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Attention moonshiners — Here’s how to put your best foot forward

By Paul Viau | Feb 20, 2013
Photo by: File photo DRESSED FOR SUCCESS — During prohibition, moonshiners went to great lengths to cover their tracks — Like size 11-D.

My fascination with moonshine started about a week after my wife and I moved to North Carolina. Popcorn Sutton was in the news, so I Googled his name to get a little more information about the man.

I was stunned to learn that Popcorn and I were the same age. I remember reflecting on this fact when I next looked in the mirror — surely the years had been a lot kinder to me than Popcorn. But then again, there is no doubt that he had a much more colorful life than I, albeit troubled and controversial.

When Popcorn met his untimely death, I was disappointed, to say the least. Through some new acquaintances, I was getting close to a face-to-face meeting with the man. As it turned out, I became the lone/volunteer representative from The Mountaineer covering his funeral.

It was a sad day for the many in attendance — but I am well aware that there are many in Haywood County that are happy to have him gone for good.

Popcorn Sutton’s funeral was, as you might expect, a bit bizarre. But I was finally able to meet his widow, Pam, and shake hands with the one-and-only Bocephus.

Best of all, my timing on the return trip from Parrotsville, Tennessee, was perfect — just ahead of the I-40 rockslide that blocked the eastbound lanes for nearly six months.

I like to think it was Popcorn Sutton stubbornly protesting his arrival, perhaps in Hell.

If Popcorn were alive today, he would be stunned at the renewed popularity of moonshine. Legal (taxes paid) moonshine whiskey is available just about everywhere, including a brand that carries Popcorn’s signature and likeness.

There is even a Discovery Channel docudrama dedicated to ‘Moonshiners,’ chronicling the ‘cat and mouse’ game between moonshiners and the law — and the great lengths moonshiners would go to ‘cover their tracks.’

This brings me to the story behind the whacky photo on this page — it’s a very handsome, you might even say ‘natty,’ cow shoe. Yes I said, cow shoe. It’s a one-of-a-kind, handcrafted shoe used by moonshiners during Prohibition to stay ‘one step ahead’ of the revenuers.

Did you know? — The cow shoe consists of a metal strip attached to a pair of wooden blocks carved in the shape of cow hooves. Armed (or should I say legged) with a pair of cow shoes, moonshiners could travel to and from their stills without leaving a trace.

You might say, they were putting the ‘moo’ in moonshine.

Perhaps well-read moonshiners got this idea from the Sherlock Holmes mystery, “The adventure of the Priory School,” where Holmes cleverly deduced that it was a man wearing special shoes —not a cow —responsible for a murder on the moors.

I offer up this little bit of trivia, both to keep you informed, and as a convenient excuse if ever I am caught in possession of untaxed liquor.

“Honest officer, I got this from a cow.”

And now I’d like to share a little bit of verse that I wrote a few years ago for a friend selling moonshine-related souvenirs. It’s called, ‘Moonshine Histry.’


Learnt it from my Pappy’s Pappy —

How to make blackberry wine.

How to conjure up a batch

Of clear and kickin’ mountain shine.


Kep’ my still down in the holler,

Nestled by a mountain stream.

Makin’ sure no varmints follered.

Keepin’ watch and makin’ steam.


Totin’ bags of grain and sugar

Keeps a feller fit to fight.

Thump keg beatin’ ever faster

Keeps me goin’ through the night.


‘Nother batch of shine is ready —

Sippin’ likker, slap my knee!

This white lightnin’  — jar for jar

Is the best in history!