Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Sweet Mash and the Mountains
If you don't know the difference between sweet mash and sour mash you may want to move on. (For the curious sorts - they are two different types of moonshine whiskey made in the NC mountains.) I know about these two libations thanks to a very colorful character my father hired to help him oversee our family farm in the mountains. The "gentleman's" name was Stanbury Franklin. He was one of those who would do anything for you if you could understand what he was saying. (And he didn't say much.) He was extremely loyal to my father and my father relied heavily on him.
Our farm, High Acres, had cows and horses, and especially during the winters, the animals needed to be fed daily. Stanbury helped Dad build the horse barn, the hay barn, and other assorted outbuildings.
Dad loved the farm. It was his stress outlet. He could go up on the weekends, do physical work, and get immediate gratification. He loved being a "weekend" mountain rancher and besides it was a great tax write off - there was no way to make money on the operation.
Stanbury was always bringing Dad local "gifts". Sometimes they were archaic tools that turned out to be very practical and helpful. There were the goats he thought would be a good idea - they weren't. There were his wife's preserves and apple butter that were incredibly good. One day he showed up with this iron bed with brass rails he picked up at "the sale" for $25 - I claimed that one. But there was always the moonshine. He would bring Dad a quart jar every time we came up (and an extra jar if he knew we were having company.) And, Dad always wanted sweet mash because he said it was "smoother".
Over the years, there were always incidents on the farm - the cows would get out and eat the neighbors' apples, we would not have water at the house (that happened more often than not), the farm jeep would be out of gas, etc. But when the hay barn burned Dad was perplexed. The barn wasn't full of hay, it was a misty morning, and the volunteer fire department was able to get there fairly quickly. They said they had never seen a building burn that fast. The next weekend Dad went up to survey the damage. As he stood looking at the burnt ruins, Stanbury stood next to him and finally asked, "You don't think the gallons of mash I had stored in the back had anything to do with it, do yah?" This being news to Dad, he said later, he did not want to know where the still was.