Friday, December 27, 2013

Johnny Burress, My New Hero

This was by far the most productive day.  We left for Johnny Burress’ house around 9am for our 10 o’clock meeting.  What a drive!  His gravel driveway is over a mile long and winds up through the mountains.  We arrive and meet Johnny and his wife Pat.  We sit in the living room for awhile getting to know each other.  At one point Johnny says he needs to go downstairs and make another sandwich because he didn’t know Laurel was coming.  The kindness these people show strangers is beyond me.

About 11am we climb in his Ford pickup and start driving along trails across his 300 acre property.  We drive to the edge, hop a barbed wire fence, and walk about 15 minutes to a small stream.  The location is about 100 meters from a large power line right-of-way (Figure 1 - location map coming soon).  Here we find our most complete still site.  There is a stacked stone furnace (Figures 2-3), metal pail (Figure 4), a barrel hoop, and dugout depressions were the barrels sat.  This site, SS-4JB, is a prime location for a future excavation.  Johnny tells us that he heard tale that it held a 100 gallon kettle and was in operation sometime in the late '50s early '60s.

Figure 1:  Location map (coming soon).

 Figure 2:  Horseshoe shaped stack of stones used for the still furnace.

 Figure 3:  Still furnace with one of the two metal rods used for structural support.

Figure 4:  Metal pail found on the streams edge.

Next we all went back to his house and had lunch.  About 1pm we set out for another still site that Mr. Burress knew about.  This one was off of Crawford Creek Road.  We had to park, walk around a locked gate, and hike up the road for about 15 minutes.  We then came to a branch off of Crawford Creek.  Before we walked up the trail along side this branch, Johnny pointed out were the moonshiner used to enter the area.  The edge of the creek where the water flows under the road has what looks like steps (or at least could serve as steps) (Figure 5).  He said this is where the moonshiner would enter the forest so as to not create a trail from the road and potentially be discovered by the revenue officer.

 Figure 5:  The moonshiners entrance to the still site.
Notice the stones on the far left that would serve as steps.

 We hike up the trail about ¼ mile and come to a cliff overhang.  Johnny is very disappointed because there is a giant tree that has fallen from atop the stone overhang, bringing with it stone and debris, and unfortunately covering up the still site (Figures 6-7).  I was curious as to if this was even the place, as there was nothing left.  So I looked down the steep incline for artifacts.  At the bottom of the hill, next to the stream I found a metal barrel hoop (Figure 8).  So, it looks like this was a still site after all (SS-5JB).  This is a great example of how quickly (approximately 50 years) a known site can disappear.

 Figure 6:  Tree fall from atop the cliff's edge.

Figure 7:  Tree fall landed directly on SS-5JB.

 Figure 8:  Barrel hoop from SS-5JB

We hiked back down the mountain and returned to the truck.  Johnny drove us back to his house and we exchanged a few stories with his wife, Pat.  Laurel and I said our goodbyes, promised to stay in touch, got in our Kia Cardboard, and drove to Asheville.  Again, we had a hard time finding a place to stay.  We ended up at the Clarion near the airport.  This was convenient since we needed to trade cars at National in the morning.

We went out for dinner at Pack’s Tavern and plan on another early night.

 Johnny Burress, a man's man

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