White Lightening Will Make You Smile

Which way will he turn?


Mountain mist



I been lacking in my post and I apologize to you. I been battling an old foe for the past few months—self-confidence. I am in the process of publishing my third full-length novel. This one was my first manuscript and has taken a great deal of work to bring it to publishing standards. I always fear for my children—my books—but this one is special. I’ll write more about it later. Oh, look! A picture of the front cover is on the left side of your screen.

I traveled to north Thailand with my wife, daughter and a friend to see the Long-Neck women of the Karen hilltribe. We drove through the beautiful mountains, around impossible curves with new wondrous scenes beyond every turn.

Mist covered rivers and slopes gave a primordial feel that we were traveling back in time. Bright clear sunshine and giant Teak trees casting dark shadowed gates across the road as if we were passing from realm to realm. There was silence in the car as we beheld the beauty of this trail into the mountains.

And of course I had to watch for the manic drivers coming from the opposite directions who gave no care as to which was actually their side of the road—Most invigorating.

We traveled off the main road near the village of Mea Hong Song that is nestled in a high mountain valley surrounded by majestic mountains. I drove up a small road high into the mountains just to see where the road led and saw a small turn off which I took. My wife wasn’t too happy about being in the middle of nowhere and very close to the border with Burma (Myanmar). What…, me worried? — I wanted to know.

I drove into a family complex of five houses. There were small contoured rice patties and small vegetable plots and it seemed peaceful enough. A few people came out to stare at us and I got out to speak with them. My wife locked the doors after my exit.

In my simple Thai—I actually have a country twang to my accent, which the farmers like—I asked if we could look around and see how they lived. Usually when I speak Thai to someone for the first time, the Thai’s look at me as if I were an alien from another world. Actually, I get that wherever I go. They’re just not use to a white guy speaking their language. I spoke to an older lady who had several children standing close by and she spoke and smiled and motioned for us to join them.

Mountain Slope

I think what really helped was not my language skills but my daughter’s friend, Roger, who is a giant of a man. Around six feet three inches tall, a strong body and a former Marine, Roger is impressive. The villagers were around five feet tall and were taken by this gentle giant.

I watched a young girl dipping out a mixture from a container and there was a familiar smell to it. I watched her carry the bucket over to a round iron pot that sat over an open fire and pour the mash in. I looked at the bamboo tubes that extended out about ten feet and saw liquid dripping from the end. It hit me with a smile. They were making Moonshine, White Lightening. I had never seen a Moonshine Still quite like this one but there was no doubt what it was. Many years ago, before my time, some of my family made and distributed White Lightening in the rolling hills of North Carolina. Ever hear of Thunder Road?

This was a different kind of Lightening—made from rice—so naturally I had to give it a go. Yep, 100% grain alcohol. These kind folks let us explore and ask question and made us feel at home.

Roger, the giant, found a tiny man chopping wood and took over the chores. Roger was raised on a farm and knew what real work was. He was a star!

Of all the friendly people I meet in Thailand my fondest memories are the people of northern Thailand. I asked one lady why everyone was so friendly and she told me that there were many people from Burma, Laos, the different hilltribes and of course Thais all living together. It was a must to be friendly.

As usual, for me, my hard drive with my older pictures is in one place and I am in another. I will find them and add them at a later date. I blame it on the Moonshine, lol.

I still plan on adding more pages to my blog for short stories, interviews and information about my books but like one of my favorite sayings goes: “I might not be good but at least I’m slow.”

21 responses to “White Lightening Will Make You Smile

  1. Ooooh, you’ve brought up so many memories for me. 🙂 The way you describe the snaking roads (and manic drivers!) is exactly the same in Jamaica. Going up the blue mountain, I was always very grateful to arrive at our destination: The Blue Mountain Café. They had excellent coffee! Glad to see you’re back and good luck with the writing. 🙂

  2. Thank you for your nice comments, Natasha. I love Blue Moutain coffee but have never been there. Anything to do with the mountains or the sea is high on my list of things to do. I have missed all of my friends and look forward to your next book!

  3. Beautiful story Dannie. It’s amazing the experiences we have, by just stepping out and saying hi, in whatever language we choose.

  4. I’m always amazed at how your post titles throw me off. I had no idea white lightning was moonshine. There are few times I’ve been drunk, and most of them involved sake, so I know rice alcohol and I do not mix!

    Thanks for sharing your story and making me want to take the next plane out of here for Northern Thailand again. I remember the area you describe well – right at the Golden Triangle – amazing place.


  5. When folks from the south ride the lightening it’s not always with electricity, lol. I’ve also had Thai homemade rice wine. Takes some getting use to.

    I’m very glad my post surprise you!

  6. I’m with Eden, I was expecting something from an electrical perspective after reading the title. LOL! Shows how much I actually drink moonshine. 🙂 I’m glad to see you posting on your blog again, Dannie. You always have something interesting to say.


  7. I’m not a big drinker of Moonshine– those who are tend to die young, lol. But growing up where I did most boys learned about Shine and Thunder Road. I was in my 40’s before I was let into the offical secrets of the family’s bit of involvement. My family was dirt-poor and welfare or any government help was something they would never choose.

    I’m glad to be back, Rob. Thank you!

  8. Dannie,
    I love your writing and this post certainly is no exception.
    In ’93 I returned to Vietnam, alone, just to discover if it was all that I held it in my mind to be. It was that and much more. From a standing ovation when I stepped into the terminal at Saigon, to instant bonding with my guide, a General with the Viet Cong, I found nothing but the highest level of hospitality and brotherly love I’d ever experienced.
    Thanks for triggering that old memory.
    I’m looking forward to reading your new book.

    • Thank you, Bert. Coming from you that is high praise indeed. I really do enjoy the books you write! I haven’t made that step yet and I live so close to Vietnam. I do meet Vietnamese people and Hmong tribal people here and enjoy them very much. People ask me if I’ve ever been to Vietnam and I say yes, but leave it at that. Vietnam is where I developed my love for Asia and its people so perhaps one day I will return. Thank you for commenting!

  9. Dannie, it is great how you write about this land you love. I will get there again one day. I love the term white lightening. It really evokes the imagination. There is this kind of tradition in so many places. In Ireland it is poitín ( potcheen )… moonshine – which is always of an extraordinarily high potency. Many good Irish brewers have blown them selves up literally in the making of such a substance. It links back in time to spiritual practice – the idea of spiritual ecstasy – in west Ireland we have Maeve – her name literally means mead – the sacred honey wine. Imbibing in mead was to imbibe in her essence. I think you had a brush with the mystical! Btw, I love the mountains of nth Carolina and I can imagine the days of moonshine….
    I love these stories Dannie, please keep telling them!

    • Thank you for commenting, Michelle. I really enjoy your wisdom and knowledge of Ireland and the old ways. I’ve always heard that whiskey was invented to keep the Irish from ruling the world. I think that might apply to the mountain people of the southern U.S. Many a Still have provided fireworks to entertain the wee folk. I may offer more stories of my family history but I may have to check with them first, lol.

      I also enjoy your ideas to make this a better world!

  10. Excellant piece! Thanks for letting us “tag” along in your exploring! I’ve been told that driving there is quite an adventure at times! It sounds very beautiful. Your pictures help but your words paint their own quite well too! Very good!

    • Great to hear from you, Virginia! Driving anywhere in Thailand is an adventure. It’s a lesson in what you shouldn’t do, but it is a must to learn the system. In the mountains your apt to meet anything from large trucks to road rallies, to farmers and their animals. It’s a really adventure, lol. Thank you for your kind comments.

  11. I read this at lunch yesterday and ran out of time to reply. So I came back and read it again. I never get tired of reading your stuff. White lightening springs up everywhere, doesn’t it? Must be an innate need in humans. Thanks again for this one.

    • Thank you, Kathy. In my family’s and many people back then it was a form of income. In early American history many farmers couldn’t get their gain and corn to market so they made corn liquor because it stored well and could be transported without damage. That and people are going to drink– no matter what, lol.

  12. So unbelievable the experiences you get to have here! Remarkable. Clearly your humbled by all of it, I can feel it in your writing. What a great way to put perspective on your own life, to make you realize how little we are in the scheme of things. I do have to say, though, I’d love to be a frog on a log when you, the tall skinny white guy, starts speaking Thai! They really MUST look at you like you’re an alien. 🙂 As a fluent signer, I’ll often stumble upon deaf people and start a conversation and they look at me like I just flew in on a saucer! 🙂 Great descriptions here, Dannie. Makes me want to visit. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Sean. A tall skinny white guy… who’s that? lol. It is always an adventure even going into a store to buy things. The young lady pushes by her friends to assist me stands almost fightened and I often have to speak slowly and tell them to look at my face and listen to my words. When they finally realize I’m speaking Thai, then it’s fun. I learned a few signs and it is very difficult. MY hats off to you, Sean!

    • Dorianna. So good of you to visit this post. I have lost something in my life and am trying to find it again. My muse has left me but soon I will travel back to my second home and hope she awaits me there. Thank you so much for visiting

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