Appalachian Food Pap

Cherry Bounce


“Old man Amos stands treetop-tall in mountain folklore. He made his name and his fame with a concoction called Cherry Bounce.

It was a mixture of corn whiskey, honey and cherry juice. One good slug before breakfast and a man would spit in a wildcat’s eye.

When Amos Owens settled in here 130 some years ago, cherry trees covered the mountain. They were so lavish that folks named the mountain for them.

He built himself a house of stone on a spur near the top of the mountain. It was three stories. He kept his mules on the ground floor. He and his family lived on the second floor. His bee gums occupied the third floor.

When his crops failed in 1845, he turned to a craft his ancestors had practiced in the peat bogs and green hills of Ireland.

He took up blockading.

And he came up with a blend of whiskey that brought folks streaming in to his rock castle from miles around. He called it Cherry Bounce.

In time, he got the reputation of being the masterest distiller in all the hills. He made corn whiskey and brandy and picked his cherries for more than fifty years. And for more than fifty years he kept up a running feud with the government, refusing to pay tax on the whiskey and brandy he made and sold.

Old man Owens figured the corn he raised and the cherries he picked where his to do with as he pleased. He honestly believed it was his inherent right to make and sell his whiskey and brandy without government levy, but the government figured otherwise and just about plagued the life out of him.

Uncle Amos, as some folks came to call him, was a character never to be forgotten.

He was a leprechaun of a man, round and red of face. He wore a Prince Albert coat and a shiny stove-pipe hat. Nobody ever caught him wearing a collar or a tie. Homemade galluses held up his baggy, homespun trousers, and his coat and vest hung loose. He talked in a high, cackling voice.

His home here in the hills of Rutherford County was known far and wide and, come June when his cherries ripened, it was a scene of a wild, rip-roaring celebration. Folks came from all over. From Tennessee and Georgia and South Carolina. The came by foot and on horseback, in wagons and in carriages.

On these occasions, Uncle Amos provided the food and the whiskey and the Cherry Bounce. And there was always a fiddle and a banjo, music-making and dancing. If some of his guests got too much Cherry Bounce, there was always the ground-floor stable where they could sleep off the effects and start all over again.

—”Cherry Bounce” written by John Parris


The set up Amos had for his mules must have been fairly common. There’s an old homeplace up the creek that Pap showed me one time. The house was built on a bank. The area under the house had been dug out of the hillside. It was a basement of sorts I guess you could say. Pap said the people lived in the house and they kept their cow in the space under them.



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  • Reply
    May 1, 2019 at 11:03 am

    I was just thinking if my dad was still alive, he would jump right in there and fix some of that up. And he could do it . He made moonshine for a living.

  • Reply
    Tamela Baker
    April 30, 2019 at 12:01 am

    Hmmm – I might have to take up drinking – –
    We have “wild cherry trees” here in central Texas and if you can get to them before the critters do they make wonderful jellies and jams.
    Several years back I had the good fortune to go to Iceland with a Science Teacher Tour. We passed many homes which were built into the side of a hill or mountain and in which the livestock occupied the bottom floor during the winter while the family occupied the next two floors. Some took advantage of the thermal energy there to “supplement” the heat from the animals below; and, of course, most had been thoroughly modernized taking advantage of electricity from the many geothermal electric plants throughout Iceland. Unfortunately for us, we did not get to tour any of those homes but did see models in various exhibits.

  • Reply
    Brenda Schlosser
    April 29, 2019 at 11:06 pm

    I lived in Ramstein and Meisenbach, Germany from 1969-1971. I remember seeing 3 story homes with the first floor for their cattle. They lived on the second and third floor. Some of these homes were on the main road through town. They were always very clean and I could never smell them.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    April 29, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    I remember years ago we had a lot of small, sour cherry trees on our land. The birds didn’t get them as fast as they do sweet cherries, so we always had plenty to can or put in the freezer. My grandmother made an absolutely delicious cherry cobbler. I think it was just sweetened and thickened sour cherries with a biscuit type dough on top. I haven’t had one in years. Where did all those small sour cherry trees go?

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 29, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    Cherry Mountain, the location for this story, is not far down the road from here. About 30 miles as the crow flies but this old crow is past flying. Cherry Mountain is part of the South Mountains which is in parts of Burke, Rutherford and Cleveland counties. It’s some beautiful country down in there. We went exploring in that area several times when I was able.
    There’s one little place near Cherry Mountain where every day they have Sunshine. That’s the name of the place, Sunshine.

  • Reply
    Nancy Schmidt
    April 29, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    The giant cherry trees in the southern mountains were and are wild cherry trees, doubtless the source fruit for cherry bounce. They are also the valued wood for cherry furniture sought by 19th century furniture and cabinet makers east of the Mississippi.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    April 29, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    When I was just a little thing, we had a Yellow Cherry Tree. One time in July or August, Daddy had Buster to climb the tree with a hand saw and saw off a big fork where we could get to all those Cherries. That thing was Loaded. We took Mama two bushel baskets. with stems and all. When Mama saw all those Cherries she hollered “Oopie”. I’m telling you, there’s nothing better on a Cold Winter’s Day than this. Mama didn’t take out the seeds tho, so you had to watch out for them. Being Paralyzed in her left side since I was about 3 Months old, it’s a thousand wonders she could do all this. …Ken

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 29, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    That’s a wonderful story and our Appalachian heritage is full of moonshine stories. We have a colorful heritage. I am grateful for all the people like John Parris and Tipper Pressley who work hard to preserve it!

  • Reply
    Doug Bishop
    April 29, 2019 at 11:54 am

    Cherry Bounce ? Tell the family, there is a somg in there somewhere.I look forward to hearing it !

  • Reply
    aw griff
    April 29, 2019 at 9:28 am

    I reckon they had a high ole time.
    Mom and Dad knew a family that kept their hog pen attached to the house and threw scraps out the back door. The family must have been known county wide for their nastiness.
    I’ve never known anyone that kept a mule or cow on the bottom floor of their home but seems like I read about people keeping a cow on the bottom floor. Maybe in the Scandinavian countries. Not sure about that.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 29, 2019 at 8:39 am

    Sounds much like one of the Uncle Abner stories by Melville Davidson Post. And cherry bounce reminds me of the cherry cokes we used to could get at Murphy’s Drug Store. They were so good on a hot summer day when we were walking back from the library.

    That story has set me to wondering about where cherries grow well. I do not know that much about them except that they are not a southern crop, too hot. The old timers used the mountain tops for cool season crops such as potatoes down here on the south end of the Appalachians. But I have not encountered any stories about cherries here in Georgia. As a farmer-of-sorts those kinds of adjustments to local ecology intrigue me.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      April 29, 2019 at 2:16 pm

      We have Cheerwine and Cherry Lemon Sundrop around here. I don’t know how localized they are but I do know they are not nationwide.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    April 29, 2019 at 7:33 am

    I have two books written late ’70’s, “Moonshine l” and “Moonshine ll”. One of them has the Amos story in it. They are loaned out to Tommy Townsend at the moment. The books are about the old moonshine trippers and whiskey makers.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    April 29, 2019 at 7:28 am

    Maybe as we get older we could use a shot of Cherry Bounce to start us off in the morning.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    April 29, 2019 at 7:04 am

    As I was reading about this Cherry Bounce, I wondered if this could be the work of John Parris. He must have been a Determined Old Man.

    John Parris was my Favorite writer. …Ken

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    April 29, 2019 at 6:59 am

    You have to admit it sounds good, lol

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