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.”

The Long Neck Girl and the Tiger

I spent last week in total solitude, except for the rare visit from the tiny old man who takes care of my dogs when we’re not there. There’s a big difference in being lonely and being alone.

I have a small place where I go to finish a manuscript or prepare a book for publishing. It’s by itself and surrounded by rice fields, cows and beautiful birds of every size and description. I often walk with the dogs during the day to take a break from writing and editing and I always have my bamboo walking stick to chase away other dogs, snakes and giant lizards. Through the growing season rice changes to every color of green until it turns golden when ripe. It’s very pleasing to the eyes. As I walk my mind wanders to the wonders that surround me.

My wife, daughter and I went to the far north in Thailand on one of the visits my daughter makes to see us. I had told her about the Long Neck women from the hilltribes and she wanted to meet them.

Northern Thailand is mountainous and covered in massive Teak trees and fields of beauty. On one of our stops there were sunflowers that are grown for seeds and oil. It was true beauty to see rai (a rai is about 2 acres) after rai of giant flowering sunbeams.

We stopped in Chaing Mai, a large city along the Ping River, nestled in a valley bordered by giant mountains. Chaing Mai is a beautiful city and well worth the visit.

The next day we took to the mountains and went through 1864 curves to Mea Hong Son. I know that’s how many curves there are because I have a tee shirt to prove it. Each winding turn along the way was filled with birds, trees, rivers flowing through valleys and steep mountains. It’s also dangerous because Thai still drive crazy no matter the terrain. I spent over six hour on the edge of my seat trying to avoid making us all hood ornaments so by the time we arrive in the sleepy town I was exhausted. I recharged quickly as I looked around. We were completely surrounded by lush green mountains and the people were so friendly. In Mea Hong Son we slept in small bungalows to the quite sounds of the mountains.

I love north Thailand. They speak a different dialect but also speak traditional Thai with an accent. These were my kind of people. Their slow drawl was easy for me to understand and they overlooked my tonal mistakes. I love them.

It was so cold at night, me and all the Thai’s were bundled up with whatever we could find. My daughter looked at me like I was crazy. It was 58 degrees—something I never thought possible in Thailand.

I got direction to a Karen hilltribe village—not one that all the tourist go to but a ‘real’ village. For once the directions were quite good and we arrived far back in the mountains at a quaint village. There were tourists there but not in great numbers so we walked the few narrow streets and visited with the people selling their wares. I had seen a few pictures of the Long Neck women and thought there would be a couple on display and everyone else would be ‘normal’. I was wrong. Now not every woman had those brass rings but many did. Me being me- I jumped right in to talk to them. Julee hung back in case spears started flying or in the case of the Karen, crossbow bolts, but everyone was so nice. I talked to one young girl who spoke English, German, French, Thai and of course Karen. She and other women had traveled all over Europe for cultural events.

I spoke Thai because I just couldn’t get over so many people understanding me. She had a child of about 6 months who was a delight. She let me look at her neck thingy and even brought one out for me to hold. To my surprise it was a solid piece of brass that hinged in the back and very heavy. She showed different lengths which were changed out to increase the length of one’s neck.

I was shocked to find out that after increasing the length so much the older women couldn’t take theirs off because their necks wouldn’t support their head.

The young lady had a cloth stuffed inside the fixture because of the cold. I ask why they wore them. She said it was a sign of beauty, part of their culture and for the tourist money from taking pictures and buying trinkets. I had read that originally these brass pieces had been used to protect the young girls and women from tigers. Tigers go for the neck when they attack prey. She said it was true but there hadn’t been any tigers around for a long, long time. I must say this young woman and others I met that day were some very delightful people.

If ever you get a chance to visit Thailand and go to the north you really should make the trip to Mea Hong Son. You could spent a long time in north Thailand and not see all it has to offer, but the people are the true wonders there.

I hope you enjoyed this little encounter with some of the reasons I am a writer in Thailand. I will write more of my visits to the north.