from December 1, 2004
My claim to fame, when I was still up and kicking, was the fact that I took the art of begging off, etc. What my friends and admirers often forget is that during the Prohibition Era, I was also the owner and sole proprietor of Slack’s Still, which did a booming business back in Panhandle County from 1919 to 1933.
The official name of my unincorporated business was not, however, “Slack’s Still.” The original Panhandle County record lists “IV’s Store,” which was the name my ma, God bless her pious unurned soul, painted on the modest shop where we sold our goods. Underneath this sign she wrote, in her quaint, poetic style, “Candy Is Dandy.” And underneath, in smaller, almost illegible letters, the words, “But Liquor Is Quicker.”
Some years later, an eccentric poet wandered through Panhandle and jotted down these last seven words, without asking permission. Some more years later, after IV’s Store had gone out of business, courtesy of the Twenty-First Amendment, these words appeared in a poetry book as a single poem under the pen name “Ogden Nash.” Naturally, Ma and I wrote a letter to a big-time lawyer in the nearest town, asking him what recourse we had to this clear case of copyright infringement. Imagine our disappointment when the lawyer wrote back advising that we “let sleeping dogs lie” and enclosing a bill for $50.
But I digress. Visitors considered us a candy store. Which we were, in part. Our specialty was all-day suckers.
The other part of our business was located in the back of the shack. When an informed customer entered IV’s Store and bypassed the small box of the those delectables and headed directly into the back room, he or she would join the small group of other men and women with similar tastes, sit around the pot-bellied stove, and pass the time of night. The sole proprietor would then sneak out the back door with a kerosene lantern, head for the large sand dune abutting his property, and poke a stick around until he hit something, which inevitably turned out to be a bottle of a custom-made potent potable. When he stole back into the nether region of the store, money would exchange hands. The customer could then either share his purchase with the small crowd or take it home, at the risk of making permanent enemies.
Speaking of risks, there wasn’t much of it in that era. My daddy, Orville Slack III, a regular in the above-described back room, was the Panhandle County sheriff.
Fact is, when he wasn’t checking up on the competition and turning them over to the Feds, he was my podnuh at our private still.