The creation of moonshine is an Appalachian tradition that runs deep into the culture of the Hatfield-McCoy feud country, Pike County, Kentucky. Known by many names, such as “white lightning”, “mountain dew” and “hooch”, this form of whisky was used for recreation, to nurse illnesses and to soothe suffering. Although frowned upon by many in “Bible Belt” Appalachia, the lack of quality employment paired with huge underground demand for whisky was too tempting for moonshiners to resist. The moonshiner’s condition is best described by Tommy Lee Jones’ character Doolittle Lynn in the popular movie “Coal Miners Daughter” by saying, “If you’re born in Kentucky you’ve got three choices; coal mine, moonshine or move it on down the line.” While this is no longer the case in progressive Pike County, Kentucky, this sentiment was very much true during our county’s history.
Moonshining is a dangerous business that requires great skill and cunning to be successful. Being notoriously illegal, half of a moonshiner’s work involved evading the law. Deadly shootouts have been known to result from the law’s relentless pursuit of moonshiners. It is also worth noting that many feudists from the Hatfield-McCoy feud were moonshiners, with Johnse Hatfield being indicted and arrested on moonshining charges during feud era. The moonshine still itself can be dangerous in the hands of a novice, and the moonshine produced can be contaminated if crafted in a poorly constructed still. While the illegal creation of whisky is still very much a concern for Appalachian law enforcement, our moonshining heritage is something we celebrate, as it is a fundamental part of what shaped Appalachia into the colorful and unique culture it is today.
Every Friday and Saturday, beginning at 11:00 a.m., Breaks Interstate Park, located on the state line between Pike County, Kentucky, and Virginia, offers a wonderful presentation on the heritage of moonshining. “This is a great activity that shows visitors how moonshine was created in the olden days. While they’re there, they’ll take in breathtaking views of the Breaks’ 1000 foot canyon, enjoy a brand new water park, and stroll through some of Kentucky and Virginia’s most beautiful hiking trails,” says Tony Tackett, Pike County Tourism CVB’s Executive Director. “Like wildlife, culture is best viewed in its natural habitat,” says Jay Shepherd, Pike County Tourism CVB’s Marketing Director. “Our region offers a unique and authentic glimpse into Appalachian culture and history that museums from outside the area can only dream of.”
This presentation would be a wonderful addition to your Hatfield McCoy Feud Tour getaway. Experience something different on your vacation; experience unique Appalachian hospitality and heritage. Contact Pike County Tourism CVB for hotel and Hatfield McCoy Feud tour reservations, (800) 844-7453.