Flight From Floydada

Grain Elevator in Floydada, Texas
Yes, indeed. It’s that time again. About every two years, as summer settles in with its attendant annoyances — heat, mosquitos, politicians who drone on more loudly than cicadas — the urge to re-post one of my all-time favorite stories overtakes me.
Whether you’ve read this humorous tale once (or twice) before or whether you haven’t, I hope you enjoy both the story and the song. Some say humor is the best medicine, and I suspect we all could use a dose or two at this point.

Floydada, Texas is cotton country, although it’s also known for good pumpkins, and likes to advertise itself as the Pumpkin Capital of the US.

It’s a flat, expansive piece of Panhandle real estate, a land marked by impossibly distant horizons and days barely distinguishable one from another. Strangers develop a habit of looking around, as if to orient themselves. Even Texans who’ve grown up with the wind, the dust, and the storms say it aloud now and then, as if to remind themselves: “This place will run you nuts, if you let it.”

By the time things settled down, people wondered if Sammy Rodriguez and his brother Danny hadn’t been run nuts because of just those circumstances: too much wind; too much work; too little ability to get their bearings while facing the limitless horizons of life.

Whatever the cause, when they disappeared along with eighteen of their relatives, Floydada Police Chief James Hale heard about it as soon as some of the Rodriguez’s kinfolk tracked him down to report the missing brothers. The family members mentioned to Chief Hale that the men had been saying some strange things. “They made statements like the Devil was after them, and Floydada was going to be destroyed if they stayed here,” Hale said.

Later, someone remarked that Floydada wouldn’t be much of a loss if it was destroyed, but he said it quietly, and away from the crowds.

Even after twenty years, people in surrounding towns — Baptists, Methodists, and Pentecostals who tend to take their religion pretty seriously — keep clippings about the story close at hand. When I saw the article tacked onto a refrigerator in Idalou, torn rather than clipped from the newspaper and starting to yellow with age, it still bore witness to the best part of the story: that every living word of it is true, perhaps excepting those conversations the preacher had with the Devil. But no one’s sure about that.

Details varied among the reports, but the broad outlines of the story were clear. The family fled Floydada in five or six cars, abandoning one in Lubbock and a second in San Angelo. A third was found in Galveston, filled with clothing, purses, wallets, and other personal items. Eventually, all twenty people crammed themselves into one car and headed east toward Florida, only to be stopped short in Vinton, Louisiana.

The troubles in Vinton began after a campground owner called police to say the group had tried to commandeer an RV. When a Calcasieu Parish deputy stopped their car, the driver seemed willing to answer questions, but when he got out of the car, he was clad only in a towel draped around his mid-section. Vinton Police Chief Dennis Drouillard said, “When the officer went to ask what was going on, he jumped back in and took off.”

The group not only took off, they took off down Vinton’s main street at speeds approaching 90 mph, until the car plowed through a fence at the baseball park and hit a tree. Fifteen adults and five children piled out of the 1990 Pontiac Grand Am.

“They were completely nude,” Drouillard said. “All twenty of them. Didn’t have a stitch of clothes on. I mean, no socks, no underwear, no nothin’. Five of them [the children] were in the trunk. The Lord told them to get rid of all their belongings and go to Louisiana. So they got rid of all their clothes and pocketbooks and wallets and identification and the license plate off their car and came to our gorgeous state.”

The car was totaled, but the injuries were minor. Sammy Rodriguez was booked on charges of reckless driving, flight from an officer, property damage and assorted minor traffic violations.

Like the police, city prosecutors found themselves bemused, and tended toward leniency. In exchange for Rodriguez paying a $650 fine and picking up the $975 tab for fixing the fence and a telephone pole, they dismissed charges of criminal damage to property.

In a fit of good sense, no charges were brought for indecent exposure. As Court Clerk Mary Vice said, “The statute states that for indecent exposure, you have to be exposing yourself in order to arouse someone. That wasn’t their intent.”

Magistrate Kent Savoie gave Rodriguez 90 days to pay for the fence and 30 days to pay the fine. He was ordered to spend 17 days in jail, but after being given credit for six days served, the balance of the sentence was suspended.

Once the proceedings ended, Savoie asked Rodriguez, pastor of the Templo Getsemani Assembly of God Church, why he and his nineteen relatives left their clothes behind in their flight from Texas. Rodriquez said he had a vision from God on August 17, telling him Judgment Day was at hand, and he and his family were to go to Florida. At some point in the journey, they became convinced the Devil was in the details of their clothing, so off it came.

Whatever Savoie thought of the response, he seemed to accept it. “I don’t know what possessed you to do what you did, but I’m relying on the statement you were told to do so by some higher being.” By that time, Rodriguez had been thinking things over. “It wasn’t God, sir,” Rodriguez answered, his voice nearly inaudible. “I would like to apologize to the people of Vinton and Floydada for everything, and I ask for their forgiveness.”

Rodriguez said he planned to leave immediately for Lubbock and then Floydada. “When I return to Floydada I am pretty certain that I will no longer be the pastor of my church, unless the people there can forgive me,” he said. “I plan to look for a job as soon as I get back.” Rodriguez’s wife’s family sent her a plane ticket, and she returned ahead of him. A relative drove the other 18 people on to Wauchula, Florida.

And that would have been the end of it, had not a fellow named Chris Stuart heard the story ten years later. Deciding he had enough material for a song, he went to work. In the end, he wrote a memorable one — good enough to be included in a collection of Car Talk Car Tunes put together by National Public Radio for their popular Saturday morning show hosted by Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers.

Whenever I listen to the song, I laugh. I wouldn’t be surprised to know God laughs every time he hears the story, and taps his toe to the song. Let’s face it. Humans can be good for a laugh now and then, even when we’re trying to be serious.

Twenty Naked Pentecostals in a Pontiac

I was thumbin’ my way down to Baton Rouge, standin’ on the side of the road,
When a car pulled over and a voice cried out, “We’ll take you where you want to go.”
I jumped inside, but to my surprise, they were naked as a poor man’s toes.
It was a tight situation when the whole congregation said the devil was in my clothes.
Twenty naked Pentecostals in a Pontiac,
Brothers and sisters shoutin’ in the back,
Elders in the front, choir in the trunk,
Twenty naked Pentecostals in a Pontiac.
The sermon that morning was on Adam and Eve and the ways of the dreadful snake,
Everybody was clappin’ when the preacher pointed at me, my body began to shake.
I threw off my shirt, and my shoes and my socks,
My jeans and my BVDs.
We were all in the nude, shoutin’ “Hallelu!”
and singing “Somebody Touched Me.”
Twenty naked Pentecostals in a Pontiac,
Brothers and sisters shoutin’ in the back,
Elders in the front, choir in the trunk,
Twenty naked Pentecostals in a Pontiac.
We had the cruise control set to fifty-five, when a Smokey got on our tail,
He pulled up beside, his eyes got wide, and the siren began to wail.
We ran off the road toward the tree of life, Lord, the future was looking bleak,
We hung on and prayed, everybody was saved, ‘Cause we all knew how to turn the other cheek.
Twenty naked Pentecostals in a Pontiac,
Brothers and sisters shoutin’ in the back,
Elders in the front, choir in the trunk,
Twenty naked Pentecostals in a Pontiac.

Comments always are welcome.

100 thoughts on “Flight From Floydada

  1. This has to be read and heard more than once. Sure ‘nuf I was a Pentecostal taught to turn the other cheek, but we sure did keep our cheeks covered up! Elders in the front, choir in the trunk….I have a feeling this tune is going to lodge in my head for a time, times, and a half time.

    1. One of the things I love about the story is the kindness and common sense exhibited by the officials all along the way — despite the odd behavior they had to deal with.

      As for the song? It’s not only amusing, it’s well written, and set to a great tune. It never fails to make me happy when I hear it, and I decided that was a good enough reason to post it again. I worshipped for a time with a Black Lutheran congregation in Oakland, and I suspect the brothers and sisters there would shout right along with this one.

  2. That’s a great story and certainly worth a re-post every now and then! Now a days though in most towns that kind of behavior is reserved for the Mayor and the Town Council.

    1. That made me laugh, Terry. It also reminded me of a favorite article about a City Council meeting in Greenwood, Mississippi that was just as interesting as this story, if a little less civil. Once I moved to Texas, I began hearing new, useful phrases in conversations, and one of them applies here: “There ain’t no accountin’ for folks.”

  3. I just love this song. Almost sounds Cajun with the beat. Seems fitting since the people ended up in Louisiana. It is an unbelievable story but so funny, Too bad a movie hasn’t been made of the story. It would be x-rated though. I wonder what became of the pastor and his wife. Odd how quickly he came to his senses.

    1. I’m glad they haven’t made a movie of it. They’d sensationalize it, and lose the quiet, understated quality that gives the newspaper reports and the story their humor. What I love about the whole incident, including the song, is that there’s no sense of anyone ridiculing anyone else.

      I don’t know what happened to the pastor and his wife, but the congregation remained active for a while. The last entry on their Facebook page was in 2012. If I ever get up that way again, I’ll make a few inquiries. For now, the story feels complete, just as it is.

    1. That is the quality that shines through, isn’t it? That’s one reason I find the story so appealing. Even our children aren’t so innocent, these days.

    1. Imagination’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it? What’s equally wonderful is the matter-of-fact nature of the reporting. In some interesting ways, country people are more sophisticated than city folk realize.

    1. When I first heard the song, it came without any context at all, and I thought it was hilarious. Once I learned the backstory, it became appealing as well as amusing. I can only imagine the chagrin of the good pastor, and the bemusement of the people in Louisiana. It’s a song to keep in the playlist, that’s for sure — it’s the sort that can help keep things in perspective.

  4. My faulty memory put this event in the 1950s. The reference to cruise control sent me looking and I was surprised to be reminded that the strangeness took place as recently as 1993.

    Three years ago we passed through Floydada on a day trip from Lubbock to Caprock Canyons State Park. The wide-open spaces of the Texas Panhandle inspire some strange things.

    1. By the way, what do you make of the fact that the page of the newspaper you linked to has the Pentecostal story higher up and with a larger headline than the story about 15-year-old twins getting charged with a double murder? I’d have thought a double-murder story rates being on page 1, not page 6.

      1. Although the paper was published in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the datelines on that page are Vinton, Louisiana, Washington, D.C., Salem, Oregon, and Edgartown, Massachusetts. I suspect the page simply was a collection of wire stories from around the country, and placement was left to an editor’s discretion.

        1. I hadn’t picked up on the fact that that newspaper was a compendium. Now that I look at it again, I also see a story that’s sadly relevant today: “President Boris Yeltsin marked the second anniversary of the failed Soviet coup Thursday by urging hard-pressed Russians to defend his reforms against ‘reactionary forces’ who hope to turn back the clock.”

    2. In some ways, it seems very much a 1950s-era story. I’m glad it happened before the advent of social media and the 24-7 news cycle. I can only imagine the grief those poor people would endure if it happened today. I’m sure they were the subject of many a conversation, but the news stories and the memories of Panhandle friends who were around at the time were mostly kind. There was some eye-rolling, but that’s not surprising.

      I have a friend who was born and raised in Floydada. Some of his family still lives in Hale Center and Memphis. We spent one afternoon touring Floydada, and believe me, I felt like I’d slipped into a Larry McMurtry novel.

    1. That’s why so many family holiday dinners, or family reunions, or old friends getting together, involve a lot of people saying, “Remember when…?”

  5. Truth is always stranger than fiction. I’m not sure how much fiction is infused in with the true facts of this story but either way, it’s a GREAT and unforgettable tale.

    1. This is pretty much story-telling of a just-the-facts-ma’am sort. I have a friend who was born in Floydada, and whose family still lives in the area. So, once I’d dug up the newspaper articles, I was able to ask some questions — and yes, indeed, they did remember the incident, just as reported. How could you not, if this happened literally in your back yard?

      It’s one of my favorite stories. I’ve done a few inexplicable things in my life, so that may help to explain my empathy for this crew.

      1. I’m the AP reporter who wrote that series of articles. I’ve always wondered what happened to them all after they left Louisiana, and what the Rev. Sammy Rodriguez is doing these days.

        1. What a delightful surprise on a Sunday morning! This still is one of my favorite stories, and like you I’ve wondered what happened to them. I’m hoping to get up to the Panhandle sometime this year to visit Palo Duro Canyon, and had planned to visit Floydada. The church still is there and active, I’m told, but I don’t know any more than that. If I do find more details, I’ll let you know.

  6. Wow, this is some story! ! :) I thought we had a lot of crazy around here, but nothing quite like this. Everybody has family that you keep the scissors and steak knives tucked in the back of the drawer when they visit, but these folks take the cake. And immortalized in song, yet. Reminded me too, of that camp song “You can’t get to Heaven in a limousine …” we’ll add “Oh, you can’t drive to Heaven naked in a Pontiac, ‘Cause the Lord will see you’re out of whack” Linda you get the prize for most fun on a Monday morning!! :)

    1. I’d forgotten what a fun song that was. I remembered the roller skates and rocking chair right away, but not the limousine. I think adding the Pontiac would be just the right touch.

      Once you headed me down that road, it wasn’t long before another classic came to mind. Ed Rush and some buddies wrote it in 1957, and this bit of history he provided is great:

      “The song developed from listening to a radio station in Del Rio, Texas when I was about 12.
      My best friend had a war surplus radio setup with a big antenna and on summer nights… we spent a lot of time trying to bring in radio stations from as far away as possible. Thats how we discovered XERB broadcasting from a very powerful transmitter across the border in Mexico.” [That, of course, was Wolfman Jack’s station.]

      “The station belonged to a Del Rio dentist and religious fanatic and they sold the most outrageous stuff imaginable, all with magical healing properties… including a glow-in-the-dark Jesus with a suction cup base to attach to your dashboard. This item was guaranteed to protect the buyer from death on the highway.”

      “At the time it seemed so funny that we started changing it a bit and (with lots of giggling) making up other words to the song, working in the suction-cup Jesus…and eventually ended up with a whole routine. So that’s the true story of Plastic Jesus. Irreverent teenagers with no respect laughing themselves silly in a dusty California town on hot summer nights in the middle 1950’s.”

      I still remember the first time I sang “Plastic Jesus” for my folks on one of our road trips. My dad tried so hard not to laugh.

      1. Well I did not know that song, kind of surprised you infidels got away with that tune, when they were still banning rock & roll from the school dances etc.! Thanks I listened to the Mojo Nixon version on Youtube, pretty funny. :) My dad used to have a Chrysler with a digital talking computer, always half shorted-out, that used to start barking out all kinds of weird screwed-up instructions, and the colder the weather, the more random and demonic-sounding the voice – -he always said that car needed an exorcist more than a mechanic, maybe the Plastic Jesus on the dash would have helped.

        1. Your father’s demonic talking car reminded me of one a friend used to own, memorialized thus at The Omnificent English Dictionary in Limerick Form (https://www.oedilf.com).

          A friend of mine once had a car
          That could talk, though its diction was far
          Too precise. If a door
          Hadn’t shut, it would roar,
          “You cretin, a door is a jar.”

          It should, of course, have said ajar.

          The story is true, except that the car always spoke calmly, and without insults: “A door is a jar. A door is a jar. A door is a jar. A door is a jar.” (And, despite what Chris Doyle notes about the pronunciation of a, ( https://www.oedilf.com/db/Lim.php?VerseId=78011 ) it said “ay” rather than “uh”.)

          The same friend later got a car which spoke, less amusingly (well, it had been amusing the first few times), in French: “La porte est mal fermé.”

  7. A layered story, to be sure and one that is something to read! Thanks for the chuckles! You’re wrong though about one thing: the cicadas drone with purpose, the politicians? Not so much!

    1. Now I’m smiling. The cicadas suddenly are out in force, and they do sound purposeful. They’ve been one of my favorite sounds of summer since I first moved to Houston. I suppose we had them in Iowa, but I don’t remember them. Iowa was robins.

      Every time I read a story like this, I wonder how many more stories are being lived out around us, minus publicity and essentially invisible. I’m sure there are a few, but I don’t think any could be more appealing than this one.

  8. Blame the panhandle vistas, blame the wind, the dust, the work, but did no one think to blame the Pontiac? You don’t see that sort of thing happening with an F150, do you?

    1. Now that you mention it — no. On the other hand, if the good pastor could have afforded an F150, he might not have been so open to messages from the Lord. He’d be too busy hauling his boat around, or moving his brother-in-law, or going in to Lubbock to take everyone shopping. Get a good truck, and your life changes.

    2. The group started out with five vehices. One broke down around Lubbock, one was abandoned as possessed farther along the route. I think a third may have broken down. At any rate, by the time they reached Galveston they were down to two cars. There (at an hour late enough that nobody noticed), it was ordained that they should abandon everything they owned, including clothes, wallets, pocketbooks and the second vehicle, and go with only the Pontiac Grand Am. The five kids, ranging in age, as I believe i was told, from toddler to age 15, were in the trunk, which was lined with a shower curtain and held open for air with a wire clothes hanger. At that, they probably had more room than the 15 adults.

      1. Of all the details, the kids in the trunk was most familiar. Anyone who grew up in the heyday of drive-in movies probably experienced (or at least knew about) stuffing pals in the trunk to sneak them in to the movie. I must say, the shower curtain and wire hanger were considerate touches. These were not uncaring adults.

  9. Not only do I remember the story on the news, when it was fresh, but also I was listening to Car Talk when they played the song. Truly an incident worthy of preservation and propagation–thanks for doing your part!

    1. I’ve listened to Car Talk for years, but I missed this the first time around. Lucky you, to have heard the original broadcast, and lucky us, to have the story and song preserved for our enjoyment. It never occurred to me that someone would have heard the original, but what a nice bit of serendipity.

    1. Oscar Wilde wrote, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple,” but there’s a purity and simplicity to this story that’s deeply appealing. Maybe it’s because we live in an age where everyone seems to constantly be considering how their appearance, their actions, and their beliefs, will appear to everyone else. No one in the Pontiac seemed much worried about that. Of course there were complicated and mixed motives, but still… it’s a funny and charming tale.

  10. Linda, this one’s just as good the second time around. I can almost see that police chief when he caught sight of those naked folks racing through his territory! No wonder this story has held up all these years, ha!

    1. Everyone loves a good story, and I don’t worry about reposting one of mine from time to time. It’s like finding a book that strikes a chord, and re-reading it multiple times. It’s never exactly the same story, because every time we read a book, we’re different, but that’s part of the magic of story-telling.

      This one certainly has staying power for me, and I’m glad you enjoyed the “summer re-run,” too.

    2. Turned out it wasn’t the police chief who chased ’em down, but an officer I interviewed later. As I recall, a bit of the interview ran sorta like this:
      I asked something about his first reaction after the crash.
      “Well, I hung back at first. Something like that happens, you don’t know but they might be armed and on drugs.”
      And then?
      “The men got out, and I thought, ‘My god, they’s naked!’ Then the women got out and I thought, ‘My god, they’re raping them!’ Then the kids got out and I didn’t know what to think.”

  11. That’s my second strange Texas story of the day. This morning’s paper recounted the mystery of a boat captain (down your direction, I believe) who turned out to be someone else altogether, and her possible role in a case that’s been kept open for years. I read both stories avidly, but this one here is a bit more lighthearted and fun!

    1. Thanks for mentioning that other story. I went over to the Chronicle website to read it, and remembered hearing a little gossip about the goings-on. It certainly is in my neighborhood — I see the boats regularly, going up and down the channel, and they dock very near me. But I didn’t know all the details of the case. It surely is complicated.

      You’re right that this one is more lighthearted. In some ways, I don’t want or need to know how things worked themselves out after everyone settled back into life — but if I get back to the Panhandle, I probably won’t be able to stop myself from making inquiries.

    1. And thanks to you for reading again. Stories of leaders and followers always interest me, but most of them aren’t as delightful as this one. It’s also a good reminder that running into reality isn’t always the worst thing in the world!

  12. A fun way to start my day, Linda. What a story. I dated a Pentecostal in my youth. Her dad was a minister. As for the girl, she was nice but a bit on the wild side. Changed my thinking about fundamentalists. :) –Curt

    1. Well: not only fundamentalists, perhaps. The so-called PK syndrome (preacher’s kid) was well known in my youth, even among the Lutherans, Methodists, and Congregationalists. Girls and boys alike seemed to have that tendency to kick against the traces, as Grandma used to say.

      As I realized many years later, some of the folks who did the most clucking over the kids’ behavior were doing a little vicarious living through their story-telling. Even later, I recognized that part of their ability to figure out what we were up to was related to their own youthful experience.

      1. Rebellion is a natural part of growing up, doing what comes naturally. :) There may be something to the idea of the greater the repression, the greater the rebellion. I like what the Amish do (or it may be another group)— sending their older kids out to live on their own and experience the broader world before committing to their life style. –Curt

        1. Rumspringa (rumshpringa) occurs within certain Amish and Mennonite groups. It translates loosely to running around”. Young people — anywhere from 14 to 21 depending on the sect — are allowed to leave the community and live on their own for about 2 years, tasting all that western culture has to offer.

        2. Sally’s right about the practice of rumspringa. A few years ago, Tom Shachtman wrote a book titled Rumspringa: To Be or Not To Be Amish that also was featured on NPR, and which is linked in the Wiki article. There’s an extensive excerpt from it here.. There are some interesting variations in the practice that at least get a mention, such as the fact that some youth actually stay at home while they’re enjoying their freedom.

          It’s interesting to ponder the similarities and differences between rumspringa and bush school. In a very real sense, our society is the bush for the Amish. I wonder if anything ever has been written about that?

          1. I decided to follow Sally’s blog, Linda. Went over and really liked it. Also really enjoyed philosopher mouse of the hedge.
            Interesting about Bush school. Its job, as I understood it, was to instill traditional values. And it was tough. The scarification marks that ran down Sam’s chest (our houseboy) were supposed to be the marks of the Bush Devils teeth. The Devil swallowed Sam as a child and spit him back out at a man. I suspect the scarification process was quite painful. –Curt

            1. As is the female equivalent. I never heard a word about female genital mutilation when I was living there, and I wonder about that now. Obviously, there wouldn’t be open conversation about it with someone who wasn’t to be privy to details about the Sande, but some who’d been in-country for many years may have known more than they shared.

            2. For a brief time we lived near Jim Gibson, one of the top experts on the Kpelle people, and Sam (our houseboy) worked as an informant for him. So Sam was used to talking about cultural differences. We had more insights than we might have, otherwise. Also, I was lucky to experience things like the Sassawood trial. Like you, I had limited knowledge of the Sande Society and genital mutilation. –Curt

  13. You had me at the preface, in actual fact. That time of year, yes indeed. Somehow, and it will fail me to explain how I connect the dots, your story here, with the preface, put in mind an Amy Clampitt poem I ran across today, “Vacant Lot with Pokeweed.” https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/vacant-lot-pokeweed. Actually, I think the association had to do with summer annoyances. I don’t know if you get pokeweed down where you are, but its roots go down to China. Just impossible to dig out if you don’t get to it while it’s still a young un’.

    1. I love the last two lines of the poem: “the season’s frittering / the annual wreckage.” As for pokeweed, we do indeed have it, and it gave rise to one of my favorite swamp songs, “Polk Salad Annie.” It’s worth noting that the better phrase would be “poke sallet,” which refers to cooked pokeweed greens. They don’t belong in a true salad, because the raw greens are poisonous. Pokeweed poisoning would be a summer annoyance, for sure!

      Your comment about the roots reminded me of how astonished I was to learn that the roots of bluestem and other such prairie grasses can go down twelve to sixteen feet into the ground. That’s one reason they recover from fire so well. Even if they lose everything above ground, the roots are ready to regrow.

    1. A little laughter is good for the soul. And by the way, when I saw that your article on Mary had been honored, I meant to offer congratulations, but I got distracted somehow. So: congratulations! Is the text available online?

      1. Thanks! I can’t find the text online, but I will send you a jpg of the document on line. FYI, it was not an article proper, but a response to a question in a Q and A column posted each month. The editor asks various folk to respond. Mine was in the month of December in 2016. Best, aj

    2. Good stories always are worth the telling and re-telling, and some get re-told more than others. There’s even a song about one of them. I’m glad you enjoyed and re-enjoyed this one!

  14. That song is right up there with Tom T. Hall’s, “The Great East Broadway Onion Championship” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eBo-yGcil8
    The “Paul” referred to is Paul Milosevich, who taught painting at Tech (TTU), and the event took place in Stubbs’ Barbecue restaurant. ( http://www.stubbsbbq.com/sunday-night-jams/ ) My BFF had Milosevich for painting when she got her BA in Fine Arts. I went to High school with Joe Ely although he was 2 grades ahead of me. Unfortunately, I was in Germany in 1978 and missed the championship match.

    1. I’d never paid much attention to the musical lineup when Stubb’s still was in Lubbock. The 1970s look like one fine time up that way. And I didn’t know you were in school with Ely. I’ve always liked the Flatlanders. There’s a new CD out called “The Odessa Tapes” that’s a remastering of fourteen tracks they recorded there on reel-to-reel in 1972, and it’s great.

      As for a good story, the Onion Championship ranks right up there.Using the broomstick as a cue reminded me of one of my favorite proverbs: “A new broom sweeps clean, but an old broom knows the corners.”

  15. Fun story to read again. That photo of the long road ahead reminded me of my introduction to Texas. We encountered a road like that which went on forever. I recall we stopped briefly on what appeared to be a flat level surface, but amazingly the car started coasting backwards — we were actually on a gradual incline.

    A writer inserting such a story into a fictional novel would probably be criticized for making up what would be called an unbelievable tale. I, too, appreciate the rational manner which authorities took in dealing with the situation. Also, your comment later about how all the various media we have today would have handled this really does spark much thought. as we see what occurs with every little thing. Wouldn’t be surprised if someone wouldn’t have cooked up a reality TV series based on the underpinnings of this story.

    1. Your story of that incline reminds me of my first trip to Texas: by road, in a VW beetle, pulling a small U-Haul trailer. All was going well until we got to Oklahoma. No one had mentioned the Arbuckle Mountains; it wasn’t exactly all downhill from Iowa to the Gulf.

      Sometimes I think we all have a story or two from our lives that would be considered unbelievable if inserted into a piece of fiction. At the very least, there are moments when we’re not even recognizable to ourselves, let alone to anyone who’s known us for some period of time.

      Beyond that, I wonder how the group from Floydada adjusted once reality came home to roost. I suspect you’ve read Festinger’s When Prophecy Fails. I re-read that some years ago, when Harold Camping was predicting the end of the world (again). This article from that time clearly is relevant to the crew in the Pontiac, as well as having a few things to say about other groups in today’s society at large. I anticipate interesting times ahead.

      1. We were pulling a small Trotwood trailer in which we lived for about six months on our way to Tucson. Driving down the New Mexico curvy twisty mountain road in the black of night we discovered if our car lights were on our brakes on the trailer wold not work and vice versa. I was only thirteen years but vividly remember that night.

        I don’t recall reading this article before, so thanks for the link — seems apropos for some politicians and followers today. Reminds me also of Heaven’s Gate cult in 1974. I often ponder actions that contribute to becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.

        1. There’s no question that on the right and on the left, there are people living out the dynamics described by Eric Hoffer his book, The True Believer. Every now and then I dip into Twitter timelines, or the comment sections in everything from Slate to The Federalist, just to see how things are going. It’s not pretty out there, and it’s especially ugly in some fairly important places. I keep waiting for things to bottom out, but it appears we’ll have to wait a little longer.

  16. Linda, this is definitely a lift-me-up-and-shake-me-with-laughter story. I first heard this song about a decade ago at a folk music workshop. Loved it then and love it even more now that I know “the rest of the story.” As for Floydada, there must be another tale that explains that name.

    1. Thanks for your responses to Curt. Those Amish customs are so very interesting. As I mentioned to him, they’re a strange variant of what we saw in Liberia with the bush schools.

      Floydada’s name has an interesting history. It started out as Floyd City, but the postal system required a change because there already was a Floyd City in Hunt County. The town was built on land donated by James B. and Caroline Price of Jefferson City, Missouri, so, according to the story I was told, it was named for Caroline’s parents: Floyd and Ada. Another tradition is that the name came from a combination of Floyd County and James Price’s mother’s name: also an Ada.

      I love that you ran into the song in a folk music workshop. It didn’t take long to get established, did it?

      1. Obviously I was not pronouncing the name right! I assumed Floy-dada. Thanks for the postal lesson. Why, AZ is another weird one — named for the Y in the road: go south to Mexico or east to Tucson. Since a single letter wasn’t acceptable, they used the word. (A further play on words … one of only a couple of commercial outlets there is the Why Not Travel Store.)

            1. As someone who grew up there, I’ve heard them all, and a few others (you left out floy-dah-DAH), but it’s actually the second one — floy-DAY-duh

  17. My day just got off to a good start listening to that song – Yee Ha! Some stories are so crazy that you can make no sense of them. As you commented they were very fortunate to meet ‘officialdom’ who thought they must be collectively mad and not bad, and as schizophrenia is not viral or contagious, there must be a simpler explanation for the madness – religion! A great story and worth the re-telling.

    1. There’s nothing like a good tune and a little (or a lot) of humor to start the day. I think it’s fair to say everyone involved was perplexed by the behavior, but part of the joy of their response was their unwillingness to slap a label on it. In some ways, I suspect the police and court officials felt much as I do when I come across a particularly strange phenomenon out in nature — something that refuses to fit into my categories. Sometimes I just stare, and think, “What is that?” I’m pretty sure that would have been my response if I’d run into this crew, too!

    1. Isn’t it, though? I suppose every country produces its share of quirky stories, but we seem to have more than our share. I suppose the size of the country has a bit to do with it. We’re big enough that every sort of group can disappear and live their life as they please — until they suddenly arrive on the public stage and astonish us all!

    1. Isn’t it fun? It’s a good reminder that fun and ridicule aren’t the same thing, and there’s nothing wrong with a little fun now and then.

    1. Both the story and song are great — and one of the best things about the song is that it’s a good song, all the way around. It’s more than a novelty song; it’s a really good, singable song with good music. I’m glad you enjoyed it — and happy Independence Day!

    1. I’m not sure fiction could equal this one. On the other hand, I did toy with Sir Gawain and the Green Pontiac this afternoon. Now, there’s a story line with possibilities.

      Glad you enjoyed the tale.

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