He wrote a book called me “Me and My Likker” and was one of the last, if not “the” last Appalacian moonshiners. His real name was Marvin but he got his name from busting up a popcorn machine with a pool cue at his local honky tonk.
” You might say he embodied a kind of Appalachian archetype, , a character trait of fearlessness and fierce loyalty to regional identity even in the face of personal persecution,” said Ted Olsen, a local writer.
He was a mountain moonshiner, a caricature of himself who wore a long gray beard, faded overalls, checkered shirt and a feathered fedora.
In 1990 he was asked by the Governor to make a custom still for Tennessee’s Museum of Appalachia. Irwin told him to run only water through it when the visitors came, but when thousands of visitors showed up, including the Governor, Popcorn had brewed up some sour mash and got the entire audience hammered, according to the Governor.
He was facing a sixteen month sentence for making moonshine and because he owned an unlicensed gun, He had a pine casket in his bedroom that he bought years ago and a pre-made gravestone that said “Popcorn said f— you.”
On Monday his wife came home from running errands and found him dead in his old Ford from carbon monoxide poisoning, she said “he couldn’t go to prison, his mind just wouldn’t accept it.” She said he was the most gentle man that ever walked the face of the earth.
I read this this morning and it moved me because I am a lover of tradition and things from the past that can never be reinvented or recreated. I also thought of all the cretins that are arrested for “firing” guns while at the same time being hip deep in illegal drugs and walk on a third offense. Too bad. See you on the other side Popcorn.