Gut Rumbles

January 09, 2008

Addendum to the post below (well, 'above' now...)

Originally published December 3, 2003

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."

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