Moonshine Madness

I’m fortunate enough to be in the peacefulness of the country on Prince Edward Island. I live in a 130-year-old-home on forty-five acres that includes a beautiful forest, almost 1300 feet of oceanfront, and a spectacular beach. The area is rich in history, ghost, pirate, and moonshine folklore. Needless to say, my surroundings and the abundant legendary tales have inspired many horror novels.

After I moved in about five years ago, it didn’t take me long to discover that my home was home to one of the biggest moonshine manufacturing and distribution facilities on the Island. I found old ornate bottles, copper tubing and other evidence of moonshine stills; even full bottles of the home-made hooch hidden deep in the forest.

Prohibition on PEI, a temporary wartime measure, was enacted from 1918 to 1920, but alcohol was actually illegal here from 1901 to 1948. During Prohibition, John, the now-deceased previous owner of my home, manufactured and sold moonshine—not only throughout PEI, but also transported it to the United States via the waterways.

As I got to know the neighbors, I heard many stories about John. Although everyone knew moonshine was one of his biggest tickets, and word had it he frequently indulged in drink, nobody had a bad word to say about him. “He would give you the shirt off his back,” one local said. “He was one of the kindest men I’ve ever met,” said another. “He endangered his own life pulling my father out of a ditch during a nasty snowstorm.”

Soon I got to know Bob, John’s affable son-in-law, who had married John’s daughter and lived in the old house for a number of years before the young couple could become financially independent. Bob would drop by periodically out of the blue (it’s what they do here), and entertain me with colorful stories of his past. On a hot sunny day we sat on the back porch swilling moonshine. Fascinated by Bob’s stories, I listened with rapt attention.

One day, he said, he was returning home from a moonshine delivery (John was generous enough to incorporate Bob into the family business) and was having trouble staying on the road. Entertaining clients, he had sampled more than his fair share of the fine and potent hooch. Finally, he did manage to find his driveway, but had a little trouble navigating the entry to the double-car detached garage. He crashed the truck through the wall of the garage, partially destroying it.

“I managed to get myself out of the garage, uninjured, and get up to bed,” Bob said. “But I left the damaged truck embedded in the garage.”

And waking the next morning with a hangover fit for a moonshine delivery driver, Bob was sure he would get a well-deserved tongue-lashing from John.

“But do you know, John never mentioned a word to me about it,” he said, between sips. “Not a word. He wasn’t even angry, or at least if he was he never let on.”

Bob’s demeanor grew serious as he relayed another story, one that would send a cold chill up my spine. He and John had made arrangements with another party for a moonshine delivery. They meticulously packed and transported the order to the waterfront, about three-quarters of a mile from the house, where they were to meet the moonshine buyers in a boat. Something went wrong that resulted in the two parties exchanging gunfire.

“It got a little ugly,” Bob said, his creased complexion whitening. “That’s all I can tell you.”

I was silent for a long minute, wondering: People were shooting at one another? That means someone could have gotten killed. If someone was murdered, where were they buried? Who’s buried in the back-forty? My back-forty.

With an unsteady hand, I drained my shot of moonshine and stood up, telling myself repeatedly that discretion is the better part of valor. Did I really want to know? “What a beautiful day,” I said. “Let’s have another drink and talk about your lovely wife, Betty.”

Handing me his empty glass, Bob’s face brightened. “Such a lovely woman,” he said. “God rest her soul.”

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