Wednesday, November 13, 2013
By MORRIS STEPHENSON -
Months ago, I got a surprise call from Chris Tetens, producer of the TV show "Moonshiners" on the Discovery Channel. At that time, Chris was working with Tim Smith of Climax to film the show.
The two men came by my office, and we spent several hours talking about moonshine and the men who made it in Franklin County. Chris was interested in filming Cecil Love's story, but at that time, a trial date had not been set for his case. It was in Cecil's best interest to remain low-key. It wasn't long after that the show hit the airways.
As a result, Tim Smith, whom I've known for a long time, and his friend "Tickle," who seems to like staying "pickled" a lot, became almost household names across the country.
Since then, Chris and I have stayed in touch, but recently we discussed the possibility of a film crew coming to the county. He said they'd like to talk with me about my almost 50 years of living in Franklin County and what I'd seen as a reporter, covering raids by agents on local illegal still operations.
He also was aware I had written my book and said he'd just heard about the death of retired ABC Agent Jack Powell, who had been on a couple moonshine-related shows from a while back.
During Chris' latest call, he informed me a woman by the name of Rakhee Jethwa (first name pronounced Rocky) with the Discovery Channel's staff would be in the area with a cameraman. He had told her she needed to talk with me while she was on her trip "down south."
I received a call from her shortly thereafter, and we exchanged email addresses. Her tentative plans were to be in the Franklin County Nov. 8 and 9. Her interest in moonshine subject was high, but her knowledge ranged from zero to none. There's no telling how long I could have stayed on the telephone answering all of her questions. I finally suggested sending her information and stories concerning the "dying art" and also included a copy of the book she could read before leaving her office. I also gave her the info to read on the News-Post's website and also a blog posted by Shellie at the Claiborne House bread and breakfast in Rocky Mount. I also told her about the newspaper's website containing more information about the county's most famous subject.
So Friday, they arrived before 9 a.m. With Rakhee were Hilary Ossip, who had assisted Rakhee in preparing a list of questions; Nathan Golon, the cameraman who was born in Salem; and Steve Souryal, the sound technician who was born and raised in Falls Church.
It took the guys a while to get the equipment unloaded and set up. As they did, the gals checked out the office with its bottles and jars of legal moonshine on display, along with other moonshine items of interest. Junior Johnson's poster of his "Midnight Moon" product caught their eye.
Cecil had heard about the crew's visit and stopped by the office. He filled in the crew on a tiny bit of his moonshine connection in the county. They were fascinated.
A small microphone was attached to my shirt collar and the cord was placed under my shirt with the lithe box attached to my belt. Then Steve did some sound checks. I was amazed just how much the tiny mike was picking up, like the sound of my shoe as I pushed my foot across the floor.
After about three hours of questions and answers, the crew decided it was time for a lunch break. They said they'd like to have a home-cooked meal and decided to head out to Ruth's Place on Route 220 North.
It took longer than the hour they had planned on lunch. When they returned, they just kept bragging about the delicious food they'd eaten. I was expecting them to say they were ready for a nap, but instead they wrapped up the filming and wanted to see more of the county's mountains.
They loaded all the equipment, and before leaving the office Hillary gave me a large poster, promoting the upcoming "Moonshiners" season. Most of the poster is a huge Mason jar with closeup head shots of Tim and Tickle, looking through the jar that's filled with clear liquid.
They also wanted to see the old copies of the News-Post with the front page stories, pictures and an occasional Red Salyer editorial about moonshiners about how the court wasn't strict enough on them. They couldn't believe the front pages were filled with these stories on a consistent basis.
Seeing was believing for them. Many folks don't know about the archives of the newspapers that fill the back room that once housed the printing press and old camera used to print the paper. In fact, I don't think any of them had ever been in a newspaper office before.
Afterwards, they followed me to the new subdivision still under development on Grassy Hill. It's the closest place around where you can see, perhaps, 100 miles in all directions from the peak, except for the northeast. They couldn't believe the blue-looking mountains to the north and those that border the county to the south side.
Finally came a trip to the nearby Blackwater River, where Nathan again was delighted with what he saw from Blue Bend Road, despite the fact the river was very low due to an extremely dry October.
It was getting late and the sun was fast heading toward the mountain ridges when Rakhee decided that the team needed to head to the closest county line to film one of those attractive "Welcome to Franklin County" signs.
"We love this county. It's beautiful," Rahkee said with the others nodding in agreement.
"Being from Indiana, I love the mountains, and one day I'm going to live in a place like this with them surrounding me," Hillary chimed in with her comment.
As of this writing, I have not talked with Rahkee since their departure. So I have no clue what they plan on doing with the footage they accumulated during their day-long visit.
Heck, I don't even know when or how they will use it all. In fact, I don't know if it will ever be shown. Maybe I'll find out sometime sooner or later.
If they don't, I know they will be talking about their visit to the beautiful Franklin County, and I'm sure they'll also be taking about the county's long-time heritage and how it's becoming a "dying art," as my friend Jack Powell predicted.
Time Change Stinks! - We've all had the same amount of time to adjust to the change from DST to EST. I've talked to a lot of people who are having the same problem. It's like we're floating down the same river without a paddle.
I'm beginning to see that animals are having the same problem, but they can't complain about it like we do. As an example, our Schnauzer,is more confused than either me or wife Hazel. Since becoming a member of the family, Mr. Vic quickly adjusted to our lifestyle. He knows when we get up, when we go to bed and that our Monday through Friday schedule varies drastically when Saturday and Sunday arrive.
He sleeps and relaxes in his cage in the kitchen until I get up. Then he will snooze until I get a shower. When I come into the kitchen dressed in clothes, he knows it's time to go outside and take care of his important business.
"Whiskers" also knows or senses when it's time for us to retire in the evenings. Sometimes, when he's had a busy day outside, chasing squirrels, birds or things that venture into our yard, he's ready to hit his sack before we're ready. His cage door isn't open during the day so he's found several places for his afternoon naps.
Victor still likes to "sleep in" no matter what day it is. On the weekends, it takes him even longer to wake up and even act like he wants out of the cage. Here it is going on the second week in November, and Victor is keeping his same DST schedule. And he's like the rest of us, I guess, in the fact it takes him a few minutes to get moving in the mornings.
Now wife Hazel and I are wondering just how long it's going to take our spoiled dog to realize that we have, indeed, changed our mechanical clocks and are working on our physical time schedules.
People are always saying, "When I get used to a time change, it's time to reset our clocks once again."
Oh well, sister Sandra in Arizona doesn't have that problem. That state doesn't change its time for any reason. How lucky can one get?