Lawson writes . . . sharing thoughts and memories

March 18, 2010

Moonshine and Fish Bait

Filed under: Uncategorized — lawsonjolly @ 5:00 am

Growing up in Stone Mountain, I knew where the moonshine stills could be found.  It was not an uncommon thing to run across them when playing in the woods or on a camping trip.  I’m sure the ‘revenuers’  knew also, but it was a matter of finding them active.  They would rather catch the men making the moonshine than to simply destroy the still when no one was there.  Unless it was a “fulltime” operation, meaning that it was large enough to be active everyday, the moonshiners only came about once or twice a week to work.

If you know something of the process, you know why small operations were only active occasionally.  The making  of the moonshine was always active, but men did not need to be there all the time.  An understanding of the process may help clarify that statement.

Moonshine is homemade whiskey, especially in places where it is illegal.  It got is name from those who made it at night under the light of the moon–thus it was called moonshine!  However, many a still was worked during the day!

Moonshine is the fermenting of a sugar source with yeast so as to produce ethanol and then distilled  to separate alcohol from the fermented mixture.   To a mash, cornmeal and water, sugar is added.  Then you let it ferment for 4 or 5 days.  This is why it is not necessary for men to be there during these days, unless they are such a big operation that they have the facility to be distilling everyday!

When it is time to distill the fermented mixture, It is placed in a  large pressure cooker with coiled  pipe.   The mixture is then boiled to the right temperature.  The  vapors pass through the tubing and it is collected.  Moonshine!  Glass containers of various sizes were used to collect and store the moonshine.

Here is why I would visit those stills!  Most stills are in the woods, not only to be hidden, but to be close to a natural water supply.  If you found a still, you knew there was a spring or creek close.  The moonshiners would make a  wooden trough from the water source to barrels at the still.  This provided the water for the mash.  And you know what we could always find in those troughs, and even in the barrels?  Spring lizards!  Best fish bait around!  So if we were going to do some serious fishing, we would go to the stills for bait. And there were always some quart or pint jars available for us to put them in.  Of course, during the work week and in the daylight hours, the men were not around.  They were letting the fermentation process take place.

We would never tamper with the process because we were scared of the moonshiners!  They were usually very tough looking men, and then those men in the ‘moonshiners’ cars were really scary.  They had those cars with extra springs in the rear so that the car would look normal with all the weight of the moonshine in the trunk.  Of course, when the trunk was empty, you could spot the moonshiner’s car because of how high the rear of the car was above the front.  We just knew not to be seen by these men at work or to interfere with what they were doing.

But there was this one time!  But it was away from home.  Our boys Sunday School class went to the mountains on a retreat. We were in the sixth and seventh grades.  As we played in the woods, we came upon a still.  I don’t know if it was because we were a long way from home, or we had some idea that we would be righteous and fight sin, but we decided to destroy the still.  We turned over the barrels of mash, pulled down the water trough, and broke most of the glass containers.

When we returned to the cabin, someone told the couple who had brought us what we had done.  They became alarmed at what we did.  Not only were they concerned with our misdeeds, but they feared some retaliation from the moonshiners.  I know it was discussed whether we should return home.  We did stay that night, and perhaps the entire time we had planned.  I really don’t remember, but I assume that we left that mountain region before the men returned.  Again, I assume they did not discover it until after we left because they were allowing for the mash to ferment.

I also remember as a boy going into certain homes where moonshine was consumed.  If you have any experience with this whiskey, you can smell it very easily.  If the lid has been off for a few minutes, or a glass that has had some moonshine in it is sitting on the counter, you smell it!  I think you have to already be smashed to drink that stuff!

Again, this blog is of no particular value except for me to exercise my memory.

By the way, if you need a good recipe for moonshine . . . it’s on the internet!  But I may tell . . . !

Lawson

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