Mica Peak Moonshiners and Our Legacy of Resourcefulness


This Sunday, the greeting time after worship turned into a debrief session on the article in the Spokesman Review. Over and over again I heard people say; "What you guys are doing, that's how we used to live." The farmers explained, "Back then all of our practices were sustainable and organic." Some of the older women told me about how they used to go on root cellar tours in the Fall, admiring each other's bounty of canned goods and root crops. One of our outdoorsmen invited me to go hunting for Turkey. The season opens on Tuesday. I've never been aware of opening day for turkey, nor have I ever fired a gun, but I just might take him up on his offer. It doesn't get much more local than that.

One comment from a parishioner really grabbed my attention. As we stood outside the church soaking up the sun, I commented on all the snow on Mica Peak, and he said, "You know, you used to see lantern lights up on Mica Peak at night." Curious, I asked for more information and he explained, "It was the moonshiners. In the 1920s people used to have their distilleries up there." I guess they call it moonshine because they did their work by the light of the moon.

There is something compelling to me about the image of a Valley filled with darkness and distant flickering flames working there way up the trails of Mica Peak. It's an image of resourcefulness. That's the image that stands out to me in the midst of all these conversations. We have a strong legacy of resourcefulness. When the conditions of life demanded it, our grandparents and great grandparents rose to the occasion and figured out a way.

The owner of Northwest Seed and Pet summed up for me a question I have about this legacy of resourcefulness. I asked him over the weekend how he thinks the economy will effect business and he explained that in past years a down economy was good for his business of selling seeds, plant starts, and gardening supplies. People were compelled to grow their own vegetables, instead of buying them in the grocery store. But he wondered aloud, "The older generation is passing on and I don't know if the new generations have the skills to do that?"

That's a great question. Is this kind of resourcefulness, finding our way together in the midst of shared challenges, a lost capacity in our communities, or is it just dormant, waiting for conditions to arise that demand a creative and collective response? Do we have the ability to rise to the occasion, or are we a fragmented to the point of no return. I have my suspicions, but I wonder what you think.