Toast, It's not just for breakfast anymore: My Grandfather's "Hobby"

Friday, June 12, 2009

My Grandfather's "Hobby"

This is a story told by my grandfather, circa 1975 (ish). Apologies for the use of the N-word. He meant no ill will. It was a perfectly acceptable way of saying 'black person' back then. Or so I'm told. Without further adieu, here's a story about my grandfather's hobby, as told by my grandfather, typed by my cousin, and transcribed by yours truly. He was funny. Give it a read.

Grandpa’s Hobby

Last summer we were more than a little shocked when we found out my grandfather was sneaking around making moonshine out on the back porch down in Grant, Louisiana. He told us he was making gasohol to use in his lawn mower, but the last time I was there he still had not mixed any gasoline with it.

When we asked him about that back porch still, he told us that “long years ago when he was young”, he used to make moonshine and home brew all the time and thought it would be fun to try it again --- sort of like a hobby. Then he told us this tale about an incident that happened once when he made some home brew at the ripe old age of thirteen:

Poppa died when I was five, Mama died when I was eleven, and after livin’ with Uncle Levi and Aunt Lanny for a year, I ran away and went and batched with Uncle Joe for six months at a turpentine camp on the Sabine River where Uncle Joe was quarter boss and woods rider. He looked after the chippin’, dippin’, scrapin’, and rakin’ around the trees in the fall of the year so if the woods was to catch fire, the trees wouldn’t burn with all that turpentine. If them trees woulda caught fire, they’d a burnt like gasoline.

The workers in that turpentine camp lived in a “quarters” off a little ways down the road from Uncle Joe’s cabin, and Uncle Joe was boss over the “quarters” and the whole outfit. Man, them turpentine men was the meanest bunch of guys there ever was. They’d fight all the time and kill one another. Uncle Joe had to tend to ‘em and keep ‘em straight. He’d wrap ‘em over the head with a cane, or sometimes he’d shoot ‘em if he had to. I seen him shoot an old woman in the foot when she was comin’ after him with a butcher knife, and she just fell full length. Now, they was scared of Uncle Joe! There’d always be somebody that would slip off and come tell Uncle Joe, “Old so and so’s over there raisin’ the devil and runnin’ around with his guns, fixin’ to kill somebody.” Then uncle Joe would have to go get ‘em all quietened down.

One evenin’ one of them (insert n-word here) over there at the quarters was just a cussin’ and fightin’ and raisin’ sand; he’d shot at Uncle Joe two or three times, and Uncle Joe had shot back at him and then hunted him half the night and never could find him. Uncle Joe always slept with his 38 and big ole flashlight by the side of his bed.

That evenin’ I had decided to make me some home brew. I had bought me a five gallon stone churn and some bottles, caps, a capper, and a tester to test that beer. When you get that home brew to a certain degree, it’s time to bottle it up. Well, I had broke my tester, and I bottled that stuff up too green.

Man, all at once in the middle of the night, “KaPow! KaPow! KaPow!” Them bottles got to explodin’ and that was the worst racket you ever heard in all your life. The jar from one bottle would bust another one, and it just kept on ‘till it blowed the tops off ever’ one of ‘em.

Now, when them bottles started blowin’ up, Uncle Joe sailed outta that bed like a wild man and grabbed that gun and flashlight; he just knew that (insert n-word here) had done come back and had ‘im. I yelled, “Uncle Joe! Uncle Joe! It’s my home brew!” He just dropped to his knees. I grabbed me a ten quart water bucket and tried to save some of it, but it blowed the bucket clean outta my hand and cut it for or five flips across the floor. I lost ever’ bit of my home brew.

Yes, I guess my grandfather started out pretty young with his hobby, but now it looks as though he is going to have to give it up because, in his words: “It took me sixty pounds of sugar to make that moonshine out there on that back porch the other day, so I already made up my mind. I ain’t gonna make no more ‘cause sugar’s done got too high!”


I've got his still up in my attic :).

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