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March 17th, 2009
Legendary mountain moonshiner Popcorn Sutton died at his home in Cocke County, Tennessee of natural causes, a family member says. He was 62. Sutton managed to escape spending 18 months in prison after federal agents found some stills and hundreds of gallons of moonshine in a Haywood County storage shed last summer. He’d pled guilty to the charges, was sentenced this past January and was supposed to report to a federal prison in Kentucky.
Chalk one last mark on the board for the Whiskey Rebellion vs. The Revenoo’ers, as rumors abound that his death may not have been so ‘natural’ after all…
As ‘Moonshine’s’ daughter wrote in her book, “Daddy Moonshine”,
“It isn’t surprising that Popcorn has attracted so much attention. His slippery craft and his old-timey antics appeal to something in our collective past. His overalls can be seen as the blue denim flag of old pick-up trucks and cork-plugged clay jugs. His colorless hat is the nod of a gentleman, his beard the badge of a wild man. His high reedy voice carries the echoes of banjos and fiddles. His stealth and focus speak volumes for the cunning and moxie of who he is: a Smokey Mountain moonshine master.”
Public schools don’t spend much time on the Whiskey Rebellion generally, though it was one of our new nation’s first insurrections, beginning when our first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, convinced Congress to impose new taxes on distilled spirits and carriages in 1791. The tax was inherently unfair by taxing small producers a third more than big producers, a particular burden on producers in the western frontier areas where whiskey was a tradable commodity. Civil protests on the frontier soon became armed rebellion, so President Washington decided to make an example of western Pennsylvania and assembled a militia. They marched west out of Harrisburg – with Washington himself in the lead – but found no sign of the rebels. Eventually fines were imposed, people were jailed, victory was declared, and folks started worrying about other things.
The suppression of the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania served to encourage distillers in Kentucky and Tennessee, which remained outside federal control for some years. These areas and portions of North and South Carolina began producing and selling on the sly, and moonshining remained a regional art form in some people’s books. For instance, did you know that NASCAR has roots in the Rebellion?
At any rate, our hats are off to perhaps one of the last notorious moonshiners from our mountainous region. Here’s to you, Popcorn! May there be banjos and fiddles in heaven.
Links:Carolina History, Great Smoky Mountains, NASCAR, North Carolina | Comment (0)
January 21st, 2009
My family watched the movie National Treasure the other night, in preparation for Tuesday’s historic inauguration ceremony swearing in Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.
The film stars Nicholas Cage as the last in a long family line of treasure hunters seeking the fabled treasure of the Knights Templar-turned-Freemasons, said to have been brought to this country before its beginnings and carefully hidden by the Founding Fathers beneath Trinity Church in New York and found only after following a trail of clues long thought to have been lost to time.
But there are other, less obscure treasures in our nation that we can proudly protect and gratefully enjoy. Some of them are included in Brainz’ scenic post about 16 Incredible North American National Parks, though most of those are out west or up north, including that ‘other’ North American nation, Canada. What was not included is North America’s most beloved, most visited National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which straddles the North Carolina-Tennessee border and includes some of the tallest peaks and most folded landscapes east of the mighty Mississippi.
Whether your family pitches a tent in one of the well-kept campgrounds, makes use of the rustic shelters along the park’s portion of the Appalachian Trail, stays in luxury hotel accommodations in one of the nearby towns or cities, or rents a cabin or chalet nearby or in the park, there’s plenty to see and do that keeps millions of visitors coming back year after year. 2009 is the year of the park’s 75th Anniversary, so be sure to make your plans well in advance if you’re planning to stay for awhile.
Hike some of the 800 maintained trails, take in some beautiful scenery along the Parkway, play some golf in a landscape that harkens back to the Scottish Highlands where the game first began. Take up mountain biking or engage in a leisurely horseback ride. Attend a festival in a nearby city or get good and wet at an area ski resort, most of which offer summer activities for the whole family. Take a tour of area organic farms or artists’ studios, hit some of the westernmost hotspots on the Mountain Music trail and get to know some of the best fiddlers, banjo pickers and washtub base pluckers anywhere!
You’ll love our beautiful National Treasure nearly as much as we who live here do, I promise. See you there during the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 75th Anniversary year!
Links:Adventure, Blue Ridge Parkway, Family Activities, Great Smoky Mountains, Hiking, Nature, North Carolina | Comment (0)