Page 9 - Discover Fall 2021
P. 9

“Shining” Ladies


                           The South

                                                                           By Tim Ernandes

           Moonshining is a Southern thing in most people’s        While “Moonshiners” was fictional, Sutton was
        minds, but it actually had its start in Pennsylvania,   the real deal. He was the truth behind the legend.
        during the Presidency of George Washington.             Meanwhile, “Moonshiners” was its own story. The
        Whiskey was the very first domestic product to be       Virginia ABC Authority had lent its credibility to
        taxed in the newly formed                                                the show, much to their eventual
        country, with proceeds                                                   chagrin, as it led viewers to assume
        intended to pay for the                                                  that illegal moonshining was
        debt incurred during the                                                 rampant in the Commonwealth,
        Revolutionary War. This gave                                             right under their very noses.
        rise to the Whiskey Rebellion,
                                                                                    Rest assured that all of the stories
        in which farmer-distillers
                                                                                 on the show are exactly that: just
        tarred and feathered tax
                                                                                 stories, not actual events.
        collectors and nearly resulted in
        a civil war.                                                                Popcorn Sutton had quite a

                                                                                 few run-ins with the law over his
           Later on, it was actually
                                                                                 illustrious, albeit infamous career.
        done primarily in big cities.
                                                                                 He was caught more than once with
        In Brooklyn, Irish immigrants
                                                                                 hundreds of gallons of his product
        produced illegal whiskey in a
                                                                                 by law enforcement. The last time
        waterfront neighborhood that
                                                                                 he was convicted, he was sentenced
        nowadays is called Vinegar
                                                                to 18 months in prison, a lenient sentence in view of
        Hill. There was a huge crackdown on these activities,
                                                                the fact that he had been diagnosed with cancer. At
        but by the early 1900s, New York City was cranking
                                                                age 62, just prior to the scheduled start of his federal
        out more moonshine than the entire South combined.
                                                                prison sentence, Sutton ended his own life by carbon
        It was probably Prohibition that made moonshining
                                                                monoxide poisoning in order to avoid serving time in
        more of a southern thing, since it’s easier to hide a still
        in the woods than in your average city neighborhood.
                                                                   As much as Popcorn Sutton was the stuff of
           Mention the word “moonshine” to most people,
                                                                legends, in real life, considerably less attention was
        and it conjures up images of the likes of Marvin
                                                                paid to some extremely successful moonshiners, all of
        “Popcorn” Sutton. Sutton was literally a caricature
                                                                whom shared a common trait: They were women.
        of himself, with the requisite bushy grey mountain
        man beard, wearing overalls and a well-worn wide-          That might seem far-fetched to the casual observer,
        brimmed hat. He was a legend in moonshine lore,         since moonshining had its heyday in the 1920s, a
        mentioned numerous times on the Discovery Channel       time during which women were not on an equal
        show, “Moonshiners”.                                    social plane with men. In fact, that was exactly the

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