Sunday, June 28, 2009

Mahala Mullins Redux

Excerpt form The Moonshiners
By Henry M. Wiltse, 1895

Betsy [Mahala Mullins -- see note below] is a moonshineress, and despite the vigilance and the bravery of Uncle Sam's gallant army of revenue officers, she will remain a moonshineress, no doubt, so long as she is able to pour a drop of liquor out of a keg or a demijohn and count the price of it.

She keeps open house all the year round, and extends to the officers as well as other people a cordial invitation to visit her whenever it suits their convenience....She could not be taken out of the house without taking the roof off and hoisting her out with a derrick; and a derrick could not be taken there for the purpose, for she lives way up on Newman's Ridge, more than three miles from the nearest spot at all accessible with team and wagon....During the greater number of her waking hours, she sits upon a low bed, resting her feet upon the floor, a cask of the "contraband" always in reach from which she supplies the necessities of any who honor her with their patronage.She once sent her compliments to the judge, with the information that she would like to be arrested and taken to court, so that she might see him and something of the world before dying.

This gross woman (six hundred pounds gross) whose body measures nine feet in circumference, whose manners are as coarse as her physical organism; who violates law, defies officers, makes daily traffic of the "dark beverage of hell," is not without a spark of sentiment, a trace of those finer human impulses and aspirations which reach out toward the divine. Once every year, she causes her huge bulk to be transported to the cabin window, from which can be seen the graves of her five sons, every one of whom died tragically, and from this spot she watches the decoration of those graves with extravagance of beautiful wild flowers.

Note: Mahala Mullins is called Betsy in some sources. This may be related to the fact her husband had a sister named Betsy.

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