Modern Day Dooley

•May 5, 2009 • Leave a Comment


I remember very well
The day ole Dooley died
The women folk looked sorry
And the men stood round and cried
Now Dooley's on the mountain
He lies there all alone
They put a jug beside him
And a barrel for his stone.

To say that Popcorn Sutton was odd would not be fair to the moonshiner. He was a strange old man. I have never read his book or sampled his product, but I met Popcorn Sutton at his home six months before he died.

I was working as a production assistant for a film crew. They were in town to shoot Johnny Knoxville interviewing local characters, and Popcorn was one such character.

At the time, Popcorn had not yet been sentenced on his conviction of felony possession of a firearm and illegally brewing spirits. He lived at the top of a hill inCocke County and best as I could tell he kept to himself.Of course he was on house arrest when I met him, only allowed to leave the property for certain occasions such as doctor visits. I just didn’t get the feeling he went around bothering people before he got busted.

Popcorn had already purchased his casket and plastic flowers to go on top. There was a child’s casket in his front yard he said was a beer cooler. It was about 4-feet long, white and has little rails on the sides. He told me as we were leaving that I was the only woman who ever had her picture taken with him he hadn’t kissed. I’m still not sure if he was congratulating me or looking for a hand-out.

Johnny Knoxville hit the nail on the head when he described Popcorn as ribald. That day we learned about things we could have gone the rest of our lives without knowing. You can check out for the interview with Johnny Knoxville.

He had a collection of rusty artifacts from San Quentin State Prison, a guest house and an estranged daughter. He also, apparently, liked his women large and had a healthy appetite for pleasing women. He even showed us the sex stirrups in his bedroom.

But underneath it all, it seemed to me at the time, he had finally developed a fear of the law.Popcorn had only done what he knew how to do: make moonshine. And he didn’t care who knew it. He was regularly asked to demonstrate at fairs, and other historical reenactments. Reportedly, he ran more than just water through the still at one demonstration, if you get my drift. And being arrested four previous times kind of put a target on his back.

For whatever reason, his fifth conviction was the one that made him decide to clean up his act. Too little too late, the ubiquitous “they” say. When we were visiting with him that day Popcorn said, “I just hope and pray they don’t send me off.” Of course, he was speaking of going to prison. He never would have survived had he gone. Popcorn chain-smoked non-filtered cigarettes, drank Ensure for nutrition, and although he claimed his liquor was clean, I’m sure the years of homemade brew had taken a toll.

In March, Popcorn received a letter instructing him to report for his 18-month sentence. He was to report on Friday and was found dead on Monday in his car.

Ultimately, it seems as if he lived as died the way he wanted. Strangely enough, the foot-marker for Popcorn’s grave was sitting in front of his house when I was there. Appropriately, it read: “Popcorn said f*** you.” Well said, Popcorn. Well said.


Here goes…

•May 5, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I guess I should be thankful I wasn’t a prolific blogger before, because I’m not able to transport my content from one blog to this one like the website suggests. And II used to be so happy with Google until this and the fact that Chrome is down about every other day. Dammit.