Saturday, August 19, 2006

Bush Pardons My Dads Moonshinin' Buddy

In the late 1960's James Ellis Mason, my dad, stood before a federal judge after finally being brought in by the revenuers.

Mr Mason. You were caught with 600 pounds of sugar. What were you doing with that much sugar son?

Making wine for my personal sir consumption.

Mr Mason, you can't expect me to believe that. That much sugar would make a lot of wine.

Sir, I like wine aweful good.

The judge didn't buy it and my father became a felon on the federal charge of conspiring to violate liquor laws. Some called it 'moonshine', we called it 'white lightnin' in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North East Georgia. It came in plastic milk jugs and was potent enough to sting your nose just smelling of it. I heard the story about the judge and the wine a million times, just like I heard about how he got married to my momma and then ran a load of liqour so he could take her on a honeymoon. I never got tired of hearing those stories and I wish to hell I could hear one right now.

Just a few minutes ago I was watching Lou Dobbs (like all insomniacs do at 3:00 am) when I saw a message on the ticker that made me sit bolt upright. It said

Deliverence actor Randal Deal pardoned by president Bush for moonshine charges from the early 1960s

Yes, Randall Deal had a small part in Deliverence, it was filmed in my hometown. From this article:

In the movie he plays one of two brothers who encounter the characters from Atlanta played by Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronny Cox and Jon Voight who are lost looking for a river for a canoeing trip. Deal quips: "It ain't nothing but the biggest fuckin' river in the state."

When the movie premiered in Atlanta he took his mother. "She was a religious lady," Deal said. "I told her, 'They lied to me. They dubbed that line in there. I didn't say that.' "

He isn't an actor though. He's a good ole boy from Rabun County Georgia. He quit drinkin' and makin' liqour eventually and for the last 16 years he has worked for the Rabun County Sherriff's Department. He was one of Dad's best friends. I have known him as long as I can remember. His nickname is 'Big Deal' and Dad always had more respect for him than I can tell you. I bet dad told me that story about Randall taking his mom to see Deliverence a million times. I always remember Randall as a kind and good man and he has helped me out of more than one jam. I owe him a lot and I think Dad always felt like he did too. The help that Randall gave me was out of respect for my Dad. Dad would have said 'Big Deal is good people'. Randall is 66 now, one of the last of a kind.

When reached by a reporter Wednesday afternoon, Deal said somebody had called yesterday telling him he got the pardon, but he had not received official word.
"I had no idea it had been granted," said Deal, cooking dinner. "Well, whoopee. I wanted to go out with a clean slate."

No one has ever deserved a pardon more than Randall Deal. I am very happy that he got it so when his time comes he can go out with a clean slate. It makes me think of my Dad and all the stories he used to tell me about runnin' moonshine in the southern Appalachians. When I read this article on, I understood that Randall might have been thinking about my Dad too:

"There isn't really much of that around here anymore," he said. "In fact, I was thinking here a minute ago, and I believe practically everybody I helped [make moonshine] is dead."

I wish to God that I could hear one of his stories right now.


david said...

Holy cow - what a story! When I read about this earlier on, I remembered our discussion a few weeks ago in Helena.

granny said...

I'm sorry he's not around, how long has he been gone?

Shane C. Mason said...

When I was 18, in 2 more years or so that will mean 1/2 of my life.

Randy said...

I love the story.
You're a lucky man to have such precious memories of your father. Make sure you pass those stories on to your children so they understand what a great man your Dad was.