Friday, January 4, 2013

Moonshine Memories

At least two authors at the 2013 Mountain Spirit Festival will have books involved with spirits. Moonshine, that is. Both authors are excellent spinners of yarns.

One is Morris Stephenson, who was taking orders for his moonshine memoir in the authors tent last year. This year, he'll have the book, A Night of Makin' Likker.

A Night of Makkin' Likker recounts Stephenson's adventures with both revenuers and moonshiners. As a reporter for the Franklin County newspaper, he was sometimes asked to accompany agents when they destroyed a still. Many of the pictures in his book were taken to illustrate the news stories he wrote about the raids. Because he had developed a rapport with both sides of the law, sometimes moonshiners themselves told him stories or showed him their operations. Many pictures of these adventures are in A Night of Makkin' Likker.

If you stop at his table to chat with him, odds are good Morris Stephenson will tell you a few moonshine tales. If you don't have his book and you're interested in Franklin County history, you'll want to get a copy.

Morris Stephenson chats with Rex Stephenson
 at 2012 Mountain Spirits Festival.
Update: Charles Lytton will be unable to attend this year's festival.
The other teller of tales is Charles Lytton, a true Appalachian (which he will tell you is Apple-LATCH-un, not Apple-LAY-shun) who will have his latest book, The View from the White Rock, at the 2013 Mountain Spirits Festival. The book has several references to moonshine, both drinking and buying.

Lytton at the Salem Museum.
Note another Apple-LATCH-un author in the background.

Lytton, who was a hit at the first two Mountain Spirits Festivals, will also have copies available of his two previous books about growing up on River Ridge: New River: bonnets, apple butter, and moonshine and  The Cool Side of the Pillow. Both are filled with good stories, some of which are a little far-fetched even though Lytton swears they're true. All three books are delightful down-home looks at Lytton's sometimes rough and rugged boyhood and early manhood along the New River.

One of his chapters is titled "You Can Get Killed About Anywhere," but a lot of the other chapters involve Lytton's taking risks, having hair-raising adventures, and escaping bad situations. In "Diana's First Airplane Ride and maybe My Last," he recounts when an amateur pilot took him and his daughter for a ride in a small plane on a very cold day. The kid loved it; Lytton felt lucky to return alive. In "The Same House, But There was no Ham," he tells of having to heed the call of nature before dawn while squirrel hunting and locating a nearby outhouse (p.132):

Of course, in The View from the White Rock, Lytton mentions many of his buddies who shared his escapades, moonshine, molasses-making, and trucks. In "Damn, Them Old Trucks Would Run Like a Skeert Hant," he recounts an adventure hauling heifers to the Narrows livestock market, looking for cheap liquor with his buddies, and injuring his arm when the driver swerves a little too close to a tree. "How to Unload a Sow Hog" also involves trucks, livestock, and drinking—all the stuff of good Appalachian yarns. And there are a lot more.

Charles Lytton with Books at 2012 Galax Festival
Lytton might have a college degree or two, but it hasn't hurt his ability to tell a good down-home story. If you like down-home Apple-LATCH-un stories, you'll want to take a look at his books—or at least set a spell and talk to Lytton.

Parts of the info about Charles Lytton were appeared in this blog post:

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