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Memphis to Big Creek, 1936: Mr. W.L. Grady's wild ride home


In early March 1936, the Adair County News published a lengthy letter written by William Luther "W.L" Grady, then 74 and a well-known stock trader and horseman of the Gradyville section. This letter detailed Mr. Grady's recent trip to Texas with a full accounting of the myriad kith and kin with whom he and fellow sojourner Bruce Caldwell visited during their two-month stay in the Lone Star state.

All things come to an end, however, and so it was on the morning of Saturday, February 1st, 1936, he and Bruce, with the latter behind the wheel of a V-8 motor vehicle, pulled out of McGregor, Texas, a few miles outside of Waco and about 100 miles south of Fort Worth, heading north to Kentucky and the village of Gradyville, hard by the banks of Big Creek.

It's at this point we pick up Mr. Grady's travelogue. (Brownsville, Tennessee, mentioned herein, lies about 50 miles northeast of Memphis on modern-day US 79.) Wrote he:

The weather was fine and the road was dry to Texarkana and Little Rock. It sleeted from Little Rock to Memphis. The road was a solid sheet of ice and Bruce had to get out several times and kick the ice off the radiator. So we stopped at West Memphis for the night.

Next morning we started about 8 a.m. in the snow from Memphis til we arrived home Sunday about 7 p.m. It was a very dangerous drive, as the highway was a solid sheet of ice and we saw several cars wrecked on the way. I never was scared so badly in my life. I would say, "Bruce, be careful, boy, or we will be killed," and Bruce would say, "Don't be uneasy; we will make it all right."

Down this side of Brownsville, Tenn. we met a car and he did not divide the highway with us and Bruce got over too far and the right rear wheel skidded off in a ditch about 15 inches deep. He stepped on the gas and the V-8 jumped back on the highway like a grey hound. I said to Bruce, "Be careful, boy, or we will be killed." Then he said, "Cousin Luther, count telephone poles by fives."

I could not count them at all and I looked at the speedometer and the V-8 was rolling on at 80 miles per hour.

This story was posted on 2021-09-19 12:13:49
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