This all happened, more or less.
The family secret.
The men with the bowler hats.
Our grandma tells it, like most grandparents tell “that story,” OFTEN.
We’ve heard it all our lives without really allowing the magic of it all to sink in.
This is our LEGACY.
Through the beveled glass, their appearance was stretched and wavy. Their bowler hats disproportionately long. I remember the heat, dust, and my mother’s sobs floating from underneath the bedroom door. We all watched them walk up the lane. Dad was gone, selling the liquor of course, it’s what we did. Underneath feed troughs, through branches, the rev-men scoured our little farm looking for evidence. You see, Grandma taught Dad how to use the still, to taste it, to know when it was just right, but keeping our family practice a secret, that’s our story. Dad hid the mash, the bottles, and the still grandma built herself underneath a faux floor of an outbuilding. That wasn’t enough, next, Dad went out and found the meanest mule money could buy to stand right over the spot where the equipment was stored.
Now we tip our hats to him, for being an intimidating son-of-gun, and sending the rev men packing on that day nearly 80 years ago. He kept great-great grandfather Fritz out of jail, our family farm intact, and saved generations of distilling tradition.
More or less, we owe it all to one terribly large, remarkably unruly, extraordinarily mean mule.