Day 270: Still Spirits

Laetitia and her group moved south toward their destination—Fayetteville, in the northwest corner of Arkansas. Located in the Ozark Mountains, Fayetteville is home to the University of Arkansas, which is noted for its national championships in track and field events.

As their bus drove through the wooded hills of the Ozarks, Laetitia and her group stopped at a country store for ice cream cones. The hamlet in which the store was located also contained a few houses, a church, a filling station, and a blacksmith shop, but had no sign announcing its name. The store looked like something out of a time capsule. In addition to the usual grocery items such as canned goods, flour, sugar, and cereal, it had horse harnesses, a glass case full of guns from the era when gunstocks were still made of wood, and rock candy. Across the street, under a shade tree, was a bench upon which sat a number of men in overalls and straw hats, who were whittling. As she ate her ice cream, Laetitia, always on a quest for limerick material, moved close enough to hear what they were saying.

They were talking about bootleggers. The word “bootlegger” comes from the practice of hiding liquor in a flask in the leg of a boot. Since things that are hidden are often illegal, the meaning of the term has broadened over the years to include not-quite-legal things in general, but in Arkansas, it is generally applied to the practice of making and selling distilled spirits without a license, thereby avoiding the necessity of paying whiskey tax. Even though Prohibition was repealed in the 1930s, the existence of many dry counties in Arkansas and the remoteness of the Ozark Mountains encouraged this illicit cottage industry. The men were talking about a bootlegger they knew or knew of who was rumored to drink more than he sold.

In Fayetteville, Laetitia and her group visited the botanical garden and then moved on to their lodging for the night. At dinner, Laetitia presented the limerick of the day.

Said a man who lived near Fayetteville
In defense of his sour mash still
“Although bootleg whiskey
Is awfully risky
I can’t afford Beam or Bushmill.”