Why Do We Remain So Fascinated With Moonshine?

            North Carolina is known for such famous people as Ava Gardner, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Michael Jordan, Thomas Wolfe, Andy Griffith, Billy Graham,  Ric Flair and Dean Smith and such things as tobacco, furniture, bar-b-cue, NASCAR, basketball,  Hardee’s, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Pepsi Cola and last but not least moonshine. Why is gritty moonshine included in this list of famous North Carolina people, places and activities?

            The making of moonshine is one of the state’s oldest manufacturing industries and often has been called the second oldest profession in North Carolina.  Furthermore moonshine over the years has captured the imagination, fascination and curiosity of North Carolinians in such a way that some people get hooked on it without drinking, seeing or touching a drop of it.  Some Tar Heels become so enthralled with the illegal mystic drink that they become moonshine junkies.  Some people all across the state from socialites to the good old boys to laborers to professionals from all walks of life became and remain enamored by the illegal manufacture of whiskey and the many sidebars that have come to be associated with what we all call moonshine. 

The very mention of moonshine in North Carolina often brings to mind some whacky to comical to serious stories and antidotes of all descriptions with the actual truth being somewhere in the middle.  Anyone who grew up in North Carolina during the big moonshine era of 1920s-1970s had or has a moonshine story of sorts from hearing, seeing, smelling or knowing someone who was involved with moonshine one way or the other.  Some folks made it, some folks financed it, some folks hauled it, some folks sold it and untold numbers consumed it swearing that it was the best liquor that they ever drank.  Moonshine was produced in North Carolina in such huge quantities for over 300 years that it is deeply engrained in the history, folklore, fabric, character and culture of the state more so than any other subject.

   In North Carolina moonshine folklore and tradition Tar Heel bootleggers have often been characterized as being from the world of Snuffy Smith, Ma and Pa Kettle, the Clampetts, the Dukes of Hazard and the Andy Griffith Show.  While some North Carolina moonshiners did fit that description, many did not as they were very sharp, shrewd, crafty, slick, sly, wily, elusive, cunning, tough, rough and occasionally brash.   Although the widespread manufacture of illegal whiskey of moonshine across North Carolina is for all purposes over this gritty way of life and culture remains as popular as ever with writers, publishers, the electronic media and North Carolinians by the thousands.   One veteran bootlegger stated that the reason moonshine remains so popular today is “that folks feel like that they had out done the law when they bought and drank moonshine.”

 Moonshine in North Carolina today remains as popular and as mysterious as ever despite the fact the heyday of moonshine in the Tar Heel state pretty much ended in the 1970s with the opening of state owned ABC stores and the rise in popularity of illegal drugs such as marijuana and cocaine.  During the years of the great moonshine era 1920s-1970s newspapers across the state frequently featured front page stories of moonshine raids and busts of all descriptions whereas today similar news stories are rare.  While the preceding is true one can find a moonshine still running in an isolated corner of the state today.