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The Biggest Moonshiner

by Betty M. Rafter


The personal story of the author's family--but really the story of many families during the  Depression, who resorted to making moonshine to survive... a memoir with local history, lessons learned from the destitute times during the Depression in South Florida. 


The Biggest Moonshiner is a tale of the sad, funny, and inspirational, hardscrabble life of the author and her eleven siblings growing up in the Glades of South Florida during the Depression. Their daddy Urbie Meeks is the biggest moonshiner on the East Coast, and their Mama Leila Meeks is willing to live through hell to keep the family together and stay with the audacious, fun-loving man she loves. While on the lam and hiding from the Feds, they sleep along roadsides and in abandoned shacks as they pick cotton and follow crops with migrants to survive.  Leila succeeds in keeping the family together in spite of these dire circumstances that Urbie calls "fun adventures."


Though the Depression is winding down in 1939,  it isn't for the Meeks clan. Urbie is apprehended and sentenced to five years in Atlanta Federal Prison, Leila is left to Fein for herself and six kids. She does whatever it takes to survive his time in prison and keep food on the table.. When he returns from prison, Urbie becomes a successful business man, but becomes a big-time gambler and abusive to Leila, and sometimes the kids. When he loses the family businesses and home  gambling, the family is left homeless. 

When a tragedy caused the death of Leila and her unborn child, the siblings struggled to work through a fog of pain, knowing they must put their anger and hate aside and forgive if they are going to fulfill their mama's last request to "Please get along with your daddy, and keep the kids together."  A mother's enduring love cannot be squelched with struggles or death. The echo of her voice leads the kids into adulthood, as  their daddy seeks their love and redemption. 


The Biggest Moonshiner is a story of the power of love and forgiveness, redemption, and triumph over hate and hard times. The author and her siblings gleaned strength and many life lessons from the turmoil and adversity of the Depression.

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