I never did like to live in college dormitories, so when I was attending Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas, I lived in a boarding house near the campus. It was a large two-story frame house with eight rooms upstairs, and one large bathroom. Our meals were prepared and served to us in a large dining room down stairs. As a 19 year old freshman in 1955, this set-up was about as good as it could get.
One of the students there was a few years older than most of us “human debris” freshmen. I noted that he always seemed to have a lot of spending money, and he drove a nice car. He was from up around the Tyler, Texas area, near the oil fields.
One sunny day, several of us guys were playing forty-two, which is a Texas game played with dominoes. This fellow stuck his head into our room and asks, “Anyone want to go for a ride with me?” That was like asking a hungry dog if he wanted some Alpo. So, several of us piled into his vehicle, and we took off headed south.
Driving through Lufkin, 20 miles south, was not unusual for a pleasure drive. However, when he turned on to highway 94 toward Apple Springs, a little red light went off in my brain. Let me explain.
Nacogdoches and Lufkin were in “dry” counties, that is, no alcoholic beverages were sold. However, Apple Springs was in a “wet” county as soon as you crossed the Neches River into Trinity County. There were numerous liquor stores and night clubs all along the highway going into Apple Springs.
My little red light was correct….we were headed to Apple Springs and the liquor stores. We stopped at the very first store, and the driver told us, “Just stay in the car. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” He came back with several paper sacks of wine and whiskey. “Here, put these bags on the back floor board between your feet and keep them there”, he orders us. I was really getting nervous by this time.
We make several other stops with more sacks of liquor being added to the floor board between our feet. Finally, I said, “Hey, we need to stop this and get back to the boarding house.” By now it has dawned on me that this fellow was making his money by buying liquor, then selling it on the college campus at a high profit. In other words, he was bootlegging,
and I was an accomplice!
Finally, we headed back toward Nacogdoches with our load of contraband. I could picture the headlines in our local newspaper – “Local Boy Arrested For Bootlegging”, and my father was a county official..! I was really wishing that Scottie could “beam me up” immediately.
He was driving rather fast, and started to pass a car in front of us. It was then that we noticed the red spotlight and antenna on the vehicle. Surmising this to be a police car, he eased off the gas and pulled back behind the car. I could see the officer looking at us in his rear view mirror. To our horror, the patrol car pulled off on to the shoulder of the highway, and let us pass. Then he got behind us and began to follow, observing us closely.
The driver yelled, “Boys, if he pulls us over, start throwing the stuff out the window!” So, I was prepared for the worst. However, a minor miracle happened. The officer never pulled us over. He followed us all the way to Lufkin where we made some quick turns and lost him. Apparently we were saved from hard jail time.
As you might guess, I never again took a ride with this fellow. Looking back, I should have turned him into the authorities, but I did not…..something to do with being a part of the pack and you do not “snitch” on a member of the pack. I have often wondered what happened to this young man who made me an “accidental bootlegger” for several hours. I have a feeling that he may have had an encounter with the legal system at some point. We know what the Bible says, “Be not deceived. Your sins will find you out.”
THE ACCIDENTAL BOOTLEGGER
BY: NEAL MURPHY
107 Hemlock Street
PO Box 511
San Augustine, TX 75972