For the life of me, I don't recall which year. I was a teenager, probably fourteen or fifteen, and a member of the West View Baptist Church youth group. Mom (Betty Lou Wood Ferrell, 11/24/1932 - 12/27/2000) and another lady, Sandra V., taught and led the youth group. We met, in Sunday School, before the morning worship service. We enjoyed several other activities, such as rollerskating and hayrides. Several adult chaperones helped. The youth group was a wonderful, positive, and formative part of my teenage years, back in the 1970s.
The adult chaperones, around Halloween, had arranged a fall hayride and bonfire, for the youth group. The bonfire -- with roasted marshmallows (marshmellers, as we called them), hotdogs, and Cokes -- followed the hayride.
What do a youth hayride and a moonshine still have in common? This twenty-second article on Appalachia - Upper East TN will explain. It's heritage and humor also. This article is inspired by Grandpa’s Still, on Blind Pig & the Acorn, by Garland Davis, published by Tipper, 3/16/2023. Reading that article, in the context of this article, is highly suggested. (I'll wait here, until you're back, after having read that article. It's a good article.)
As I recall, a couple dozen or more of us teenagers rode in the big hay wagon. An adult chaperone or two rode with us. I think that Mom was one. A man drove the tractor that pulled us. As dusk approached darkness, the hayride started.
We rode off a two-lane highway and along various dirt roads, which were lined by trees, ridges, and fields. Singing, talking, and joking, we were enjoying a great time! I probably had a liking to a young lady or two. In shyness, I probably tried to do some subtle courting. (Yes, I was shy, until my junior year in high school, when my Irish blarney starting opening my glib, Irish tongue!)
After a good, long ride, the tractor driver hunted an open area, to turn the hayride back for the food and bonfire. He found an open gate, in a field, that was near someone's barn.
As we began to circle around behind the barn, to make the return loop, the driver pushed the tractor into high gear and exclaimed, “Hang on!” The wagon jerked, causing most of us to roll backward in the hay! I'm glad that the wagon had wooden side boards; otherwise, some of us could have fallen off the wagon. We rode in high gear, hanging onto each other or to the side boards, until the hay wagon was back onto the dirt road safely.
“What happened? Why did we have to go so fast?” -- we had asked and wondered. Just before the tractor jumped into high gear, I'd noticed, near the back of that barn, something that looked like a big barrel, with pipes on it. I didn't know what it was -- at first.
Safely back onto the dirt road, the driver replied, “Did you see that still? Someone has a moonshine still behind the barn! We had to get out of there!” Well, no wonder! I'm glad that no one was making moonshine at the time! Coming upon moonshine making, even by accident, could have been very dangerous -- even on a church hayride.
Almost everyone, who was born and raised in Appalachia, has had a moonshiner in the family or a moonshine story to tell. Thanks, to Tipper, for inspiring this story, as she shared Garland Davis' story.
“Fallen off the wagon” usually means that someone has started drinking again. As a teenager, I was glad that none of us young uns had “fallen off the wagon” -- when the tractor driver high geared us away from that still!
Do I hear you laughing? I thought so!