Moonshine custom

Background: The informant was born and raised in Western North Carolina. He has lived in North Carolina his whole life. He wanted to share some Western North Carolina traditions or knowledge. He specified that this really only takes place in the rural areas of the state and that this isn’t common knowledge outside these areas or in the more urban areas and cities. This knowledge was passed down from his father.

If you’re ever walking in the mountains, the woods, and you ever come on a live still that’s cooking moonshine as you speak (this is just basically taking corn and mix and you cook it and it converts. Then you take it and run it through copper pipes and you get it cool and cool the alcohol and that becomes corn liquor–also known as moonshine), you have to be really careful. Sometimes it’ll be booby trapped and if not what you’re supposed to do is, you see the still, get a stick and put it in the fire to say you’re going to help it and keep it going. This signals to anyone that might be watching in the woods with a shotgun that it’s okay and you’re not here to cause trouble.

Context of the performance: This was explained to me over FaceTime.

Thoughts: I am also from North Carolina but I’m from a city so I had never experienced or even heard of this kind of thing. This is so interesting because it reveals that the cooking of moonshine itself is a sacred tradition and the punishment for messing with moonshine is potentially getting shot. I didn’t know it was such a protected tradition or secret. I have alway felt some selective pride in being from North Carolina, but I felt like I was coming from an etic perspective. It shows that within the state, lifestyle and knowledge of traditions varies very much by region and that certain parts of the state will share very different common knowledge and unspoken rules than others.