The rays of the sun glistened through the mist as it rose between the mountains, covering the landscape with a wet cloak. Squinting his eyes against the shimmering light, Andy Sturgil stood in awe of the morning's beauty. The dew made everything on the ground sparkle, and reaffirmed his belief that this was truly God's country. You could keep Chicago, New York; all of those big cities. Whitesburg would do just fine.
Whitesburg Kentucky was not a bustling metropolis in 1925, but to the people, like Andy, who lived in the region, it was the center of trade, law and information. The mountain people made infrequent trips down the slopes and out of the hollows to supplement their meager lives with the essentials; coffee, sugar, flour, and sweet wheat middling. Wheat middling was the chosen grain for feeding milk cows. Middling without salt was the main ingredient for White Lightning. If a man could make good liquor, and Andy did, he would also make an excellent profit. One jug of the precious brew had sold for forty dollars at the end of the war. A man just might get fifty these days.
On this particular Indian summer day, Andy journeyed toward the town and made a mental note of what he would trade for. He was in need of an ample supply of sugar and sweet wheat middling. The still was ready for use after the new copper tubing was put on, and he was eager to churn out the best supply of White Lightning in years. Andy knew that he had to find a new location for his still because Sheriff Turner was on a rampage. The law had already destroyed four of his neighbors' secret enterprises, and Andy knew that he had to be shrewd in choosing his new spot. He had finally decided on settling the still on a dry ridge, away from any of the mountain streams, and pipe the water to where it was needed. This would take more time, but the sheriff and his men knew to look for stills along the waterways. With the arrival of winter, the snow and ice would help to cover the pipeline.
A few meager jars of last year's supply were nestled in a knapsack slung across his shoulders. Old Man Tribbit had told Andy to bring him a few jars before winter set in. He would pay the going price. It would help in fighting the sickness that always came in the cold weather months.
Even Doc Handy was known to prescribe toddies made with Andy's brew for the croup. So great was his reputation that Sheriff Turner made it his primary goal to lock the brewer king up every chance that he could.
Andy's thoughts touched on Turner as he made his way down the serpentine path. The bottom of his trousers swayed heavily with his strides as they collected the dew from the dense grass and brush. Andy knew that the region's stills were a source of irritation for the sheriff. In Turner's eye, the mountain people had been living by their own code for too long. As the appointed law officer in the region, he was determined to make them respect his authority.
However, in recent weeks the war that was being waged on moonshiners, had taken a backseat to a special case, which had monopolized the bulk of Sheriff Turner's time. Lloyd Frazier had been found guilty of murdering a woman. Most people knew the kind of person Lloyd had been, quiet and kind of shy. Nobody really understood how he had been capable of such a crime. They did, however, know that Lloyd's mother had been jealous of the victim; they had been seeing the same man.
Annie Frazier had given Lloyd a saddle horse in return for the promise of getting rid of her rival.
It had been difficult to find an executioner to carry out the sentence. Men had resigned rather than be responsible for taking the life of the young man.
News of a hanging had spread quickly throughout the region. Whitesburg had never had a public execution and the subject was on everyone's lips. Andy was vaguely aware of the facts. He knew little of the family, although he had known Annie. They had attended the same small one-room schoolhouse as children. He had glimpsed the boy now and then through the years in town with Annie's father. The old man had loved the boy as his own, and unlike the rest of the family, overlooked Lloyd's illegitimacy. He had also fostered the boy's love of horses, and had promised to get Lloyd the finest mount possible. The promise had turned into a dream following the old man's death. Dejected, the boy looked to his mother for any kind of affection as he continued to withdraw from the rest of the world.
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