Have still, will travel

Hawg Engineering owner Gary ‘Sarge’ Sargeant assisting Arizona’s SynCardia with hand sanitizer production

Gary “Sarge” Sargeant (contributed); Stills being unloaded in Arizona (contributed)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Back in March, Gary “Sarge” Sargeant was just like many local business owners in Cullman. He worried about how COVID-19 and potential shutdowns would affect his motorcycle shop, Hawg Engineering. Little did he know that it would be his knowledge of stills and moonshine that would put him on a path of contributing to the hand sanitizer needs across the country. He is currently in Tucson, Arizona helping SynCardia Systems, LLC, the only producers of Total Artificial Hearts in the world, distill sanitizer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Sarge explained how it all began, saying, “Rowdy Johnson, the musician, lives out here in Arizona and he’s been working for SynCardia for 17 years. They went to Rowdy and said, ‘Do you know where we can get a still?’ and he said, “Yes, I do!’”

He laughed, “When Rowdy called me up, he said, ‘This is going to be the weirdest conversation we’ve ever had and I am going to ask you something I’ve never asked you before.’ I said ‘Ooookay.’ He said, ‘I need to buy a still.’”

Sarge said the request didn’t seem weird to him. That’s when Rowdy explained the still was for his company because FEMA had contacted them for hand sanitizer. Sarge was put on a conference call with the vice president of the company and he learned they needed to produce 800 gallons of hand sanitizer a day.

Sarge said he informed the company, “You don’t need a still. You need a distillery.”

Before long, Sarge was loading up his large, 120-gallon copper still into the back of his pickup truck, pulling his Harley behind on the trailer and making his way across the country to Arizona.

“So, you got a truck with a still pulling a Harley, and me, looking like me,” he laughed. “On the day that I left, I stopped at a rest stop in Mississippi and I came out and thought, ‘How shady is this? This doesn’t look too shady does it?’ I wondered how many times I would get pulled over, but I never did. But, every time I pulled in for gas, and I’m at the gas pump? BOY, did I have some conversations!”

He smiled, “An old broke-down biker moonshiner from Cullman had to come out here to help a multimillion-dollar company make sanitizer.”

He added, “These are all extremely educated, multiple master’s degrees, every one of them. Molecular biology, electrical engineering and all kinds of good stuff, and they’ve got me thrown into the mix and I’m supposed to lead them and show them how to do all this. It is hilarious!”

When Sarge returns home to Cullman in a couple of weeks, he plans to continue producing high-quality FDA-approved hand sanitizer under his new LLC, Wolf Creek Sanitizer.

He writes on the Wolf Creek website (www.wolfcreekusa.com): “The combination of decades of old-world moonshining and state-of-the-art medical manufacturing provides you with the peace of mind that our products perform at the highest level of safety and will continue to do so day in and day out.”

“It’s very gratifying that I’m out here being able to do something to help rather than sitting around complaining,” said Sarge. “That means everything in the world to me. Everybody just needs to chip in and do their part. A lot of people in Cullman have. Cullman has some really, really great people, from the people making masks and everything else. People have stepped up, and the people in Cullman are good people. I am proud of Cullman and I am proud of Alabama and I can’t wait to get home.”

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