Four knights on a charge

By D. A. Sharpe, Aurora, TX

Home web site

July 2008

 

My father-in-law is a genuine Southern gentleman farmer, of cultural roots and of sound academic accomplishment.  He is Mr. Thomas (T. S. or Tom) Shelton Boggess, Jr.  He was raised in Macon, Noxubee County, Mississippi, though his mother retreated to her parents’ home for his birth of March 30, 1912 in Texarkana, Texas.  The Boggess family exhibited numerous traits of community leadership in that Southern rural agricultural county, and they were viewed as pillars of the society, having been there since about 1853. 

 

T. S. graduated from Macon High School in 1930, attended Mississippi State University and graduated from Louisiana State University with bachelor and masters degrees, along with almost completing his PhD.  Most of his working life involved faculty membership as a biochemist in the Food Science Department of the University of Georgia, with side stints in farming, in the agricultural merchant business (he owned a feed store in Macon) and in marketing infrastructure solutions to cities and counties across the South (he sold clay pipe).   His lovely bride was Alice McElroy of Ottumwa, Iowa.  His two children are Suzanne Margaret Boggess (my wife) and Dr. Thomas Shelton Boggess III, DVM. 

 

August and early September of 1929 created a memorable chapter in the lives of T. S. and three other young boys.  At the ages of 17, T. S., Mr. Edward (Ed) Faser Hardin, Jr. and Mr. Frank Rhymes, along with T. S.’s young 15 year old first cousin, Julian (Juicy) Eugene Boggess, Jr. began the embarkation of a lifetime for these boys.  The older three boys would graduate from Macon High School the following year.  Can you imagine the parents who allowed these adventuresome young high school seniors (and a sophomore) to embark upon a fantasy trip across America to the West Coast, including Mexico?  They were provided with a brand new 1928 Chevrolet Coupe with a Rumble Seat!  Someone had ordered it at the Chevrolet Dealer in Macon, but it was declined upon arrival.  So, T. S.’s father, Mr. Tom, purchased it.   T. S. said the trip just about wore out the car.  After the trip, Mr. Tom sold it to a local man who drove it for another decade.  

 

Ed was perhaps T. S.’s closest childhood friend.  They were like salt and pepper together, and this continued into their adult lives.  Ed’s occupation in Macon was as a merchant in the building supplies business.  Ed and his wife, Dotsie Adams, raised their daughter, Barbara who married professional football player and Macon businessman, Bobby Crespino and their son, Ed (Faser) Hardin, III who married Annie Chadwick.  Both of them are quite accomplished musicians in New York City.  Juicy became a well-admired physician with a practice in near-by Columbus, Mississippi.   Juicy and his wife, Put, raised six children and also raised another family of six children when those children’s parents met an untimely death.  Frank’s father owned the brick-making factory near Macon, and Frank worked there as well as at other Macon endeavors.  All of these adventuresome boys developed into solid credits to the society in which they were a part. 

 

At this writing, T. S. is 96 years old.  My recent interview with him at his residential retirement home, the Terraces in Phoenix, Arizona, has helped fill in some of the details about which I’d heard much of my married life in the Boggess family.  He said they departed Macon with $200 cash each.  This was intended to fund the total round trip.  Remember, this was immediately prior to the national earth-shaking recession of the 1930’s caused by the precipitous crash of the New York Stock Market on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929.  So, prices were higher than in the depression-era of the 1930’s.  Gasoline was generally 15 to 25 cents per gallon for most of their trip, and of course, the Chevy Coupe was not up to par as are today’s automobiles in fuel efficiency.  The highest gas prices were in and near the State and National Parks. 

 

They expected to lodge in parks mostly with camping gear they packed tightly in that cramped automobile.   This seemed to work well, until they hit Monsoon Seasons in some parts of the trek, which drove them to commercial lodging.  Obviously, this consumed their cash reserves faster than expected.  

 

The first leg of the journey took them west out U.S. Highway 80.  They drove south on U.S. Highway 45 to Meridian, Mississippi, then turned west.  The first stop of tourist interest was in Vicksburg, Mississippi where they visited the 118-acre National Military Park which contained graves of soldiers who fought in the Battle of Vicksburg on the banks of the Mississippi River.  The layout was by state from which the 17,077 (12,909 of whom are unidentified) casualties hailed, both from the Union Army and from the Confederacy.  An additional 1,280 graves were there in 1929 and later of soldiers from the Indian Wars, Spanish-American War and World War I.  After the Macon knights were there, soldiers were interred from World War II and the Korean War.   The surrender of Confederate troops on July 4, 1863, coupled with the fall of Port Hudson, Louisiana, divided the South and gave the North undisputed control of the Mississippi River.  This National Cemetery takes 16 miles of road to tour it.  Macon to Vicksburg is 195 miles. 

 

They traveled through Shreveport, Louisiana on to Dallas, Texas.  While getting service at a gasoline station in Dallas, they met a Mr. Patty, whose family was from Macon.  He recognized the boys home town and remembered some family names.  He made the boys feel welcomed in their brief pause at Dallas.  Vicksburg to Dallas, TX is 360 miles. 

 

The next leg of the journey took them through Odessa, Texas.  Just beyond Odessa, the car broke down and they had to be towed back to Odessa.  The Chevrolet dealer fixed the car at the expense of the dealer back in Macon, who had been overzealous in tightening some of the springs in the engine that caused the malfunction.  This took an unexpected two days’ wait.  Dallas to Odessa is 355 miles.

 

Continuing on west, they came to Carlsbad, New Mexico where they took the tour of the Carlsbad Caverns, known perhaps as the largest series of caves in the country (realizing that Mammoth Cave competes for that title as well).  Odessa, TX to Carlsbad, NM is 165 miles.  Carlsbad Caverns National Park covers 46,766 acres in the Guadalupe Mountains in southern New Mexico, and the park contains 76 other separate caves.   When they arrived at Carlsbad, an official questioned them about how they got through when the rivers were flooding.  They explained how they were used to getting through water.  The next day, the newspapers there carried a story about an automobile being washed away in the current just about where they had crossed a day earlier! Close call. 

 

Next, they came to El Paso, Texas 165 miles later, where the first major obstacle to be faced was the flooding Rio Grande.  Their time in El Paso was when they took a side trip over the border to Mexico.  There was not really much excitement for the boys, as it mostly reflected the stark poverty characterized in the area.   A reassessment of their options took them north to the famous Route 66 of legendary fame (U.S. Highway 66, the figurative yellow brick road from Chicago to Los Angeles – though that term did not become known widely till The Wizard of Oz was released ten years later).  The boys proceeded westward ho again. 

 

The trip was all on gravel and dirt roads, with only the cities having anything paved.  Route 66 was under construction and provided many barriers and challenges for the boys to circumvent.  There were almost no bridges anywhere on the trip.  When the pathway confronted a river, it was a matter of going up and down the river to locate water shallow enough through which the car could navigate.  It included some motor dying and pushing experiences by the boys to get the car out of the water.  Another road hazard that we take for granted today are guardrails, especially on curves in the mountains where the drop-off from the road was somewhat considerable … sometimes off into a canyon.  At times, the car started to slip away, and the boys would have to stop, get out and push the car back onto the road.  AAA was not yet invented!

 

They headed across New Mexico and Arizona to Flagstaff, which stands at a hefty 8,000 foot elevation and 590 miles from El Paso.  From there, they took the short 90-mile trip north to visit the vast chasms of the Grand Canyon.  They did not do much more than to peer over the sides, then off on their continued journey.   Across Arizona and Nevada were pretty uneventful expanses of wide plains, large plateaus and the tail end of the Rocky Mountains.  Their goal in reaching California was to avoid crossing Death Valley.  To do this, their California entrance was Needles, California, 235 miles from the Grand Canyon.  When they arrived at Needles, the highway engineer addressed them and wanted to know just how in the world they got through.  They told him they were from Mississippi and thoroughly used to pushing vehicles through mud.  He could not believe they made it through the flooding!

 

Though Los Angeles was not too far away to the southwest, they avoided it and went to Laguna Beach, California, where they settled for a week with a family who had family roots back to Macon.  There is a five star restaurant there, the Brown Derby.  The dress code was formal, and the boys did not live up to that sartorial splendor.  However, Ed Harden told the headwaiter that he personally knew Johnny Mac Brown, a well-known football player for the University of Alabama and up and coming movie star with roles as Kit Carson and being cast with the likes of John Wayne.  Apparently, that association did the trick.  The boys were served!   Laguna Beach is 265 miles from Needles. 

 

While still with friends in Laguna Beach, they were able to get checks cashed through the friends to replenish their funds.  They each drew another $200, using the blank checks given them when they started out on the trip. 

 

The tire iron and jack normally were under the front seat.  They moved them to the bottom of the rumble seat in order to make storage room under the front seat for cans of evaporated condensed milk and cans of Vienna sausage.  These were the emergency staples for when they did not have other provisions to eat on the trip. 

 

Next, they went north up the Sacramento Valley, that broad copula of farming excellence in endless acres of orchards and vineyards.  This kept them safely on the west side of Death Valley.  This area is watered generously by the Sacramento River, and much irrigation is accomplished.   They went as far North as Sacramento, the State Capital.  It was 435 miles from Laguna Beach.

 

The boys next traveled 90 miles to the Pacific Coast at San Francisco.  They were pleased to cross the San Francisco Bay on the Golden Gate Ferry, the predecessor of what later would become the Golden Gate Bridge running north out of San Francisco.   The following mileage was somewhat uneventful, taking them across northern California, Nevada and on to Salt Lake City, Utah.  This leg took several days and 740 miles. The Great Salt Lake attracted their interest.  They were told by signage not to dive into the lake, known as one of the most buoyant bodies of salt water in the world.  However, Juicy was not deterred by signage, and he dove heartily into the lake.  This may have been the first time Juicy every tried to float a loan (or is it “alone”?). 

 

On the Great Salt Lake was a Pavilion, which was a social and entertainment facility.  It was there that the boys met four blond girls who were happy to give them a tour of the Mormon Tabernacle back in the city.  The boys went on the tour, but were not permitted into the Temple proper, as they were not Mormon.  It goes without saying that the girls were not successful in their efforts to make the boys Ladder Day Saints (or was it “Latter”?).   Initially, they tried to camp near-by, but the horde of large mosquitoes drove them into commercial lodging again.  They stayed two or three days.

 

The following adventure took them north to Yellowstone National Park in the Northwest corner of Wyoming.  This was quite an experience for the boys, and was 375 miles from Salt Lake City.  Again, they ran into the dress code problem for dining, as this remote lodge was really top drawer!  While there, they befriended a husband and wife who had two daughters with them.   The family was in a big fancy Lincoln automobile, which had heated up trying to ascend the mountain.  The man apparently knew little of working with engines.  However, our boys did know how to help, and they were equipped.  On the running boards of their Chevy were kept gasoline cans strapped on the one side and water cans strapped on the other side.  They provided the family with water and T. S. drove their car for the rest of the day’s tour up and around the mountain.  The family appreciated the boys’ help and sort of adopted them for two or three days.  I think they treated them to some meals. 

 

Frank, who was an avid fisherman, wanted to stay along the Yellowstone River to fish.  T. S., Ed and Juicy took off in the Chevy for two or tree days to explore other parts of Yellowstone Park.  When they returned to find Frank, he was in the protective custody of the Park Rangers!  It seems that a Black Bear had chased Frank cornering him in a tree.  The Rangers rescued Frank before the bear could climb up the tree.

 

Bears were a tourist attraction in a way we probably would not see today.  At certain times, the Park Rangers would place meat out where the Black Bears would find it and the bears would ravage it.  The visitors would stand safely off in the distance in protected fenced in areas, while the Rangers stood by with rifles to insure safety.  However, it was easily seen that when the Grizzly Bear came onto the scene, the Black Bear scampered off in fear of this king of the forest. 

 

T. S. met an artist in Yellowstone Park from whom he purchased a painting of the Yellowstone Falls.  This he made as a gift to his Mother, Mary Hicks Taylor Boggess.  She displayed it in their home for many years.  The last T. S. knows, it was stored in the Boggess home attic.  We know not where it lies today. 

 

Getting another message back to Macon about their need for more money resulted in a check for $25 sent by Mr. Hardin, with the demand to get on home immediately!   To say the least, the glory parts of traveling were over, and the boys headed straight down the highways the quickest way they could to return home. 

 

From Yellowstone Park, they dropped 475 miles down to Cheyenne, Wyoming.   From there, they traveled 885 miles across Nebraska and Kansas, on to Saint Louis, Missouri.  One thing that plagued them during most of the trip was the frequent need to fix flat tires.  The crude roads and highways of the day were terribly hard on those early era rubber tires on wooden spokes.  There were so many patches on some of the tires that they stuffed old dirty clothes into the tires in order to make it into Saint Louis.  The tire dealer there had pity on the boys and supplied new tires on the faith that their parents would reimburse him.  Mr. Tom, of course, sent a check as soon as he learned of the story. 

 

Next, it was down the Old Man River 285 miles to Memphis, Tennessee, which almost is in the Noxubee County home territory.  Just another 190 miles and the families and the city of Macon took the charging knights back into the safety of that loving and caring community.  

 

The distances between visit points cited here total 5,920 miles.  However, there obviously several hundred miles of local touring that would have happened.  So we can say that this charge of the four knights was well over a 6,000-mile trek. 

 

These boys were not the first from Macon to take such a venture.  John Borders (J. B.) Cunningham had taken a similar trip with company, and Bill Cunningham had gone another time.  Macon was like that.  Its citizens were of a small, close-knit rural community, but were destined to break across the wide expanse of this nation in the things about which they learned and explored. 

 

These boys had tasted America in a way that broadened their knowledge of what our great nation represents.  It impressed them with fond memories that revisited their minds, I am confident, over many years.  I know the recollections have been with T. S., as his references to the great trip out west always allowed me to know of the importance in his life of this adventure for himself and for the other three young Macon men.

 

 

T. S. Boggess, Jr., with is daughter, Suzanne Margaret Boggess Sharpe and her husband, D. A. Sharpe, the author.

 


 

Four knights on a charge

 

 

 

 

 

Cumulative Miles

Miles of Leg

Description

 

 

 

195

195

Macon to Vicksburg, MS

555

360

Vicksburg, MS to Dallas, TX

910

355

Dallas to Odessa, TX

1,075

165

Odessa, TX to Carlsbad, NM

1,240

165

Carlsbad, NM to El Paso, TX

1,830

590

El Paso, TX to Flagstaff, AZ

1,920

90

Flagstaff to Grand Canyon, AZ

2,185

265

Grand Canyon, AZ to Needles, CA

2,450

265

Needles to Laguna Beach, CA

2,885

435

Laguna Beach to Sacramento, CA

2,975

90

Sacramento to San Francisco, CA

3,715

740

San Francisco, CA to Salt Lake City, UT

4,085

370

Salt Lake City, UT to Yellowstone National Park

4,560

475

 Yellowstone National Park to Cheyenne, WY

5,445

885

Cheyenne, WY to Saint Louis, MO

5,730

285

Saint Louis, MO to Memphis, TN

5,920

190

Memphis, TN to Macon, MS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

D. A. Sharpe

805 Derting Road East

Aurora, TX 76078-3712

 

mailto:da@dasharpe.com

 

www.dasharpe.com

 

Home:  817-638-5560

Cell:     817-504-6508