By: Garland Davis
He was awakened about three in the morning by the sound of his dogs barking, car motors running, and car doors slamming. He could hear talking and the sound of someone giving orders. He saw the flashing of red and blue lights reflecting off the trees in the front yard. He was at the tobacco barn down behind the house….curing out the last of this year’s tobacco.
It was a raid…looking for white likker. He was glad that he had hidden his stock yesterday. He fumbled around for the pint bottle he had been drinking from last night to make sure it was empty. A good swallow left in it….enough to get a man twelve months on the Road Gang. He screwed the cap off and poured it into the rain barrel at the corner of the barn, threw the empty bottle into a tobacco sled, and began moving toward the back of the house. He just hoped that the twelve half gallon jars hidden in the wooden box under the hog pen slop trough was safe. He could only hope that Old Ben from Stokes County had picked up the other twelve gallons from the culvert down by the creek.
A deputy sheriff came around the house, stopped and called his name asking, “Theodore, how ya doing’? We’re lookin’ for white likker. We hear tell you got a load yistidy. The shurff’s in the front and wants to talk to ya.”
“Ya heered wrong,” he answered, shaking his head. “They ain’t no likker around here. I don’t take no truck with people brangin’ no white likker around here.”
“Well, the shurff wants us to look around. I see smoke from the barn. You curing a barn of ‘bakker? Kinda late aint’ it? Must be the last pulling o’ the year.”
“Yep, low grade leaves, might be worth a little. Hit ain’t been too good this year. Not ‘nuff rain then too much rain. No good year fer bakker. Lookin’ fer better nex’ year.”
The deputy, thanking his wife for talking him out of farming tobacco, said, “Well come on up front, tha sh’rff, hisself wants to ask you some thangs ‘bout that likker run you got yistidy.”
As he followed the deputy around the house, he thought to himself, “The sheriff himself is running this. It must be getting close to election time. He is looking for, either, a big bust or a big campaign donation.” If they found the likker, it would mean eighteen months on the road gang. If they didn’t, it would probably mean two or three hundred to his re-election fund.
As they turned the corner and started across the front yard, he could see Ernie Wiles, the rotund sheriff standing in the headlights of a car talking to a group of deputies. He remembered pictures of a slimmer Ernie when he was a star picture for the Boston Baseball Team. After he got too old to play, he came back to North Carolina and ran for county sheriff, a position he had successfully held for almost thirty years. The people in town were talking about naming the new baseball stadium after him.
“Thidore, boy. Come over here and talk to me.” The sheriff said as Theodore walked across the yard.
“What kin I do fer ya?”, Theodore warily asked as he neared the Sheriff.
“Thidore, how’s bidness these days?”
“Tha t’bakker bizness’s not too good this year. Not anuff rain at tha start a tha year and too much at tha end.”
“Boy, ah’m not talkin’ bout t’bakka. I want ta know how tha white likker bidness is doing. A ole boy told us that ya got a big drop off here yesterday.”
“Sumbody is telling ya wrong. They ain’t no likker anywhere round here. Like I told Stanly there, I don’t take with nobody branging any a that stuff ‘round my propity.” He said.
“Well, boy. I got a paper here signed by Judge Ledbetter saying that I can take a look around. If you got any likker ‘round here, it ud a lot easier on ya if ya told us ‘bout it up front like. Save my depties plunderin’ through all yer stuff.”, The Sheriff said, watching closely for reaction.
“I jist ‘membered, Shurff. There is a little bit of bonded in the kitchen that my Ole Woman was using to dose the youngin’s colds last winter.” He replied to the question, drawing a glare from the sheriff.
“All right boys.”, the sheriff addressed the deputies. “Let’s git at it. Me an Thidore’ll set up here on tha porch. Ya’ll got yer radios. Jist give me a holler when ya finds it. Thidore, do ya got a chew of t’bakka. We might as well set up here and chew some and talk a little politics.”
As the deputies started around the house, the dogs started barking and making runs at them. The Chief Deputy said, “Wait.” Came back to the porch and said, Thidore ya better call them dogs off or one er more of ‘em’s likely to git shot.”
The sheriff said, “Thidore, go put ya dogs up fore some of them gets hurt. Then come on back here and keep me company.
He followed the Chief Deputy around the house calling to the dogs to get into the dog lot. He corralled all them and locked the door, making a mental note to build an underground hiding box under the dog’s water trough. The deputy watched as he walked back to the front of the house.
“Thidore, where ya wife ‘n younguns? I don’t see them around and Billy Ray said that ain’t in tha house.” The sheriff asked as Theodore rejoind him on the porch.
“My woman’s mama is bad off and they went down east to tha Sand Hills to see her. Ah’m sposed to go soon as I git this barn a bakker cured and packed down. Looks bad fer her Mama. I reckin I’ll be goin’ to a funeral.”
“Tell your woman that she has my condolences. That time comes fer us all. Thidore, tell me true. Are my boys going to find anythang or do I have em jist wastin’ time.”
“They ain’t going to find anything, Shruff. I told ya they ain’t no white likker around here.
The Sheriff started at him for a minute, then picked up his radio, and said, “Cancel tha search boys. They ain’t nothing’ to be found around here. I do believe we got some bad information, boys. Yall go on back to patrol and thank ya fer the effort.”
The sheriff and Theodore sat on the porch, leaned back on to the rear legs of the chairs and watched as the deputies made their way to their patrol units and drove away. The Chief Deputy walked to the Sheriffs’s car and waited. The Sheriff heaved to his feet and said, “Well I guess I’d better be goin’. Elections is coming up purty quick. I hope I can count on ya for support.”
“I’ll drop a envelope off at ya office to hep with yer re-lection.”
“Don’t bother with money. I got all tha financin’ I need. I got to have a few parties tho. Two er three gallons at the usual place would be helpful.”
“I’ll see what I kin do”, Theodore said as the sheriff walked toward his car.
“You do that”, the sheriff said as he reached the car. He opened the door, paused and said, “By tha way Thidore. How are ya pigs doing this year?
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A native of North Carolina, Garland Davis has lived in Hawaii since 1987. He always had a penchant for writing but did not seriously pursue it until recently. He is a graduate of Hawaii Pacific University, where he majored in Business Management. Garland is a thirty-year Navy retiree and service-connected Disabled Veteran.