When I was growing up in northeastern Kentucky, I was fortunate enough to know my grandfather, who lived deep in the heart of Appalachia. He lived only until I was 23 years of age, but I was lucky enough to be old enough to have talked to him. Really talked to him. Conversations that, to me, were important. He was a fine man. Moral, ethical, smart. I’d like to write about him and men like him some day.
There were so many things that I never had the chance or knowledge to talk to him about. My mother, his daughter, told me stories about him. Not enough stories. I wish I knew more. One story that she told me was that my grandfather was determined that she and her seven siblings would never be involved in two endeavors that were prominent in those days in southeastern Kentucky. They would never work in the coal mines and they would never be engaged in the production of “mountain dew.”
Mountain Dew. Not the soft drink. Mountain dew is the slang term for homemade liquor or moonshine, corn liquor, hooch, and a dozen other names. Southeastern Kentucky was “dry.” In other words, liquor could not be sold legally. People made their own and made it for other people. There were stills to make the liquor hidden all over the mountains that were characteristic of the area. Moonshine is 100 percent alcohol and is still made in those mountains.
My grandfather was successful. All of his children left the area, at least long enough to get a college education. My grandfather, himself, got what passed for a college education in his day and was an advocate of higher education for his entire life.