The Legend of Buck O’Hairen.

Below is my attempt at piecing together a chronological narrative of Buck O’Hairen’s life. Some of it seems a bit Paul-Bunyan-esque and outlandish, but then again I wasn’t alive in the 1800’s or an Appalachian moonshiner. Here’s what I could gather from the writings…

~ Buck O’Hairen was born in 1837 near Boonville, North Carolina (pop. 1,217 in 2011).

~ He grew up on a farm and then became a moonshine distiller along North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains in the Civil War era. He learned how moonshine was made during a visit to the farm of Bluford McGee in Wilkes County, NC sometime around 1850.

~ Buck didn’t have many friends because he didn’t “trust no one.” He was especially paranoid about federal tax agents or revenuers and had a feisty pet raccoon named Trigger to scare them off.

~ He drank moonshine often in order to test his product, so I’d assume he was intoxicated a lot. And anywhere he went, he had moonshine on hand that he’d give to wayward war vets and other hillbillies.

~ Buck played guitar almost every night until he “sang the stars to sleep.”

~ Berries, leaves and insects were of a particular interest to him. He catalogued a number of items indigenous to the Blue Ridge Mountains as if no one else had ever seen them.

~ Other than making moonshine, Buck regularly dreamt up new drink ideas.

~ When the Civil War ended, many southern moonshiners moved west in search of land or gold. The few moonshiners that opted to stay, as Buck did, saw demand for their “likker” grow.

~ By late 1873 and with multiple still sites in operation, Buck reached production volume of around 60 gallons of moonshine per day — a herculean feat at the time.

~ In the autumn of 1874, one of Buck’s stills in the Pilot Mountain region burst into flames causing a fierce wildfire. To make matters worse some of the drunkards in the area tried squelching the blaze with O’Hairen’s 180-proof moonshine. The fire raged until “on the third day, a thunderstorm from heaven” put out the inferno.

~ O’Hairen was booked on suspicion of arson charges and released without being charged. Regarding the incident he pondered: “After moonshine and rain, what follows?” He scribbled one word, “Sunshine,” below.

~ Several months after the wildfire, Buck started traveling throughout the southeastern states selling a drink he cooked up called Sunshine. It was free of grain alcohol but he bottled it in mason jars to attract moonshine lovers.

~ Much like the traveling medicine men of the day, Buck claimed Sunshine would do something extraordinary in that “It’ll fix yer mornin’ right! matter your affliction.” (Got this from a newspaper clipping tucked in the journal.)

~ Between 1875 and 1892 a number of entrepreneurs tried to buy their way into his business. Buck chose to go it alone.

~ A portion of last journal entry on July 29, 1892 reads, “You ain't never gonna catch me, never gonna run me down, ain't no one gonna find me underground.”

~ I’ve searched the web and public records for a death notice, with no luck — all I can do is guess his lifeline was 1837 to Sometime-After-July-29-1892. Guess they didn’t have milk cartons back then.