As I Remember, Chapter 11

This entry is part 11 of 39 in the series Ted Bio


      Just across the road from where we lived, was an old abandoned house. The old Earl Bishop place. Boxing was fast becoming one of our leading sports. I think that the reason that it was so popular at that time, was on account of so many people being out of work. A bunch of us young fellows put a ring and some punching bags in the old building and began training. There were several guys that lived around there that were real pros: Lance Earp, Bill and Auto King and others. The boxing course I had taken years before and the many battles in holding my street corner as a news boy in Boise, gave me quite an advantage over the other amateurs. I guess I was pretty good. In a short time, I was fighting professionally. I didn’t have a real knockout punch but was a good boxer. I fought some of the best light and welter-weights in the country. Even some middle-weights. This didn’t pay much but kept food on the table. It was a damn hard way to make a living. I kept looking for something better. I kept thinking about what Buddy Frank had told me. I was getting desperate. There was one fellow that I had known all my life that was a moonshiner and boot-legger. His name was Emmett Parks. He had been in and out of jail so many times that he lost track of the number. I went and paid him a visit.

      This guy owed me a couple of favors. Like the time that he had broke jail in Caldwell and had come tearing down the road to the ranch, broke and out of gas. Also he had a flat tire. I had an extra spare for my car. I gave it to him along with a ten dollar bill. I didn’t want to see the guy go back to jail. Yes, I figured he owed me one. I asked him. “Shorty,” which was what everyone called him, “I know that you have made and sold a lot of whiskey these past years. Some of it good and some pretty rotten. At least that is what everyone tells me.” Shorty nodded, “And you have been told right.” “How come,” I asked him, “that it isn’t all good?” “Why do you want to know?” “Because,” I told him, “I want to make up a ten gallons for myself. I will not be a competitor of yours. That I promise.” “The reason that I get a bad batch once in a while,” he explained, “is because it hadn’t been taken care of properly. Making good moonshine is just like making a good batch of bread. Everything must be done just right at the right time.” The guy gave me a good lecture and showed me his still, which was at the present time, in his bedroom. When I left there that night, I knew how to make whiskey, good whiskey.

      Even in these tough times, I had managed to hang to some cash. I could still scare up a couple of hundred dollars. I told Helen about Buddy Frank’s offer. Also, about my meeting with Shorty. She had only one comment. “Why don’t you do it. But promise me one thing. After you fill this order, you will call it quits.” I promised. Then I started work.

      First, I bought a copper wash boiler and fifty feet of half inch copper tubing. Soon my still was ready. One hundred pounds of cane sugar, two pounds of bakers yeast, plus fifty gallons of warm well water, put into a fifty gallon oak barrel, put two inches of bran on top and wait. In about seven days, the bran cap will sink. Now is the proper time to fire up the still. By setting a batch to brew every day for a week, I soon had one of those big upstairs rooms in that old house filled with mash barrels.

      Shorty told me of a bootlegger supply house in Boise, where I could buy ten gallon white oak kegs, charred inside. I bought several to start with. Also a hydrometer for testing the booze. As Shorty had told me, on the seventh day, barrel number one was ready to run. I fired up the Coleman gas stove that night and before morning I had a ten gallon keg of 100 proof moonshine, plus about two quarts extra. I carried down all the waste and dumped it into the drain ditch which run by the side of the house. I pumped water from the well and carried it upstairs, warmed it on the stove and set another batch. So every night for about two months, I repeated this performance. And where did I keep all this booze? As I said before, a drain ditch ran by the side of the house. A six foot concrete pipe had been installed at this point. For about a hundred and fifty feet, the water ran through it. So every morning, I would take a full keg and carry it down to the upper end of the pipe. Float it down the pipe that was about half full of water, then find a joint between the sections. With railroad spikes, steel hooks and ropes, I tied each keg to the wall. It would lay there in the water and roll gently in the slow moving current. According to my teacher, in a month’s time, this would age the stuff equivalent to ten years standing still. It kept the stuff moving through the charred wood inside.

It wasn’t exactly what you would call an easy life. But I kept training with the boys across the street; Now and then facing some opponent in the ring. Then summer was over and in that big pipe running by the side of the house, was about seventy ten gallon kegs of moonshine! We had spent all our money for supplies, plus using up all the credit we could muster. We decided to call it quits. I smashed the still. Took it out in the foothills and buried it. When I started this project, I told Buddy Frank, “Don’t look for anyone else, I will supply you.” There had been nothing more said between us. Then one day, I crawled down in the pipe and cut one of the kegs loose. When I got it out in the sunlight, it looked dark with age. I removed one of the stoppers and took a sample. It was dark amber in color and no longer smelled like the raw material I had put in there. I tested it for proof. It was right to 100. He said it should be at least ninety. Well he could probably gain a gallon and water it down. I put the plug back in. I filled a gunny sack, part full of chopped hay, then dropped in the keg. Finished filling it with chopped hay and sewed it up so as to look like a sack of grain. I threw it into the trunk of my old car and we headed for Boise and Buddy Frank.

      I left him the keg for sample, assuring him that it was all the same. Then we took off for home. We sure held our breath for a few days. Then through the mail, come a plain post card. On it was printed; Bring over the forty nine. Signed, B.F. It took me a few days to get them put in sacks like the sample. But I finally got it done. I rented a truck from one of my neighbors and once more headed for Boise. That night I come home, with a check in my hand for the sum of three thousand dollars.

      Our first thought was to get a decent car. The old one was getting pretty well worn out. We went to Emmett and looked around. At that time, Howard Eaton was working for the Murray Bros., who owned the Chevy garage. He showed us an almost new model A Ford sport coupe with a rumble seat. We liked it very much. He told us to take it and try it out. Suddenly an idea struck me. These guys always have booze around, and there is still a bunch of kegs left floating in that pipe. I told Howard. “There is lots of ducks in the ponds just back of the house. Why don’t you guys come down early in the morning and we will go hunting. If we like the car, I will offer you a deal.” As I remember, it was on a Sunday and a whole car load of them come down. The hunting was great and we got a lot of ducks. Finally, we ended up in the shed back of the house. Everyone was all smiles. “What have you decided about the car?” Howard asked. “We like it.” I told him. “But I got to get rid of something before I can pay for it. Something that I took in on a bill from a guy over in Jordan Valley. While I had that service station in Caldwell, he run up a big bill. He finally paid me off but not in cash.” “And what did he pay you with?” “Moonshine.” I lied. “It was either that or nothing.” “And how much have you got?” At six dollars a gallon, ten kegs would just pay the difference between the two cars. “Ten gallon kegs.” I told him. “Have you got a sample here?” He asked. I pointed over to the drain ditch. “All ten of them are all up inside that big pipe. You got on your boots, wade out in there. I will crawl up and cut one of them loose.” In a few minutes, we come back with a keg. I went into the house and brought out some glasses. Before the day was over, we owned the Ford and still had all the money.

Series NavigationAs I Remember, Chapter 10As I Remember, Chapter 12

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