When I first heard about this ethanol-in-the-gasoline thing, I headed over to Raccoon Holler to talk to Zeke Calder. Ol' Zeke is the biggest ethanol dealer I know. He provides all the hooch for the Long Branch - the biggest dang speakeasy in this end of the State. I wondered if he was going to get in the blended gasoline business. This is what he had to say:
He pointed to a stack of galvanized drums, copper tube and fire brick he had stacked in the weeds behind his current still....er... ethanol plant.
"You betcha!" he said, "I'm fixin' to go into the biznez beg time. I'm a gonna keep this here still runnin' for the folks at the 'branch, cuz they bin my good cust'mers all these years, but them thar new stills is strickly gonna be for the big refinery downstate. I reckon they's gonna need all I can make, and I can name my price, cuz they ain't nobody can produce a finer batch o' likker than me. Here, take a swig and see for yourself."
He proffered the jug, but I had to refuse. Zeke understood.
"Yeah, I 'member the last time you had some over at the 'branch. You woke up nekkid in the back of Mary Lou's truck over in shantytown. Did you ever find yer britches?
"Anyhow, I'm a gonna go lejitimut once this gets to rollin, 'xept for what I sells to the 'branch. I'm a tradin' these overalls in for a suit and tie, they got a real nice one over at Wal-Mart for $75. Imma gonna be a real biznez man, I tell ye.
"Im a gonna send my daughter, Daisy, off to that cumunitee college to get some book larnin'. I reckon thar'll be some guvmint forms to fill out and all, and I'll have her do it fer me. I'll have to pay her, I reckon, I'm sure they's some kind o' union rules or sumpin 'bout that. Did you ever get hitched up? She'd make a fine catch, once she gets cleaned up and gets some larnin' and a payin' job.
"Anyway, things is looking up. I'll be makin' good money. Daisy'll be set for life, what with all that larnin' and money and all. I reckon she'll have to beat the boys off'n her with a stick. Well, maybe not, she'll maybe just let 'em pile on her, same as always.
"Everbody'll be happy. Gas'll be cheaper, We'll be richer, the holler'll be a thrivin' biznez park. Course the folks at the branch'll be fussin' a might, since the cost o' hootch'll go up. Competition and all, ya know."
I hadn't though about that conversation in quite a while, since the ethanol thing didn't really take off after that. I read the link BigJon posted, and saw that ethanol is the big thing again, so I took a drive back up the holler.
It took some searching, but I finally caught up with Zeke, living in a cave along the river. After a little coaxing, I lured him out and we walked back to where his stilll ...er... ethanol plant still stood, although it looked like it had suffered a minor setback. Zeke dug through the broken pile of stoneware, finally producing an unbroken jug. He uncorked it, took and swig and offered it to me. He showed a slight smile, the first I'd seen since I caught up with him, as he withdrew the jug and took another swig. He pointed to the remains of his production facility.
"Revenooers" he said. "They raided the 'branch a few months ago. That good-fer-nuttin' barkeep told 'em I was supplyin' the likker, so they came over here and smashed the whole operation, even the new stuff I had over there." He pointed to the now-overgrown weed patch that hid the remains of the drums, tubing, and firebrick I had seen on my last visit. "I been hidin' in that cave ever since. They been watchin' my house ever since the raid.
"The guvmint done give a whole bunch o' money to the folks what run that big grain elevator over at Shantytown. They built a big fancy inside still - I ain't never seen nuttin' like it. Truckloads o' corn roll in there all the time, and shiny trucks o' hootch roll it over the refinery downstate. You can't even get 'em to sell you a jug o' the stuff, the refinery gets ever drop. Just as well, I reckon, I hear the stuff ain't fit to drink, but that's the kind o' crap the refinery wants. Reg'lar folk like me, what been makin' quality hootch all their lives, ain't got a chance.
"That pig farmer's boy, Newt, he got hiz self a high payin' job there, even though most o' the pigs his daddy raises got more sense than he does. He bought hiz self a new furrin' pickup truck and come a callin' on Daisy. Went and knock'd her up, too. Now they's got a young 'un, named her "Toyota" on a counta that's where they made her. Got another on the way, too, so she ain't a gonna go that thar college like I wanted. Not that I coulda paid fer it now, no how.
"I'll tell you what. It's all a big ol' con-spear-a-see by the guvmint and them grain elevator folks. The mayor over at Shantytown, his daddy's on the board at the grain elevator, and his cousin knows the gubnor real good. They's a puttin' cheap hootch in the gas, and the price is a goin' up. And them refinery folks is a gettin' richer all the time. Us hard workin' men, we ain't gotta chance. That's what I say. You want a swig?"
So there you have it. Govenment conspiracies, high level connections, and rising gas prices. It's all right there. Rumour has it that the mayor over in Shantytown is a Republican, too, although he runs as a Democrat since they haven't elected a Republican there in almost a hundred years. Just ask Zeke, if you can find him.
Last edited by Shapley
on Thu Sep 28, 2006 11:45 am, edited 1 time in total.
Quod scripsi, scripsi.