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Out On The Mudline

Northeast Portion Of State Is Part Of Unique Appalachian Area

By W. P. Sissell

One of the things usually being over exercised at our morning Cardiac Rehab period is our vocal chords.

This past week it was a lengthy conversation with our former judge, Dennis Baker. His story brought memories of a morning long ago when Joe Stribling and I were involved in unloading a tractor at our ramp out by the barn.  

An official car (Quitman County Sheriff sign on the doors) stopped.   

The Sheriff immediately let me know that this was an official visit. “Bill, can you tell or show me how to get to the northeast corner of your place?  I have reason to believe that there is a still in operation there.”  I complied with his request easily—there was a turn row running almost to the exact spot for which he was looking.  

In a short time he stopped again with the still, to tell me there was a new, working, pitcher pump that I could go possess if I desired.  Many months later I saw the mechanism of another still hidden in the tops of a briar thicket in the dredge ditch close to that same area.  I thought nothing of it at the time, but that still (on my east line) was less than a mile from the Tallahatchie County line.

The Judge’s Story

The Judge told us about his younger days on the farm in the northwest corner of Yalobusha County, where they kept dairy cows as a part of their operation. When Kraft Cheese  opened a plant in Water Valley his father ran a milk route in that area of the county.  

In later years he and his brother, along with their wives, were visiting in the Appalachian Mountain area.  That area of our country was where the art of moonshining was introduced, primarily, by our Scotch-Irish ancestors who came to western Pennsylvania when they fell out with the British government. One moonshiner said, “I never gave an officer trouble except catchin’ me.”

The area is unique and our northeast Mississippi is a part of it.  Many years ago one of my cousins was coming from Birmingham for a visit, on a train that would come through New Albany.  I went with my dad (in our farm truck) to pick cousin  P. J. up at the train station in New Albany. Dad was questioned by several (I think three) men about his business as connected with the incoming train.   

Since the area that Dennis and Bobby were visiting was more or less the birthplace of corn whiskey in this country and it is sometimes reputed to have medicinal qualities, they decided to get Dad a pint of special corn whiskey.  They asked around and finally found someone who would supply the whiskey. As the sale was about to be consummated the man selling asked, “Where are you fellows from?”  When they replied, “Mississippi” the gentleman asked, “What county?”  At their reply, “Panola,” the man asked, “Is that anywhere near Tallahatchie?”  When they responded, “It’s a neighboring county,” the man told them that all the whiskey they had came from Tallahatchie County Mississippi.

We do hope that all of you had a great Thanksgiving. We did, although it was different.  You can still reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606 or 662-563-9879.

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