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Moonshining is deep tradition in the hills of Appalachia. In southwestern Virginia, the TV show "Moonshiners" follows a band of bootleggers and agents in a seemingly never ending battle over the production for tax free liquor. In this episode, Moonshiners touches on the history of stock car racing and its connection with illegal liquor.
During prohibition, special cars were used to move the illegal alcohol - transporters souped up their cars to make them faster. If ever followed, the bootleggers would drive the getaway cars as fast as they could to avoid any persecution from the law, and the drivers had plenty of practice driving fast, because the prosecution of bootlegging was a primary objective of law enforcement during this period. About the same time, Daytona Beach started to hold stock car races. Of course, the mechanics and drivers were moonshine transporters. With that, stock car racing was born.
Speaking of transporting illegal liquor, normally a double blind system is used to move the product. Buyers don't know the bootleggers and the bootleggers don't know the buyers. This keeps anyone from knowing any names so that if police are involved nobody can name anyone else. In short, the moonshiners leave the shine in a secret location which is then picked up by the transporter or the bootlegger. The bootlegger then takes the liquor to a warehouse or distribution center. Finally, the distributor picks it up and will sell it for up to $100 a gallon. In the end, nobody meets anyone and money is exchanged through a fourth party.
In this episode the transporter missed the pickup and Tim and Tickle start modifying Tim's vintage Pontiac in order to deliver the goods themselves. They beef up the car's engine to make it faster than a police car should they get caught. The need for speed is great when it comes to actually delivering the moonshine. Tim and Tickle have 15 gallons to drop off- that can easily mean $1000. If caught, they can be charged with a class one misdemeanor and jail time, so the goal is not to get caught. However, on the way to the drop off location, they feel like they are being followed. In order to lose the car behind them, the pair takes a detour to the secret location. Once there they drop off the liquor behind some trees and place a colored cloth on some bushes. This is a custom dating back to the first days of moonshining to say that the drop had been made.
Meanwhile, legendary moonshiner Popcorn explains that there are very high medicinal properties of moonshine. He explains that people have been drinking it for years and that there is nothing illegal or hazardous about it. In fact, it can make a mean cough syrup with candy and honey. It can even cure headaches just by sniffing it. As a legend in the world of moonshine, no one questions Popcorn's claims.
This episode also introduces us to Don Wood, a bootlegger with more than 10 years of experience. Don travels up and down the East Coast and Appalachia delivering his moonshine by motorcycle. He explains that most moonshiners place their liquor in bottles of vinegar or other "legal" containers in order to keep it from looking suspicious should they get caught.
Don's specialty is his own proprietary blend of apple pie moonshine. He mixes apple juice with the moonshine and adds pieces of the fruit to the mix. He will then sell it for $50 a jar to his clients. Wood explains that this is his way of making money. He claims moonshining is a business that keeps jobs in America for people who need jobs now that they are all being sent overseas. He sees moonshining as a way to "stick it to the man."
This episode of "Moonshiners" also follows the ABC agents around as they try to catch bootleggers and moonshiners in the act. They attempt to make a bust through one of their undercover agents. However, they do not have enough evidence to make the raid. Despite finding a large outfit early in the season, they did not have any luck with this bootlegger. Therefore, the cameras follow the ABC agents around as they perform their other duties- checking liquor licenses. In Virgina, only special ABC stores can actually sell liquor. It is a serious business in a state that easily has one of the highest productions of illegal moonshine trade.
Back at Tim's homestead, the moonshiners are discussing the need to expand the operation in order to meet their orders and to expand their profit. Tim wants to become legal because he explains that he is tired of feeling nervous at every waking moment. He explains that his father and brother were arrested when he was younger. In fact, one of the ABC agents actually ran into Tim's brother when out checking licenses. After that harrowing trip down memory lane, Tim reveals that it was a hardship to overcome that he does not want his family or son to live through.
As a result, Tim then goes to meet Chuck Miller, a legal moonshine producer. Miller's distillery claims to be the "finest in Virginia." The rolling horse farm and white washed buildings are a far cry from the illegal operation running out of Tim's backyard. Miller shows Tim what he needs to do and what he will need to have- at least $200,000 in start up costs. This includes everything from USDA approved rakes, mash and at least fifty different kinds of filters. He explains to Tim that he has to record everything and have his formula and labels approved by the state.
Tim leaves the distillery with a lot on his mind. He explains that the process of going legal is a one way street with no turning back. If he starts to put himself out there, then other members of the illegal production will stop associating with him if he fails to get permission. Therefore, he needs to make sure everything is in order before going down that path.
If you liked this article you may also be interested in our article on Moonshiners - Season 1, Episode 5 - A Price to Pay
Remember, distilling alcohol at home for consumption is illegal. Do not do this.