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Date:8/22/2014 12:42:04 PM
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Pa Truckey and Moonshine, Part I
My Pa was born in 1909. By the time he was 11, Prohibition was in effect. The Eighteenth Ammendment made it illegal to sell alcoholic beverages, but not to possess and consume it. For a young man in rural Wisconsin with only an eighth grade education in the 1920's, making moonshine was the only way to make money. Even during the so-called boom of the 1920's, rural America lagged behind. President Calvin Coolidge was quoted as saying, "The business of America is business." Less known was his other quote, "Farmer have always been without money." In any event, Pa found it expedient to work for a bootlegger in the 20's. His "employer", Tom Burdick, operated a still halfway between Stiles Junction and Oconto Falls near the railroad track that served Oconto Falls, Stiles Junction, and Oconto in Wisconsin. At night, Tom would use a "requisitioned" handcar to tote the moonshine to Oconto. From there, paid-off railroad conductors would see to it that the hooch would make its way on to the crime lords of Chicago. There was one popular story that poor Tom was once forced to operate his handcar at optimum speed in order to out-pace an unscheduled freight train traveling along the same route.
Splinter Crick starts at its source at the Great Lena Swamp around Spruce and meanders east of Oconto Falls down to Stiles, joining the Machikanee Flowage just west of the village. The crick carved out a gulch some one hundred yards in width, exposing several freshwater springs along its path. Pa had told me that as many as half a dozen stills were operating along Splinter Crick in the '20's. Even as a teen-ager in the 70's, when hunting Splinter, I could see the hollows in the banks of former still sites. Even today, on a walk down by Splinter you could locate a number of springs bringing clear, cool water to the crick. The isolated nature of the crick, with its cedar swamps and thick tangles of pines, spruces and oaks, along with pure spring water, made it a good place to make 'shine. Its proximity to the railroad at its middle stretch made it easy to transport down to Oconto, although the two-rut tracks to the creek at its lower end also gave evidence of transport by simple Model T's.
More about Pa and moonshine next time. --Gary
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