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L’Ectrique. “Struck By Boogie Lightning.” Reflection Records CBL 128, 1979.
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multilingual, many-layered world of colliding and overlapping
cultures: Kingston's tricksters are railway workers and Berkeley
beatniks; Erdrich's tricksters go to Jesuit schools, play bingo, and
eat Slim Jims; and Morrison's tricksters bootleg liquor, drink
Evian, and model for Elle. Though each author draws on a spe-
cific tradition, their tricksters revel in the hazardous complexity
of life in modern America.
Relatively little literary scholarship to date has looked across
cultures toward lines of contact and intersection; few works dis-
cuss specifically the links
x i x
I was born, quite inappropriately, in Nassau, Bahamas. My father was
engaged in bootlegging at the time. My parents are both Scottish and
my father’s father was head forester on a Scottish estate. While still
small I was sent home to boarding school in Scotland, but then my
father, having lost all his money orange farming in Florida, returned
to Scotland, and I went to live with my parents in Glasgow. When the
war began in 1939 I was evacuated to the country, and this was the end
of my formal education; I spent most of my time fishing in wee burns
by the mid-1930s had become quite
popular both as medicine and as a religious sacrament, used in ceremo-
nies where peyote priests would openly decry the evils of whisky. At times
their condemnations of whisky inspired violence against local bootleg-
gers, a few of whom were killed in confl icts with peyotists. As one might
expect, this raised the ire of the Navajo bootleggers who dominated Bluff
City and the area around Four Corners. By 1936 the bootleggers and
peyotists were openly warring with one another, a confl ict that saw boot-
legging wiped out on
. Bootlegging was common
among both blacks and whites in those years. Whites frequently crossed
the color line to purchase liquor from blacks. Not surprisingly, the Collins
brothers were well-known sources of illicit alcohol among the whites of
Mineola. Some older whites in Mineola, who do not want to be named even
a half-century later, can recall buying a bottle of moonshine from Son and
Itsie Collins.54 Sheriffs usually turned a blind eye on bootleggers, especially
if they got a cut of the profits. When arrests were made, white juries in Wood
County were reluctant
economy. Following the introduction of
Prohibition, Shaw moved her own business enterprises into bootlegging by
exploiting her brothels’ underground passages to move and store booze.27
But even with her prime location in the central city, her operations were
isolated from organized crime. Shaw encountered renewed police raids and
faced charges of violating Prohibition laws.28 Her declining status as orga-
nized crime’s faded queen became evident when she was the victim of a
$32,000 jewelry heist in 1921 and when she was fined $500 for violating
. Its rural markets regularly attracted
pickpockets and horsethieves who plied their trade or sold its fruits, not to
mention smugglers, swindlers, forgers, and bootleggers. According to one
former justice of the peace, "Our winter bazaars and summer markets are
places where petty thieves find the greatest freedom. There they pick pock-
ets and steal goods for domestic use for which they otherwise would have to
spend money."17 Larger markets served as sites where lucrative frauds might
be attempted. At the start of 1916, for example, a Voronezh peasant showed
Prohibition agents to obtain court injunctions to close
for up to one year places where liquor was illegally sold, stored, or produced.
Persons who manufactured, transported, or sold illegal liquor, known as
bootleggers, could be fined up to one thousand dollars (at a time when an
average nonfarmworker made less than fifteen hundred dollars per year) and
jailed for six months for a first offense, with larger fines and longer jail terms
for subsequent offenses. Liability was imposed on anyone selling intoxicating
liquor for the results of intoxication, including actual and
- quality, lower- priced ice cream, to their lines. In Los Angeles, the
standard pint sold for twenty cents; the lesser one was fifteen. In Boston,
the standard pint sold for fifteen to thirty cents while the cheaper one was
ten to fifteen cents.5 When customers complained that the ice cream was
full of air, some states passed laws prohibiting more than 100 percent
overrun or requiring a minimum weight per package.6
The Depression also gave rise to ice cream bootleggers. They provided
lesser- grade ice cream to retailers who sold it from refrigerator cabinets
interpretation of the law. Th ere is further complication by
the winter hibernation of hundreds of Mexican beet-fi eld workers in the city.
To them boot-legging is not a serious crime.
“We believe,” writes Mrs. Anna G. Williams of the Denver Social Service
Bureau, “that while rum was a great disturber of domestic peace, it was but a
minor cause of poverty. Prisoners in making application for parole used to state
that they were intoxicated at the time they committed their crimes. Among the
poorer families statistics show greater savings and a higher standard of living