a while so check back often if you aren't able to make it to Ferrum in person.

As for my own personal moonshine / mountain dew story, we have to hop in the way back machine and set the dial for the summer of 1998. That is when Neal, Tori, Olivia and myself ventured to the Mill Creek Cabin (Smyth County, Virginia). To cut to the action, the four of us were enjoying our grilled animal and potatoes when we hear a mountain man howl down the holler from us. Naturally, we howl back. After a few back and forth shouts we hear a car coming up the road toward us. Car doors slam and three folks hop out of the car, one holding an empty gallon jug, the other a few plastic bags and the third held a half gallon bottle of Jim Beam in each hand, only it was filled with a clear liquid. No, this wasn't JB Crystal. After introductions, Neal knew one of the dudes from high school so all was cool.

These folks decided to share a recipe with us that brings the history of Mountain Dew and 'shine full circle to today's world. As we watched with anticipation, this skinny ragged dude poured an exact pint of shine, a package of Kool-Aid (pick your favorite flavor), one 1/4 of sugar and filled the rest of the empty gallon jug with what else but Mountain Dew. After two batches, split between 7 people, we were howling at the moon! Somehow, I ended up with a bruise of a 6x6 post across my chest that evening, apparently from trying to catch myself after I had fallen from the porch. But that was our only problem, none of us had any morning complications from the Dew as it was as clean brewed as a mountain spring.

Most people that have never had white lightenin' have a negative connotation of the beverage, probably formed from stereotypes seen on television. For those that have participated in the ritual of passing a jar around, they will tell you that there is no better bonding experience, even if just for the evening, as what will transpire after taking part in a mountain communion.

6 comments:

greyruin said...

In High School, I saw "Thunder Road" about a dozen times. Not that much on Mitchum, but I was determined to marry Keely Smith. What a woman! I never did marry her, of course, but I did run "shine" a few times. As a starving college student at the U of MD, a friend gave me an address in West Va. I went down there and gave a guy some money. He put two big plastic jugs into my battered old Nash Metropolitan - one in the trunk and another on the little "parcel shelf" back seat. I tootled them back North to another address in MD. Fellow there gave me some money and took the jugs out of my car. You couldn't say "Thunder was his engine..." - more like a lawn mower with indigestion, but we all made some money and a lot of people got happier. Thanks for the memories.

Tori said...

What an awesome night that was! Do you recall if there was any pineapple juice in the mix? I seem to remember that there was, but . . .

Corker2 said...

You have brought back some great memories of the good ole' South with this sharing about some "shine".

More than 40 yrs. have gone by, since I've gotten down into my old favorite town in Tenn. Greenville, TN has many memories for me since I used to travel down there with my Mother to visit some relation that used to exist, but probably is no longer. They have all since passed away, so I have nothing but the memory of these people in my mind.

There was one year that we took a trip to Greenville, TN and I got to see an old friend that I used to play with when we were both younger boy's. Mom, myself, and my Daughter went with "Bill" back to their home that was somewhere outside of Greenville. It was a very nice Home. Very rustic looking and you could see the Mountains of TN in the background of their yard.

Not long after "Bill" came up to me and handed me a ole' Jar that had, what looked like to me, water in it. It was a crystal clear liquid, but didn't smell anything like water. It smelled like Keroesene! I asked "What's this stuff?" He replied that it was some of the best "shine" in the State of Tennessee! "Take a sip, he tell's me." So, with that said I did. Let me tell yha. That was some nasty stuff. Didn't really care for it at all. Guess that you have to acquire a taste for it. I asked him where he got it, but he would not tell me. Probably for good reason.

I still love going down into the South. Guess that I always will. Maybe someday I'll take a trip again, and go back in time to Greenville, TN. I wonder if that old Gate is still there that arched across the road, just before entering the town?

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