Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Days of Beer 4: The Second Oldest Profession. That is…Bootlegging

NOTE: I'm posting this because it was already written, but after that I won't be posting for a few days, and won't have time to visit blogs, I'm afraid. Some critical family issues have come up that have to be taken care of.

Days of Beer Post:

I went to Arkansas Tech University for my bachelors. My buddy Steve went too, for a year. It was a little over an hour from home. One night, while sitting around with a gang of friends and some perfectly serviceable beers such as Miller and Natural Light (which I had a small crush on at the time), a couple of my friends developed a Coors thirst that could not be satisfied even with pure water.

Now, at the time, (the late 70s), Coors could not be legally sold in Arkansas because of some tax issue. The closest place to get it was Oklahoma. These…friends of mine promptly got in their car and drove over two hours one way just to get Coors. The proverbial “Light Beer” went off over my head, and Steve and I soon went into the bootlegging business.

Where we lived was only about forty-five minutes from Oklahoma and we both went home most weekends to see our girlfriends. We spread it around to folks we knew that we might just happen to pick up some Coors while home, and did they want any. We had plenty of takers, so Steve and I started taking a Saturday night or two a month to head over to Oklahoma, where we would stock up on 10 to 12 cases of Coors for which we’d received orders for.

An added bonus was that the drinking age was only 18 in Oklahoma, but 21 in Arkansas. So we’d go over, get the Coors we wanted to sell into the trunk (along with some real beer for personal use), then hit the bars for a while before coming home. Monday evening would see us delivering our case load to our clients.

Of course, there was a substantial markup on our part. But that was only fair considering the risks. And they weren’t insubstantial. If you were 21 you were allowed to have two six-packs of Coors in your possession in Arkansas for personal consumption. Anything over two six-packs was considered intent to deliver and would cost you $60 per can.

Four buds of ours from our hometown ended up paying just that kind of cost. After seeing Steve and I having success with our little business, they decided to get in on the action for their own universities. But while they had the idea, they didn’t have the strategy. They drove across the Arkansas River bridge into Oklahoma, stopped at the first beer joint they came too, loaded up about 8 cases, then turned around and drove straight back. The cops stopped ‘em right off the bridge and it weren’t a pretty result.

When Steve and I went we bypassed the first few joints along the highway and found a place further removed from the main drag where the police were less likely to be watching. Then we bought the beer but just left it in the trunk while we hung out at the bars for a few hours. And we always took a different route going home than we had coming in. The result was that we never got stopped.

Only a few years into my bootlegging career, I hung up my cash clip. I assure you that it had nothing to do with Coors becoming legal for sale in Arkansas. Profiting off of other folks’ bad taste for beer just began to stick in my craw. So, you could say I gave it up for moral reasons. Yeah, I’m just that kinda guy.


Next: Beer Days go International

42 comments:

Demon Hunter said...

LOL. Wow, Charles. The entrepreneur even back then. LOL.

Travis Erwin said...

Enjoyed the tales from your past. I've been too busy to visit so now I'll have to go back and read the others.

Chris said...

Hope everything's ok and look forward to your return, Charles!

Christina said...

Wishing you a well and hope that everything is okay.

Cloudia said...

Hope everything works out for you folks!



Aloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

X. Dell said...

(1) To this day, I hate Coors. But I suppose it tastes okay if you don't care what you drink.

(2) I'd figure you'd be too smart to fall prey to the smokies so easily. You'd have made a great spy.

(3) I'm sorry to hear about the critical family issues. My best wishes to you and yours for the best possible outcome, whatever that is.

sage said...

Glad to hear that you don't think Coors is a good beer--I had one on my first flight west, that cured me. Good story--there were plenty of areas in NC that were dry and a few extra six packs could always be turned into a profit.

Blessings upon your family. You'll be missed around here, but go where duty and blood calls.

Barbara Martin said...

Everyone has something interesting in their past.

Good wishes on your family issues, Charles.

G said...

Great story and I hope everything turns out okay for you and your family.

L.A. Mitchell said...

I hope all is well, Charles. We'll be thinking of you.

Cinnamon said...

Hope all's well in the end Charles.

Steve Malley said...

Friends don't let friends drink Coors. Just saying.

Good luck with your family crisis.

Erik Donald France said...

Good one. 19-20 year olds dash over the bridge or through the tunnel from Michigan to Windsor, Ontario, where the drinking age is 19, mass quantities of beer. The smarter ones stay overnight or have a desginated driver. The more reckless often get nabbed trying to cross back.

Hope all turns out okay -- good luck!

ivan said...

Smokey and the Bandit.

Barrie said...

Love this post. It's great getting to know you better.

Randy Johnson said...

The best for you and your family. Things will work out.

Greg Schwartz said...

not a bad way to make a buck. hope your family issues get resolved.

Gaston Studio said...

Hope all is well; take care of your family.

BernardL said...

Well thought out supplemental income. :)

Ocean Girl said...

Hope it is not too serious and everything will be okay.

laughingwolf said...

hope your family stuff gets painlessly resolved, charles...

fun beer runs, you guys did it exactly right!

cs harris said...

Funny how different things can look when you're young. I think about some of the things I did back then and shudder.

Hope all goes well with your family. We missed you on Monday night.

Lana Gramlich said...

My ex did much the same w/cigarettes in Canada. When they were $7/pack, you could get "knock off" brands at the Indian reservation for $3/pack. Eventually too many people started doing that, so the gov't gave up & lowered the tax on cigs...at least for a while.

Michelle's Spell said...

Hey Charles,

Hope everything is going okay! I'll send good thoughts your way for the family stuff!

benjibopper said...

I admire a man who takes the quality of his beer seriously.

Hope things are OK on the family side of things.

jennifer said...

This post, and especially the ending, made me laugh.

Concern and prayers for your family Charles as you all face your issues.

Ello said...

I hope you and Lana are alright. I'll be thinking of you and wishing you all the best.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I think it would be easier to sell marijuana.

the walking man said...

Hope you and yours are all well Charles.


Bootlegging beer? Man you westerners really do things different.

jodi said...

Hey Charles, these stories are really cool. You've been around the block, dude. Cheers! 64 of course!

SQT said...

Hope your family stuff is going okay. I've been dealing with my fair share lately too. It must be the season for it, I keep hearing from other people who've had the family issues rearing their ugly head.

Miladysa said...

Take care!

Charles Gramlich said...

Thanks everyone for the good wishes. I will post today about the issue. Glad you enjoyed the Days of Beer post for today.

Mary Witzl said...

Brilliant. I'd have loved to try this: the thrill!

I've just finished Bill Bryson's 'The Thunderbolt Kid', and it too has a great beer story in it. Bill Bryson's buddies went in for wholesale larceny, though; you were more of a businessman.

Travis said...

I never did any bootlegging, but I did do some contributing. I made several hundred bucks one summer buying beer and liquor for friends of mine. We'd take it up to a cabin in Twain Harte CA and have a good time.

Not only did I make money, but I never paid for a buzz that whole summer.

I hope all is well with the family.

Wil said...

I could tell that you are a pillar of morality. And the series continues! Have you thought of making this into a book, short stories perhaps?

Wil Harrison.com

Charles Gramlich said...

Mary Witzl, that was probably my best effort at being a businessman. I've never done as well since.

Travis, you sound like the fellow who used to buy us the schlitz!

Wil, Maybe I should just publish it as my autobiography. If I could keep some humor throughout it might be OK.

Sphinx Ink said...

I think you just admitted to a number of state and federal crimes there, dude! Fortunately, however, the time limitations for prosecution probably expired years ago. Probably.... (Cue Dragnet music--dun da DUN DUN!)

Rachel said...

It really is better to introduce people to better beer than it is to keep feeding them the crap beer. Beer proselytizing!

Charles Gramlich said...

Sphinx, I suspect all the evidence was long ago consummed.

Rachel, my sentiments exactly. Now!

Rachel said...

hee!

Charles Gramlich said...

Rachel, :)