The tale has been around for many years – we heard it, others heard it, and everyone figured it was probably based to some degree on a true story.
Imagine our surprise when we found out that the legend was based on our grandfather (Frank Ratcliffe’s father Tom Ratcliffe), and that it happened on the family farm which is now a subdivision known as Highland Creek in Northeast Charlotte.
Our friend Harry Hoover, who is doing extensive research for us on our father just came across an article in the Charlotte News from 1920. The actual title of the news article is the title of this blog post; and we could not help but appreciate a little humor in the writer’s approach to the story. The article starts off “Hogs on the Thomas A. Ratcliffe farm, out in the Sugar Creek community, got drunk Monday afternoon…”
Apparently the astute law enforcement agencies in the area got wind of a still on the Ratcliffe farm. But when they arrived there was no still; only a trough with a little mash and beer (the “brew” from which moonshiners distilled their products) and a bunch of happy pigs. And therein lies the basis for what has become a legendary tale. The story has spread so far that a very talented artist named Daniel Eskridge produced a really great work of art titled “Drunken Pigs”; you can view it here. Daniel’s version includes the history behind the image, which he had heard through folklore. I think he was as surprised as us to find that the story was really based on a true incident!
So, if you were a moonshiner during prohibition, this is a lesson straight out of Moonshinin’ 101: What do you do when the Feds are coming? Answer: Pour the mash in the hog trough, grab the still and get the heck out of dodge!