Mike Rowe is now host of the TV series “How Booze Built America”. In this show Mike Rowe dives into how alcoholic beverages affected periods throughout American History. 

In one episode Mike explains how his life has been shaped by alcohol.  Mike Rowe says that while living in Baltimore, Maryland he joined the opera and one night he took a break in the middle of a performance. Mike wandered across the street to a bar dressed in a Viking outfit to watch the game and have a beer.  When he got to the bar, the TV was playing infomercials.  Mike asked the bartender to change it to the game but the bartender was getting ready to audition to become an infomercial host and refused.  One thing led to another and Mike made a bet that he could get a job working for QVC at the auditions the next day.  Mike won that bet and has been in the television industry ever since.  One beer and a little bit of chance drastically altered his life and in turn the entire future of his family tree.  This made me wonder how has my life has been affected by booze? 

While I don’t have as great of a story as Mike Rowe, I can tell you that chunks of my family tree have been altered by alcohol’s influence.   My full name is Max McCoy Pribbeno. 

The Pribbeno from my name comes from my 4th great grandfather Charles F. Pribbeno who came to America from Prussia in 1856 to take advantage the opportunities in America.  He started his new life in Wisconsin, worked for a short time, then a few years later Charlie bought a gold mining claim near Colorado Springs, Colorado.  No riches came from the claim but tangible value came from his ventures from Wisconsin to Colorado.  Charlie became skilled in traveling over the plains of Nebraska into the mountains of Colorado.  In the 1860’s it wasn’t easy!  From Wisconsin, Charlie traveled 1000 miles and learned the route and tools necessary to make it to the Rocky Mountains.  While on his travels, he fell in love with the historical and booming town of Arago, Nebraska.  He decided to move to Arago and become a freighter for transporting goods to and from the front range of Colorado.  Arago, situated in Southeastern Nebraska, was an interesting little town filled with commerce.  In Arago they produced: corn meal, cured pork, gun powder, flour, drugs, plows and yeah you guessed it whiskey and beer!  Alcohol, especially whiskey was a commodity that was great for trading all across America.  It never spoiled, provided entertainment and had dozens of other practical uses.  “Pikes Peak” Charlie Pribbeno freighted whiskey to Colorado with a team of 12 oxen, traveling 2 miles an hour to exchange whiskey for popular animal hides and furs.  This lucrative business made Pikes Peak Charlie $2 a day but drastically altered my family’s history.  I guarantee that I would not be writing this article in the front range of Colorado if it weren’t for my 4th great grandfather Pikes Peak Charlie and his bold drive.


The McCoy from my name comes from my 2nd great grandfather’s last name.  Sherman McCoy founded my family’s ranch in 1888 in southwestern Nebraska.  He was a bold man that traveled by train as far west as it would take him, walked 15 miles and settled Lone Star Ranch where my family’s ranch still lies today.  He built a sod house and raised a family in the unforgiving prairie of Nebraska.  His 2nd great grandfather was part of the infamous Hatfield McCoy feud.  The families were skilled moonshiners and drank their stuff regularly.  Whiskey added gasoline to the fire between the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s.  My family’s branch of the McCoy’s fled west from Kentucky to avoid this family altering dispute.

While I don’t know all of the specifics about how my family tree came to be, I know that alcohol has greatly altered my life today.  Decisions that seemed small at the time ended up drastically changing my history and I bet booze was there every step of the way to move me into every part of the great life I enjoy today.