wide-eyed at 4am

What I’ve Learned About Moonshiners

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You may or may not be aware of a television show on the Discovery channel called Moonshiners. The idea here is to follow several teams of shiners through the trials and tribulations of their shine seasons. This is truly what happens when competing televisions networks believe they must offer hundreds of channels. The result is that they must produce content for these channels. Hence, Moonshiners. Whether it’s watching the inebriated musings of one of the “stars” of the show, Tickle, who was always “in the bag” on the show, tolerating the childish fights of two brothers who eventually “split”, or seeing a father-daughter team disassemble their brand new still in record time, the show follows everything these shine teams do. Everything. It really doesn’t matter if this is “real” or “fake”, someone had to base this show on something.

I had seen this show in the Uverse menu but really never stopped to view. I tend to turn the TV on for noise when I’m working on real work or working around the house. I will set the channel at one point but just leave it until I actually sit down to watch or just turn it off. The Moonshiner experience came when I finally sat down to watch and Moonshiners had come on. I became intrigued by its stupidity and watched the episode.  Since then, I’ve checked in once in a while to see who is still standing.

This has inspired me to consider exactly what I’ve learned about Moonshiners from my sporadic watching. Here are five things that I’ve learned about Moonshiners.

  1. They are both genius and moron.
    Let’s consider the genius part of this. Moonshiners have the one up on everyone in their ability to take any type of fruit (and even possibly vegetables) into an elixir so potent that it takes merely sips for “normal” folk to become highly inebriated. They’re expert at fashioning copper and other metals into the shapes that will produce their elixirs and understand the process that substances much go through to reach the proper state of consumability and salability. There are – no doubt – chemists who don’t know the correct formulas to produce such results.

    Now for the moron part of this: The act of producing their elixirs is highly illegal – and can be deadly in more than one way. Not only can these folk end up in jail at any given time, they can end up on the unfriendly end of a shot gun. And the other may be held by a family member. They concoction they create in itself can also be quite dangerous. Bacteria or poison can be produced if the process breaks down.

  1. They have amazing escapability.
    At the drop of a hat, moonshiners can tear down an intricate system of pipes, pots and caps so that they don’t get caught in the act and that their equipment doesn’t get destroyed or confiscated. They can even run equipment parts through the thickest woods to reach escape vehicles – that range from large 4-wheelers to tiny dune buggies. The relative size of vehicle to still really seems irrelevant because they are apparently capable of magically fitting any amount of said equipment into any size vehicle and then bound through narrow gulley-filled dirt roads to the obscurity of the open road.
  2. They prove cast iron stomachs exist.
    This elixir – regardless of the fruit that is used as its base – produce results that can literally burn the hair off of something. You could probably take chrome off of a bumper hitch – as they like to say in some of our more rural parts – so you can imagine what it does to the throat and stomach. My years at UGA provided a couple of opportunities for me to taste the samples hauled down to Athens by some of north Georgia’s finest young men. I can vouch for the potency and fieriness of this elixir. I’ve even heard of moonshine made from a base of jalapenos – which makes my throat burn just thinking about it. The makers (and their regular customers) drink this stuff like water. They’re not only still standing after a good quantity but they apparently haven’t suffered any ill gastronomical effects. It’s really quite miraculous – as if their stomachs truly are made of cast iron.
  3. They have the uncanny ability to beat incredible odds.
    Don’t bet against a shiner. They have a way of pulling out miracles. Everyone who makes shine is likely to have a goal for the season. This is generally customer driven since they really don’t want to make illegal stuff and then have it sitting around for the “revenuer” to discover. But things can happen (like stills blowing up, mudslides taking still sites out, or fruit supplies rotting) to put that goal in jeopardy. But you’re talking about their living so they’re not about to give up on making their shine and collecting their cash. Even if the odds are stacked against them – like only having 8 gallons of a 180 gallon goal produced ¾ way through the season – they find a way to make it. They may go for a week without sleep – but they will get the shine made in time for delivery.
  4. They take family business and family feuding to extreme.
    There are father-daughter shinin’ teams, brother teams and maw, paw and all the young’uns who make up shinin’ teams. They seem to feel they can trust their kin. The only way they seem to be willing to get other than kin involved in their shine is if they need the expertise. They keep their recipes, their still designs and locations close to the vest and family seems to be who they trust the most. That is unless a family member has “pissed off” another family member. Then all hell breaks loose and everyone takes sides so the feud can begin. If the holder of one of the crucial shine components (recipe, location, equipment) is the one on the outs, the family may try to replace them. But they will be very careful about this. Only reaching outside to someone who may be “like family” to them. The outed family member may never come back into the fold.

So what’s in store for us next? In their search for content, what will they come up with – “My Cousin, My Bride”?


Author: jillpurdy

A few months ago I wasn't but now I'm a statistic. That doesn't define me. I'm a daughter, a sister, a wife, a step mom, a grandmother, a friend and a Christian. I will continue to love exercise, music, cooking and food, and my family and friends. I'm stubborn, energetic, giving and too OCD for my own good sometimes. And I'm going to stay this way - despite cancer and the treatments that it takes to give it the royal beatdown.

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