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Possum Hallow Shine

Clara Smith grew up in West Virgina, operated a walnut Farm in California and is now retired in Maryland.

During the Second World War, times were tough for our Possum Hallow farm in West Virginia. With our family of nine hungry mouths to be fed, Pa was looking for a way to supplement the farm's income.

So Pa got together with our neighbor, Reed, and they came up with a plan to try their hands at moonshine also known as shine, white lightning, mountain dew, hooch and home-brew. Shine was the name we used.

Moonshine has a long tradition in West Virginia. With the field corn, creek water, and its industrious farmers, making moonshining was very efficient, profitable—and very tempting.

One-and-a-half bushels of field corn could be reduced to a gallon of shine. The shine was worth more than the corn, less bulky to transport, and could be used to barter for store-bought items like salt or nails.

While Pa and Reed were setting up the shine business, I was learning to cook at Mamma's side. At 11, I could make mashed potatoes and gravy, fried chicken, and biscuits. Learning to cook with Mamma was a rite of passage and I had been waiting for my turn.

The best part of learning to cook was having alone-time with Mamma. She had a lot to say about Pa's new business. She did not approve, but had no say in the matter.

We girls worked as hard on the farm as the boys, so I didn't understand why Mamma didn't have a say in what happened in the family. I asked Mamma how she felt about not having a say. She told me she got even with Pa by voting Democratic and never telling her Republican husband.

One day, Pa didn't come home, and the following morning we learned he had been charged with moonshining, arrested and spent the night in jail.

Turns out Reed had got elected sheriff and had become a revenuer—and the first thing he did was turn around and arrest Pa.

For several years, I never knew about what happened. I wondered about it, but didn't know. But one day, my older sister and I were discussing family history and she told me.

From that day, we never called him Reed. We called him Traitor. Traitor had turned Pa in. And we never talked to anyone in the Reed family again.

~ Clara Smith
















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