2019 Indie Best Award Long-List: The Biggest Moonshiner.

Shelf Media hosts the annual Shelf Unbound Best Indie Book Competition for best self-published or independently published book. In addition to prizes, the winner, finalists, long-listed, and more than 100 notable books from the competition are featured in the December/January issue of Shelf Unbound.

The Biggest Moonshiner is a story of unconditional love, triumph over hate, forgiveness, and redemption. It’s a memoir with bits of history during the hard-scrabble life of the author and her eleven siblings growing up during the Depression in the Glades of South Florida with, allegedly, “the biggest moonshiner on the East Coast” and their faith-based mama. It tells of their mama’s struggle to keep the family together and life lessons the author and her siblings gleaned from adversity: while hiding out in the woods with their parents, Urbie and Leila Meeks; when they were running from the Feds, picking cotton in Alabama while on the run, living in a tent and picking other crops with migrants; and during their time living in an orphanage. Leila never lost her faith in God or her unconditional love for their hardworking, optimistic, and fun-loving daddy, who made every challenge a fun adventure-even when he got drunk and abused her and sometimes the kids or when they were homeless after he lost their home and business gambling or when she had to feign for herself and six kids when he went to prison for making moonshine. When a tragedy brought about the death of Leila and her unborn child, the siblings struggled to work through the fog of pain, knowing they had to put their anger and hate aside and forgive, if they were going to fulfill their mama’s last request: “To get along with your daddy, and keep the kids together.”

About The Author: Betty M Rafter

Betty M. Rafter was born in North Florida in Millville, but spent her childhood in the Glades and Palm Beach County in South Florida. She has been writing stories, poems, songs, and ditties since she was a young girl, but except a 7/11 poem published in The International Book of Poems, The Biggest Moonshiner is her first published work.


As she opened her door and stepped out onto the wet ground, the men lowered their guns and walked toward her. They recognized Mama. “Well, well, Misses Meeks! Whatta we got here?” A big man with thinning gray hair and his belly hanging over a wide black belt with a shiny badge on it said, “Don’t be afraid, kids, but we need you to get out and stand away from the car.”

We got out of the car, and Dink took us into the edge of the woods where he pointed. I thought they were going to leave us in the woods, but they just started taking the jugs out of our car and loading them into theirs. The big man looked at Dink and said, “Let me talk to your mama for a minute, and you can get back in the car.” He stepped up close to Mama and said in a quiet but stern voice, “Misses Meeks, I’m gonna pretend I didn’t catch you with all your young’uns in the car and a load of moonshine. If we catch you hauling again, we’ll take your young’uns away from you and send you up to visit their daddy in Atlanta Prison.” He turned to the tall, skinny, redheaded man wearing a badge on his dirty T-shirt and said, “Elmer, we got those jugs from that deserted still back in the woods we just left—and not from a car loaded with young’uns, now, didn’t we?”

Elmer spat his tobacco on the ground right in front of Mama, as he continued to lean on the front fender of the car. “Yessir, that’s just what we done.”

The big guy stepped back, looked at Dink, and nodded his head toward our car. We climbed back in as they got into theirs. 

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Article originally Published in the December/January 2020 Issue “2019 Indie Best Award Winners”

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