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Moonshiners

 

J.D. Pendry

 

I have a moonshine tale.  When I was a pup, we’d go to the country store and listen as old timers, sitting around a pot-bellied coal stove, told fishin’, huntin’ and moonshinin’ lies.  According to rumor, Elbert, the storekeeper, sold Moonshine in quart Mason jars, which he kept in the root cellar with the home canning.  One geezer, while working his chew, said he gave up drinking Moonshine because it damaged his face.  Some men sitting there agreed they’d heard about Shine causing blindness, but never of it causing damage to a man’s face.  The storyteller pointed to a jagged scar on his forehead, then to another on his cheekbone as his proof.  With a serious look, he explained that he started home one night after drinking some of Elbert’s Shine.  After a few wobbly steps, the road flew up and hit him in the face.  He pointed to the scar on his cheekbone.  To stop the road from further facial attacks, he crawled on all fours and held on to fence posts to make it home.  As he staggered through the kitchen door, his wife branded his forehead with a cast iron skillet accounting for his other scar.  He said his face couldn’t take more Moonshine damage so he gave it up.

 

Moonshine is older than our country.  It became a legal problem when the makers of it decided they’d rather not pay taxes on it.  Hell hath no fury like a government deprived of tax dollars so the revenuers went after it with a vengeance.  Combine that with prohibition and you have the makings of a lucrative illegal business.  In fairness, besides taxes, there were legitimate heath reasons to stop illegal and unregulated production of distilled spirits.  Illegally produced Moonshine was (and still is) dangerous because of things that often make their way into the finished product – led and methanol among the leaders.

 

In about five minutes, I learned everything I need to know about making Moonshine, legally or illegally, on the Internet.  Nowadays, however, if I wanted a taste, I could go to the state liquor store and buy a locally produced and safe product from the store shelf as cheap as I could make it.

 

The days of running Moonshine are now little more than mountain lore.  Out here in Wild and Wonderful, along with most of the country, we have a deadlier home brew problem.  Methamphetamine.  It also took me about five minutes of Internet searching to learn the ingredients, a recipe, the necessary equipment and process to make methamphetamine.  Each ingredient and piece of equipment needed is readily available for unrestricted purchase.  Your net savvy kids can find the information faster than I did.

 

Our modern day Moonshiners operate methamphetamine labs.  Don’t allow me to give you the impression that this is a hillbilly problem.  Look at the Drug Enforcement Agency’s Map of Methamphetamine Lab Seizures.  In 1999, the map shows 7,438 seizures in 43 States.  In 2004, it was 15,994 in 49 states.  West Virginia had 145 seizures in 2004.  So far, in 2005, in my county alone, we’ve had more than 40 seizures.  The rise in seizures here is attributable to more aggressive law enforcement, but most importantly to educated citizens recognizing evidence of labs and reporting them. 

 

Most of these labs have a friendly name.  They’re called “Mom and Pop” labs.  Methamphetamine addicts use them to make meth for personal use and to sale.  The labs can be small enough to fit into a suitcase, and as has happened here, in the trunks of cars.  In Oklahoma, a state law requiring pharmacies to control and record the sales of products containing pseudophedrine – the key ingredient for making methamphetamine – reduced lab seizures by 80 percent.  The same type of legislation is under consideration here in Wild and Wonderful.  What’s happening in your state?

 

Most of you reading this are in a position to influence someone that might consider using methamphetamine or that might be able to enact legislation designed to stop its production.  Educate yourself, those around you and most importantly your kids.  We won’t clean up this modern Moonshining terror until we do that.  Unlike Moonshine tales, this is not humorous.  It’s serious – deadly serious.  It’s as much of a threat to our society as is terrorism.  The Army can’t solve this terror problem for us.  Only our state legislatures, you and I doing the right things can.

 

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J.D. Pendry is author of The Three Meter Zone, Random House/Ballantine.

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