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Monday, May 4, 2009

DADDY MOONSHINE (POPCORN SUTTON)

Daddy Moonshine by Sky Sutton
Northhampton, Ma – 2009
$28.00 – 156 pages

If it’s got testicles or tires,
It’s going to give you trouble.
-sign above Sky Sutton’s kitchen door

To tell you the truth, when I read that some woman claiming to be Popcorn Sutton’s daughter was publishing a book about her legendary father, I was openly skeptical. Following Popcorn’s suicide on March 16, 2009, I surfed thorough a lot of sites on the internet where I encountered an astonishing number of references to alleged relatives (sons, wives, ex-wives and lovers) - all who were frantically working on their “personal recollections” of this colorful and fiercely independent man. The odor of shameless greed and b.s. hung in the air like the stench of a dead and/or offended skunk on the Interstate.

Well, I was pleased and a bit humbled to discover that Sky Ann Sutton is the real thing. Born in Cocke County, Tennessee and currently living in Massachusetts (where she earns her livelihood as a New England historian), she grew up as the only daughter of a single mother. Sky readily acknowledges that most of her information about Appalachia has been gleaned from her mother’s Foxfire books. Even though her attempts to talk to her father (by phone) were disappointing, she was readily accepted by a host of Popcorn's relatives, so she maintained contacts with all of them. As a result this book is filled with old photographs, marvelous yarns and testimonials of love.

Of course, none of the messages are from Sky Ann’s father. “Marvin Sutton and I have never been formally introduced,” she says. “I’ve been known to call myself Rumpelstiltskin’s Daughter because if my father ever met me, he’d have to guess my name.” In evaluating her “paternal relationship,” she wryly concludes, “The only thing I was sure of was that my father had washed his hands of me.”

As a consequence, Daddy Moonshine resembles a scrapbook more than a biography. However, it is one hell of a scrapbook, filled with perceptive insights, hilarious anecdotes and poignant memories. There is a priceless collection of photographs and some of Popcorn's raunchy stories would be at home in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Much of my empathy for Rumpelstiltzein's daughter is due to being an abandoned child myself (a father dead and a mother who left me on my grandparents' front porch), so I sometimes sensed other emotions lurking beneath the surface of Sky's narrative, including anger and frustration mixed with a powerful need for acceptance from her "lost family." (It is also an acceptance that, regardless of how often or how freely it is given, it will need to be repeated again and again.)

Potential readers should be aware of a singular fact. Daddy Moonshine was written before Popcorn's death. Indeed, Sky's manuscript was at the printers when she received a "text message" on her cell phone. Sky immediately contacted the printers and informed them that she needed to add a few pages. That final section became a moving eulogy to the father she had never met. Quoting a woman named "Becky," Sky concludes Daddy Moonshine with this quote:

"There's no way of telling how many times Popcorn Sutton went to town and, quietly and anonymously, paid the light bill, the doctor bill or the drugstore bill for someone in dire need. He paid for several funerals, too, and left more than a few boxes of groceries on front porches in the middle of the night. Helping somebody wasn't something he did for praise or thanks, it was something he did because that is what a man's supposed to do. Do you suppose there is anyone who will do the same now that Popcorn's gone?"

12 comments:

  1. Thank you for lifting my name above the "odor of shameless greed and b.s.." :) Much appreciated! You gave me a start when I saw that you'd quoted the sign in my kitchen. Who's been in my kitchen??? Oh, nobody- simply someone who's done their research- phew!
    Anyone interested in ordering "Daddy Moonshine" can send requests to: Sky Sutton, P.O. Box 331, Northampton, MA 01060. Please address checks to Sky Sutton and include the address you'd like the book sent to. Allow 2-3 weeks for delivery.

    And I'd like to express my gratitude everyone who has sent such thoughtful sympathies to me and mine. Thank you.

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  3. This was really a great post Gary! Sky came on Vicki Lane's blog one morning when we were debating his legal troubles and we both told her we'd buy the book, so I best get my check in the mail. See you on Friday!
    Carol

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  4. Great review, Gary. I knew it would be well-written from the samples Sky had posted, but this is a hell of an endorsement. And that picture on the front of the book made my head spin.

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  5. While I've had some problems with Popcorn, I also know that he had many good points too. My father drank himself to death and I have that same type of longing for a relationship with a father that I'll never have and also the realization that he taught me a lot of lessons about the good and the bad in somebody you love and that can help direct your choices in life.

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  6. I guess this is now on my must read list. I'll take the steps to make it part of our local town library as folks in our little NH mountain town would appriciate this tale

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  7. I want to taste some of popcorns whisky how do I get it

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  8. Popcorn wanted nothing to to with the author. She is a kernel he shot one night that's it...

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