Life on a farm seven decades ago was all work and little to no cash on hand. My ancestors had fruit and vegetable farms. After feeding their families, the remainder of their crops were sold on the market for enough cash to pay property taxes, water assessments and to purchase the few store bought goods that entered their homes.
Bartering was common place. Farmers would trade services, extra crops, blacksmithing and labor with each other in lieu of cash trading hands. However, farm hands had to be paid cash money from the meager resources the farms produced.
Families made their own entertainment. On occasion, the men in the family would get a hankering for a liquid escape from the harsh reality of their lives.
Sometimes loose dollar coins would be liberated from the cookie jar to buy hooch. The rest of the time, the grains, fruit and potatoes needed for homemade brew, would be reassigned to a quiet corner of the potato cellar for future use.
The family recipe for homemade beer has been lost to the best of my knowledge, but at least one story has survived.
It seems that when the men made their first batch of beer, the yeast they used was not the exact variety called for in the recipe. After hours of hard work, the fresh brew was put in glass Mason jars on the selves of the the fruit cellar under the home.
The temperature in the cellar was perfect to let the fermenting do its work. The guys checked the bottles frequently in anticipation. In the week before the brew was to be finished, they noticed that the color wasn’t quite right. Sitting around the kitchen table that night, they wondered if they had a problem.
Well, they didn’t have long to wait for the answer. Bang! Whoosh! “What was that?” Bang! Bang! Whoosh! Whoosh! More noise coming from the basement. Before they could gather their senses and jump up from the table, the room was filled with a strong smell seeping up through the floorboards.
Rushing outside, around the house and down the basement stairs, their worst fears were confirmed when they threw open the pine-slat door. The floor of the basement was covered with liquid, foam and broken glass. They had missed the liquid fireworks show but the evidence proved it had happened.
When the first jar let go, it bounced so hard that it hit the jar next to it. The energy was transferred in rapid sequence to all the adjacent jars and the resulting release of bubbles from the bumping resulted in a full launch of the whole batch.
All of that work gone. Maybe store bought is best for some things.
The thirst for hooch has fortunately skipped this branch of the family in current generations. We don’t even have as many stories to tell from misadventures, but we wouldn’t give up the stories from the past. Without them, how would we know much of anything about the personalities of our ancestors?
Old time entertainment often produced greatness. Enjoy the stories and fiddle playing greatness of Tommy Jarrell.
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