Gut Rumbles

December 03, 2003

addendum to the post below

In 1974, I drove back to Harlan, Kentucky to visit my cousin. I made the trip in eight hours, which was a record for back them. I flew down the highway in a 1968 Javelin with Jethro Tull's "Aqualung" playing on an eight-track tape player all the way.

Harlan was a dry county back then and it had been for years. The nearest place to buy alcohol legally was Cumberland, which is 35 miles away. After I said hello to my cousin, he said, "Let's go get some beer."

"Damn, Ern. I'd love a beer, but I don't feel like going all the way to Cumberland to get one. I've been driving all fucking day. I don't need another 70 miles there and back for a beer," I replied.

"Who said anything about going to Cumberland? Go get in the car." I did as I was told.

We went about a mile from my cousin's house and pulled up to a neat little cottage. "You want to go inside or use the drive-through?" my cousin asked.


"It's a bootleg place, Rob. We can get anything you want to drink in there."

"I want to see the drive-through."

We rode around a well-kept driveway and pulled up under what appeared to be a kitchen window. My cousin honked his horn. The window opened and a little old lady, who resembled Granny Clampett stuck her head out.

"Hello, Ernie! Who's that in the car with you. I don't recognize him."

"This is my cousin, Rob. He's visiting from Savannah."

"Hello, ma'am," I said.

"What do you boys want?" she asked.

"Two six-packs of tall Buds, please," Ernie replied. She ducked out of the window and returned in less than a minute with two cold six-packs of 16-ounce Budweisers in a brown paper bag. Ernie paid her and drove away.

I later returned to the place and went inside. The house resembled a house... except for a bank of refrigerators filled with beer and shelves full of liquor in a back room. That woman had been bootlegging for her entire life. She made a good living at it, too.

The Baptists of Harlan County kept her in business by keeping the county "dry."


This brings back memories. Back home we had an old lady who sold jugs of "fig wine". Never tasted it since, and it was pretty rancid stuff as I recall. She didn't card and probably didn't see well enough to tell how old we were.

Posted by: TNAR on December 3, 2003 07:41 AM

When I was 16, I worked at the Par-3 golf course run by my math teacher and the lady that ran the refreshment area lived in the one wet area in the county, a township of about 10 people on the north side of Abilene, Texas called Impact which had voted itself wet a few years before. We got to be really good friends, and one day she told me that if I ever needed any alcoholic beverages, she could assist. Well, I became a regular visitor to her house, as I would pull into her garage, close the door and go into the house. She would then leave and walk next door to the liquor store and return with whatever beverage or beverages I had requested. I paid her for it, got back into my car, backed out of the garage and drove away. I had a pretty good business going there, as most of what I purchased, I resold at a good profit.

I am pretty sure the first illicit taste of alcohol I had was when I was 13 and my friend and I talked the graveyard clerk of the local convenience store into slipping us a bottle of Spanada out the back door for $5. That was a $3 profit for the clerk, but we usually paid out of the proceeds of selling deposit bottles. My friend had a really good source of those which I was pretty sure was hefting them over the chainlink fence from behind that very same store.

Posted by: Kang A. Roo on December 3, 2003 07:51 AM

Acidman, the last sentence says it all! All the dire predictions of NC Baptists fell by the wayside after the state voted LBTD. It took over 30 years to get a referendum, but as soon as "the people" got to vote, it became law. And we DON'T have a saloon on every corner; we DON'T have more alcoholics than any other state; we DON'T have more auto accidents (in fact, possibly less due to new DWI laws) -- and on and on. But you've heard all the Baptists arguments. Their debating points of doom and gloom simply faded away, while friends discussed the new law over beer and oysters.

Posted by: Indigo on December 3, 2003 09:18 AM

Memories indeed. I don't know if Rochelle, GA, was dry back in 1957, but my uncle was taking me fishing over Easter weekend and he made a stop at a farm house on the way to the river. We walked around back to a well and the farmer pulled a rope up that was attached to a wire basket that contained mayonnaise jars filled with a clear liquid. My uncle gave the man some money and we went back to the car. "Don't tell your Aunt Mary about this now," he said. Every time I see "Paper Moon" I think about my uncle and that bootlegger.

Posted by: rivlax on December 3, 2003 10:28 AM

Well, I've heard that Baptists don't believe in pre-marital sex.....

.....cause they're afraid it'll lead to dancing.

Sloop New Dawn
Galveston, TX

Posted by: Jim on December 3, 2003 10:44 AM

What's the difference between a Baptist (or Church of Christ in my case) and a Catholic? The Catholic will say hi to you in the liqour store.

Posted by: _m2 on December 3, 2003 10:50 AM

The Baptists and any other prohibition-supporting religion are merely pawns in the plan for certain people to make an assload of money because nearby counties are dry. It's easy for politicians to take advantage of irrational religious dogmas.

Posted by: sugarmama on December 3, 2003 12:39 PM

Politics makes strange bedfellows, and they don't get much stranger than the Baptists and bootleggers who managed to strangle any sort of local-option referendum during my days in the backwaters of Kentucky. The Commonwealth is birthplace of the finest liquor known to man (and don't say "what's that?"), but you couldn't buy it legally in half the counties.

I worked for a small paper in a dry county southwest of Lexington back in the early 1980s, and no one I knew spent a weekend night there. They were all on the road -- and in various states of impairment -- that ran to Big Lex and the sweet nightlife that awaited. Needless to add, nearly all my aquaintances had logged a DWI on that road by the time I left town for a new job.

Posted by: j.boydeluxe on December 3, 2003 12:40 PM

J.Boy (or is that J.Boyd?): I didn't know Kentucky was where Tequila was invented.

(Yes, I'm kidding.)

Posted by: Sigivald on December 3, 2003 03:34 PM

Have no friends not equal to yourself.

Posted by: Refinance Loan on February 1, 2004 06:04 AM

I was reading an article about the Jack Daniels Distillery in amNewYork. It was an interesting article. I got to a paragaraph that referred to "The Hollow" where the distillery is located. The article stated its located in the smallest county in Tennessee and its also a "dry county and has been since Prohibition-stores can sell liquor but its illegal to drink it".
After reading some of the postings, either the writer got his information twisted or if that be true is lunacy. First, I live in New York City and its the first time in my 35 years I've heard of "dry counties". It's crazy how do you employ people to produce alcohol but make it illegal to consume it. RIDICULOUS!!! In my opinion that's like employing people to bind books and illegal for them to read.
So which is it, dry counties can sell alcohol but its illegal to drink (even in your home?) or dry counties prohibit the sale and consumption? If the latter be true, that means you have to drive to a "wet" county to get your swerve on and then wait until you get sober to go home? If there are dry counties in the state of Louisiana, then I can totally understand why during Mardi Gras people act as if they have to get wasted like its the last day of their lives.! I think money and time could be better spent.

Posted by: SlexxNY on April 13, 2004 12:38 PM
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