When most people think of great-grandparents, there is a perception of elderly, slightly demented people with mints and Kleenex in their pockets. They sit on the couch knitting or telling stories of the “good old days,” their pasts a delicious whirl of somewhat ordinary lives well lived.
Enter my Grandma Mooney.
I have talked before of her exploits. Her Vinegar Valentines, her sketchy use of Halloween masks to frighten a neighborhood boy and her subsequent lying about it to the boy’s parents. I won’t even get into the whole moth fiasco. There was an even deeper layer to Grandma Mooney (great-Grandmother if I’m being completely accurate), though, every bit as fascinating as the ones we’ve already uncovered.
Job opportunities back in the day weren’t quite what they are today, especially in the country, and when you have a houseful of hungry people, you do what you need to in order to survive and feed your family. I think, in times like this, bending the law a little is easily excused. And, in Grandma Mooney’s case, bending it until it broke was a way of life.
Grandma Mooney was a purveyor of frowned upon refreshments. Okay, fine, she sold and stored moonshine.
In the days of prohibition and the depression, moonshine was a profitable enterprise. In fact, it still is today.
Well, as the story goes, moonshine runners would drop off their inventory to Grandma Mooney – she’d sell some, she’d store some, she’d…well, never mind. The great thing about Grandma Mooney is she wouldn’t have needed an enforcer to help protect her shady business. Everyone around for miles was already afraid of her. So, there was some money saved on personnel.
To stock brew, this ingenious old lady had a special crawlspace in the floor of her kitchen that she used just for this purpose. No external storeroom fees or the inconvenient industrial spy to get rid of. I’m telling you, she had the whole theory of commerce locked down.
In fact, she had just one serious concern. Government officials. Cue the supervillain music…Dun-Dun-Duuuun! Oh wait. Grandma Mooney is the supervillain in this tale. Nevermind.
One thing about the government; it never changes. In search of their fair share – I mean violators, yes of course, violators – agents would wander door to door, foaming at the mouth in the hopes that they could catch someone with illegal contraband.
Normal law-abiding citizens would have no reason to be afraid of these visits, but Grandma Mooney wasn’t exactly a normal law-abiding citizen. I’m not sure she was ever afraid of anything, it just wasn’t in her nature. But knowing she would get into serious trouble if she were caught with white lightning, she devised a fiendishly clever plan to hide the storage space. And again, with the government being what it is, her plan went perfectly. Every. Single. Time.
Whenever these agents came to the house, she’d stick her youngest daughter Wanita, aka Neda – Needie to friends and family — into the bathtub, and put the bathtub over the crawlspace door. The bathtub, it should be noted, was basically just a large metal bucket that was used for baths, dishes, laundry, and anything else that required a large-ish supply of water.
She used this wonderfully creative plan repeatedly over the course of frequent government raids, and her secret storage space was never discovered. Ahh…government agents – the cream of the crop, the best of the best, the finest civil servants you can ever find. Yeah, right.
The government agents were never quite bright enough to realize that every time they paid a “visit,” Needie was in the tub. Now, I’m not sure if they thought Grandma Mooney was obsessed with cleanliness, or maybe they thought that Needie was simply a kid who enjoyed playing in mud and wrestling skunks – but whatever their thinking was, it never crossed their minds that Grandma Mooney was involved in the highest form of trickery and deception.
Maybe their money would’ve been better spent had they just put Grandma Mooney on the payroll as an agent.