Birney Imes: Spring, moonshine and other matters

March 17, 2012 10:22:42 PM

Birney Imes - [email protected]


Is there anywhere more glorious than Mississippi in the springtime? Suddenly it's here. If you doubt it -- and even if you don't -- drive down Seventh Street from the library to 18th. If the sun is shining as it was midday Thursday, the effect is almost psychedelic, the wisteria and azaleas and dogwoods. Yet, old hands who know about such, say we will have another freeze. 


Out my window on a glorious Saturday morning I can see the Catholic Church's lavender red bud. The gingko is budding out and the fragrance of the sweet olive mixed with the wisteria perfumes the air. 


Hope you find some way to get out in it. Garden, walk ... one spring, decades ago, I spent the late afternoons taking pictures of people's front porches and the stuff in their yards. The picture taking was just an excuse to be out in that orange end-of-day light with the flowers and the soft, fragrant air of spring. 


This spring my end-of -day activities are more prosaic; chances are I'm pulling weeds listening for the sound of grandchildren or the booming voice of Byron Miller as he walks down the street, headed home after a day of tending the neighborhood's yards. 


A 76-year-old Maben moonshiner made the news Monday when he sold a gallon of his hooch to an undercover man for $40 in dry Webster County. Agents then went to the home of Parker Roberson, who as it happens, lives on Parker Roberson Road and busted up his still. ABC agents found 27 gallons of moonshine hidden among bales of hay along with 200-plus empty plastic jugs. 


Mr. Roberson's transgression it seems was selling alcohol in a dry county. It remains to be seen if he will be charged in Oktibbeha, his home county, for possession of an illegal distillery. Let's hope not. 


A column on moonshine occasioned by the arrest of two Winston County moonshiners a few weeks back ("Whiskey River don't run dry," March 4) produced some interesting correspondence. 


Apparently the Discovery Channel has a show called "Moonshiners." A producer for the show emailed us asking for permission to use the title of the column and a few quotes from it on a special they're doing called, "Bootleggers" 


I wrote back saying it was fine if they quoted from the column as long as The Dispatch is credited, but she would need to check with Willie Nelson about the line "Whiskey River don't run dry" -- it's from his song "Whiskey River." 


She wrote back and asked if I had his contact info. 


Can there be someone out there who doesn't knows who Willie Nelson is, I wondered. I wrote back saying I didn't have it. 


"Oh, you're talking about the Willie Nelson," she wrote back. "I thought he was someone who worked with you." 


Another email came from John Hubbell, a former managing editor of The Dispatch. 


"Loved the moonshiner story, which I read in the heart of New York. Made me miss the Triangle. 


"I met a guy in Nashville once who got a special brew for movie stars and NASCAR drivers that had gold flakes in it. Supposedly added to the taste, or at least the price." 


And then there was this from Jim Tucker, a former Columbian, who lives in Pensacola, Fla: 


"Your March 4 "Partial to Home" gave me great memories. Motee Daniels (One of the bootleggers mentioned in the column.) was my family's next door neighbor in Yocona. His "store" was next to my Dad's 40 acres. While doing spring farm cleaning along the property lines I found and tasted gin for the first time. I was about 10 years old. My mother taught school in Lafayette County for 40-plus years and truly believed Motee was a fine man even though he was a bootlegger. Motee sent my mother and other family members, birthday cards and flowers for years on special occasions." 


And then there was Claude Simpson's letter, which suggested "Mississippi Moonshine" as a legal business enterprise. A Mississippi Jack Daniels, if you will. 


You see some clever things on church marquees. The best one I saw this week on Military Road on the way back to town from Debbie Lawrence's nursery in Caledonia. Bethel Baptist Church. The sign reads, "Occupy Bethel," then gives times for Sunday school and the morning and evening services. Well, I thought it was clever. 


Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.