Grandpere Hoss and the Treasury Agents

Grandpere Hoss and the Treasury Agents

Grandpere Hoss as a young man at the turn of the last century, when he was still unknown to the Feds. This photo might have been taken to commemorate his participation in his church's choir.

Thanks to my sister-in-law’s interest in genealogy, I can now trace my family back to France on my father’s side, and I can trace my mother’s family back through Tennessee, Alabama and Virginia.  My father’s family came to Louisiana in the late 1700s, when Louisiana had become a possession of France’s ally, Spain.  If my fourth great-grandfather, Dr. Pierre LaBorde, had known that shortly Napoleon would become hard up for cash, retake possession of the territory and sell the entire place to Jefferson in the world’s largest real estate deal, I wonder if he would have made the trek at all.

Four generations later, in 1883, came the birth of my grandfather, also named Pierre and later nicknamed Hoss.   Life in my grandfather’s day was quite a bit different; there was virtually no interface between the federal government and the common man, at least not in the bayou country of Louisiana.  Grandpere Hoss didn’t have a birth certificate; a baptismal certificate worked just fine.  He didn’t pay the required income tax and did not have a driver’s license.  Even duck hunting did not require permission from the federal government until 1934, which was a good thing since Grandpere Hoss hunted ducks professionally during the Depression to provide food for his community.  He lived his life completely off the radar screen.  Having been held tight in Louisiana’s French-speaking community his whole life, he didn’t even speak English very well after four generations.

So imagine Grandpere Hoss’ thoughts the day U.S. Treasury agents came to Avoyelles Parish looking for bootleggers. The community suspected the English-speaking “foreigners” of being up to something bad, and word of their arrival spread quickly.  A neighbor alerted Grandpere Hoss just in time. Standing in his barnyard, he poured out the mash from every barrel just as the Treasury agents arrived.  Even though he had disposed of the evidence, the Feds discovered his still and gave him a large fine.

That evening, after all the excitement calmed down, my grandmother realized that all the family’s ducks and chickens had eaten the mash and died.  Since they had been dead for several hours, she plucked them for their feathers and had one of her boys toss them into a ravine out back. The next morning, Grandmother went outside to see what was making such a racket, and there were all the naked ducks and chickens squawking and flapping in the barnyard without their feathers!  They had not actually been dead but rather dead drunk from eating the alcoholic mash.  This note of humor was welcome after the unsettling visit by the Feds.

During its brief incursion into Grandpere Hoss’ world, the federal government accomplished what English-speaking society had been unable to do in the close-knit society of Avoyelles Parish for four generations. The outsiders changed the very fabric of the residents’ lives.

The federal government is a big part of all our lives now.  Through its implementation of income tax, Social Security and other entitlement programs, big government is intertwined in all of our affairs.  It is hard to imagine a time when the government did not even know your name. Grandpere Hoss met them for the first time in his barnyard, and wouldn’t you just know it… the first thing they wanted from him was his money!

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Since 2001, Larry LaBorde has sold gold, silver, platinum and palladium for investment to clients in the U.S. and around the world through his firm, Silver Trading Company LLC. The firm also offers guidance about metals storage options. We love your feedback! Please email Larry with your thoughts about this article or your questions about metals or storage.

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