Chapter 1, long or short, your choice

“Hawthorne’s southern mountain twang spins a yarn rooted in historical fact as moonshiners evolve into NASCAR legends. Family survival becomes hot business. A great read.”

Bob Wells, Georgia


“My favorite part was Chapter One with the humorous courtroom recitation of the history of the Scots-Irish immigration to northern Georgia. Who knew the truth could be so much fun?”

Bobbie Davis, California

(read the full chapter at or read an excerpt here.)




Duncan McLagan stopped dead still. Other than the black locust wood crackling under the cooker and the bees buzzing in the mountain laurel, there was no other sound for miles through the quiet Georgia hills. The voice didn’t have a threat in it, but the gun pointed at his chest told a different story.

“You’re Duncan McLagan, that right? I’m Homer Webster. I’m a federal agent.”

“I know who you are, Homer. Glad you put your gun away. Was you plannin’ to shoot me?”

“Naw, the gun’s mostly for show. We’re just gonna bust up your still and then we’re gonna take you to jail.”

By the time it was all over, the sun was beginning to set and it always got dark on the backside of the mountain first. Homer sized up the situation and looked at Duncan. “It’s gettin’ late and there’s no sense in takin’ you to jail now. You go on home tonight, but be at the courthouse by 9:00 tomorrow.

Almost every moonshiner Duncan knew was sent to “build days in Atlanta” sooner or later. It was just part of doing business. Besides it was his first offense, so maybe he’d get off easy.

Finally, Federal Judge Edwin Dunbar got things underway and they got around to the case the audience had been waiting for. Homer Webster presented his evidence. Then the judge called on Duncan, who unfolded his six-foot-three frame and faced the judge. “Mr. McLagan, this is the first time I’ve seen you in my court. Now I know, that you know, that moonshining is illegal. You’re known to be an intelligent man, so why do you persist in this activity? It has taken us a while, but you knew eventually you’d get caught.”

Duncan straightened his suit coat—which had clearly seen better days—and took a deep breath. Mattie knew that Duncan wasn’t accustomed to making long speeches unless it was absolutely necessary. Like everybody else, she wondered what he was going to do.

 “Judge, when my kin came to these mountains, they packed those feelings—along with their knowledge of whiskey-making—and brought them all to the New World. I have to admit we’re a cantankerous lot and we don’t suffer fools gladly. My early kin firmly believed that anyone associated with the gov’ment was, by definition, a fool,” he smiled slightly. “Of course we don’t believe that so much anymore.

The judge tapped his gavel to get Duncan’s attention. “Mr. McLagan, I appreciate this little stroll through ancient history, but what—if anything—does this have to do with making illegal whiskey?”

“I’m about to get to that part, Judge. We don’t hardly ever need foldin’ money. “But…” Duncan took another deep breath. Mattie was in a mild state of shock. She couldn’t remember Duncan using that many words at one time in her whole life.

“But,” Duncan continued, “when it comes to payin’ our property taxes, then the gov’ment says we gotta have cash money. That’s where moonshine comes in. Now, Judge, you may not know this, but I got six boys and I keep them busy moonshinin’. If I can’t do that, they’ll get bored with nothin’ constructive to do and who knows what kind of devilment they might get up to. The long and the short of it is, I feel it’s my civic duty to continue to make shine for the peace and prosperity of Dawsonville and this entire county. I thank you.”

Duncan bowed and sat down. The audience laughed, rose to their feet and gave him a hardy round of applause.

“Since this is your first offense, or at least the first time you’ve been caught, I’m inclined to be lenient,” the judge said.” If I let you off with a caution, do you think you could refrain from making illegal whiskey?”

Duncan knew what he should say, but the momentum of his speech and the sweet sound of the applause temporarily robbed him of all reason. In his most sincere voice he said, “Judge, I could promise to do my best, but to tell you the honest-to-God truth, I just don’t think I can give up moonshinin’. I’d feel too guilty.”

The courtroom broke into laughter again. And so it was, that in the Year of Our Lord 1940, Duncan McLagan was sentenced to a year and a day to be served in the Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta.


/* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman","serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;}

Add a Comment

(Enter the numbers shown in the above image)