Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Indian

Have you ever decided how you think a person will act because of a stereotype?
I guess you could say that we misjudge people every day because of stereotypes.
As a young child growing up in the hills I remember hearing of an Indian who lived up near the edge of the mountain. I had him pictured as an angry red man with feathers, war paint, and the whole 1950’s Saturday western movie matinee stereotype. As young children we imagined that he was silently stalking us looking for a trophy scalp.
As I “survived” to my early teen years I finally got to know the “terror” of my childhood. He was a tall dark haired man with handsome Cherokee features who dressed in jeans and flannel shirts much like his neighbors wore. His name was “Tom” and I found him to be a friendly, quiet, and very perceptive man who pretty much minded his own business.
We always wondered why his wife walked about five paces in front of him when they came down from their ridge cabin for supplies? My friends and I reasoned that it must be an ancient Indian tradition showing respect for his woman.
One day in a rare time that Tom would talk, one of the guys asked him why his wife always walked in front of him? We were all set for a detailed narrative of native Cherokee lore that would explain this mystery once and for all.
Tom, sensing a chance to have some fun, looked at each of us and with a wry smile and a wink he simply said, “snakes.”

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Bootlegger

In my youth I was constantly looking for a way to earn extra money during summer vacation from school. RC colas and moon pies were not free.
My best friend and I were constantly riding the back roads on our bicycles looking for something to occupy our time.
One day we noticed that the ditches were heavily littered with fresh whiskey bottles. It must have been a busy weekend for the bootlegger since no legal liquor was sold anywhere near our community. My dad always said that the bootleggers and the preachers teamed up every time a vote came up on legal liquor. I always heard that politics makes for strange bedfellows.
Anyway, we decided to pick up attractively labeled bottles to see who could find the best-looking bottles. Sounds like we were pretty bored that day?
By chance the local bootlegger drove by and saw what we were doing. He stopped and told us that he would give us a nickel for each bottle that we delivered to his establishment. We knew where his place was down near Beans Creek. The ‘drug store”
was the local name for his place. This was before the illegal drug business was prevalent so the title reflected the medicinal use of alcohol only. Many people kept bootleg whiskey on hand as a “snake bite” cure. I guess the more they drank the fewer snakes they saw. Sounds logical to me. This was the Bible belt so no one drank for pleasure – consumption of bootleg whiskey was for medicinal purposes only – so they said?
So, we eventually removed many whiskey bottles from ditches in our area. The way things work today the community would probably have signs up stating that this one mile stretch of highway was kept clean compliments of “The local bootlegger.” My, how times have changed.
Our business was growing and we were enjoying our daily RC colas and moon pies thanks to our entrepreneurial spirit. We were making a killing (kid wise) with our Bootlegger Support Service Industry (BSSI). Try to find that job description listed in the state job bank computer today.
On one occasion we carried some bottles to him that were about one quarter full. He checked them and tilted the contents to check for a bead. He nodded ok and said that he would give us 25 cents extra for each non-empty bottle. We assumed that these bottles probably lowered his replenishment cost? We didn’t care – we were not drinking it anyway.
Thing were going great until my mom found out about our little enterprise. It seems that some nosy ladies had seen us frequenting the drug store on the occasions of our deliveries. Needless to say we were out of business once the bootlegger got called by a couple of irate moms. In those days bootleggers didn’t make waves! They had a code of conduct that went so far as to card suspected underage patrons of the drug store. I guess the main reason my mom was so upset was due to her affiliation with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) down at the Methodist Church. A few years earlier she had “volunteered” me to play the part of an evil whiskey bottle in a WCTU church skit. I don’t consider this experience to be a highlight of my childhood.
My dad respected his WCTU wife by keeping his “medicine” in his outside shop. It was obvious that he did not subscribe to the goals of the WCTU. He got a lot of aerobic exercise going back and forth to his shop at night. I guess that he could be classified as a “non-social drinker.”
Anyway I never again pursued this service business again although I did learn much from the experience.
My mom never found out that I could read the “bead” in a bottle of moonshine with the best of them.


Monday, May 26, 2008


I never kept a diary of story ideas but I do remember saying on many occasions that, “I should write a story about this.”
My memory was good enough that I could make a list of story ideas several years ago that I am presently writing.
I had dreams of publishing my own “The Waltons” type novel but that idea just doesn’t seem practical at this time.
However I do want to leave these stories for future generations to read and enjoy so I feel that a blog is my best alternative. Who knows, my future agent may read some of my works and want to see more? It never hurts to dream does it?
Growing up in the rural southern middle Tennessee hills during the 1950’s and 1960’s may not appear to provide an abundance of story material but some of the characters I knew would make Mayberry seem boring. My task is simply to present these stories in an entertaining light for your enjoyment.
Sounds easy doesn’t it?
As a semi-retired person I am using my days I have left to document these “Echoes From the Hillsides.”
I really look forward to the task.