Monday, September 2, 2013

Bootlegging: Then and Now

1930 Model "A" Ford - Deluxe Fordor ...
1930 Model "A" Ford - Deluxe Fordor Blindback #170-B (Photo credit: Timothy Wildey)
Wending my way to Ellenburg, I run into an old friend, Sgt. Martin (or whatever you call the border guys). He sports Elvis-styled sideburns and a gun. Yikes. You know I stop, not because I'm an Elvis fan. We meet on a regular basis--either on Rt. 11 of 190.

 Fortunately, Sgt. Elvis isn't interested in me or what I'm toting in my suitcase. He's looking for drugs or aliens (of the earthling persuasion), and he knows this old granny doesn't fit the profile of a drug runner.

And speaking of profiles, Sgt. Elvis fits that of North Country law enforcement fighting the opportunism of a rural border which allows good to happen--like the runaway slaves and the Underground Railroad--as well as bad.

But my tale deals with Prohibition which became law on November 18, 1918, and according to Del Forkey in the Sesqui-centennial of Malone: 1802-1952, "...a complete history of this region's part in the 'dry era' would contain some rather stirring, blood-flecked pages, including everything in the rum-toting category from bootlegging and high-jacking to running gun fights through the streets of peaceful villages" (87).

Ouch. And Sgt. Elvis thinks we have it bad.

The bootleggers means of hiding booze aren't different from drug hiding today--in the woman's bloomers (which is why they grope us in airports), baby diapers, false doors in their cars. And they loved BIG cars (carried more Mountain Dew aka hootch). Some bootleggers became such good drivers they could spin the car around and then aim for the law officers. Or they'd use decoy cars--autos that would speed off in an opposite direction allowing the one loaded with white lightening to flee.

 I love this stunt the best. A bootlegger would get through the road blocks and then be hijacked by another bootlegger who now didn't have to face the 1920's Sgt. Elvis.

 These booze runners were depraved. One even went so far as to dodge rabbits skittering across the roads, but he'd aim his car at law enforcement officials.

 Forkey claimed most of the villains were outsiders like the infamous Mobster Dutch Shultz and Legs Diamond. I'm not so sure. Many arrested for drug dealing aren't native, but many are. And we must remember:
     What has been will be again,
   what has been done will be done again;
   there is nothing new under the sun. Eccl. 1:9
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