Wednesday, February 6, 2013
By MORRIS STEPHENSON -
"Little Alvin" Tosh, a true biker if there ever was one, stopped by the my office in Bill Greer's building on North Main Street and placed on my desk a brown paper bag I'd seen thousands of times before.
Numerous brown paper bags resembling the one on my desk had been left in my vehicles over the years.
"What's that?" l asked him with a smile. "Something special for you," he answered, and brandy was the first thing to come to mind. "I brought it all the way from Tennessee just for you," he added with a smile.
Reaching into the bag, I felt what I instantly knew as a jar, perhaps Mason by brand name. Pulling the jar from the bag brought about a huge surprise. It had professional writing all over it and a special tag around the top. Sure enough, it was a Mason jar with three large X's catching my eye. Under it, were three lines noting "Tennessee White Whiskey." At the scrawling single line above the X's was the name "Popcorn Sutton."
Around the top of the jar, attached with a piece of twine, is a small cardboard tag featuring a mug shot of Popcorn with his ever-present cigarette clutched between his fingers. Inside the card is a brief history of Popcorn and the man he shared his famous recipe with before taking is own life, rather than serve 18 months in a federal prison. I won't write what's on the back of the little card, except to relate it says "Popcorn says...," with three X's disguising the curse word he often used.
All of the legal requirements are met with the small printing on the jar, including the fact that the clear liquid is rated at 97 proof.
Alvin, who posted a nice review of my book, went on to rave about knowing and hearing (on numerous occasions) 23-year-old Ali Randolph and the Outta Luck Band. She's written and sings a special song about Popcorn. Ali, a college graduate, wrote the song before Popcorn died and sang it at his memorial service. Alvin has a couple of CDs and will hop on his motorcycle to attend a concert even if it is several hundred miles away.
Alvin's gift was really appreciated and I decided to sit it on my desk for all to see.
Driving home that evening, I happened to think about an autographed fifth bottle of race car legend Junior Johnson's "Midnight Moon" that Steve Marsh, long-time N-P sports editor, gave me several years ago as a birthday gift. Johnson, a native of North Wilkesboro, N.C., signed the bottle before a big race at Martinsville Speedway.
As soon as I got inside the house, I went to the tallest cabinet, reached back and retrieved the unopened bottle. I returned to "Goldie" and carefully placed the fifth next to the jar.
The next morning, I had a bottle and a jar of white likker sitting in my office, both perfectly legal. But I had a little fun with Popcorn's product when I pulled into the Dairy Queen parking lot on Route 40 West. Spying Cecil and Geraldine Love's black Jeep in the lot, I slipped the Mason jar under my coat.
There sat the couple eating breakfast. It was only the second time I'd seen Cecil since he fell down the steps in his home about three weeks ago. He smiled as I walked in, disrupting a conversation with George Martin of Snow Creek.
Pulling the jar from under my jacket, I sat it right square in the center of the table, announcing, "Here, I brought us some lace for our coffee this morning!" "What do ya have, water in that jar?" asked Cecil. "Nope! It's 97-proof moonshine," I replied. With that answer, George picked up the jar and gave it the once over before commenting, "That's Popcorn Sutton's likker."
Many customers came up to talk with Cecil and ask how he was doing. Not a single one of them even noticed the jar, including David Arrington, president of AEI. In fact, I had to mention it before people even looked at it. Then I realized the liquid was so clear, you could see everything on the table without noticing the familiar brass-looking lid. "They must be makin' steam liquor 'cause black pot whiskey isn't that clear, no matter how good it is," said Cecil, the recognized expert. No one questioned Cecil's words of wisdom.