Junction: County Road 197

As It Was in the Beginning, pgs39-45

HOW TO MEET GIRLS...1904
In 1904, Chumuckla was a "subburg." It is not a burg even today, although there is a modern, air-conditioned convenience store posted at the crossroads. The community is located directly across the Escambia River from Bogia, Florida. In 1904 it was not a shadow of the modern village it is today.

There were no paved roads. There was no central air conditioning. There were no Toyota pickup trucks with four-wheel drive, four-cylinder overhead cam engines. There were no AM/FM quadraphonic radios with compact laser disc players.

There was no electricity. I am told my ancestors had to watch black and white TV (with manual channel selectors) by candle light.
In that year, my Great Uncle Cuyler Campbell, a son of pioneers, had seen 15 Northwest Florida winters come and go. He witnessed the seasons change without the heartbreak of psoriasis or hypertension. He did not have a daily ration of Cocoa Puffs and Fruit Loops (prize in box).

At 98, Uncle Cuyler was a human library of the times. Not too long ago, he shared some of his early experiences with me.
In 1904 he and his brother (my Grandfather, Jim Campbell) reached an appropriate age to date. They owned some fine horses and they had a sporting buggy. They instinctively sought the company of young ladies who lived in distant communities. Jim and Cuyler (Grandpa and Great Uncle) wanted to practice the art of courtship.

In those days, it was not unusual to travel 25 miles in search of a good family. Respectable families usually had among their number a supply of suitable maidens. In Mulat, near Escambia Bay, they found twin sisters who met their stringent qualifications. They were Minnie and Mae Brown.

For some months, on Saturday afternoons following their introduction, Jim and Cuyler drove a team of horses to Mulat. Their matched team pulled a standout rig for twenty miles to the Brown family home.

They joined the family for dinner and then they would sit for a spell. About 8 o'clock in the evening they hitched up the buggy and headed for home in the dark. Sealed, quartz-beam headlights were not in use at that time.

Eventually, my Grandpa found another lass to court at the Howell homestead. The Howell family was closer—some five or six miles north of the Campbell farm. For a time, my Uncle Cuyler made the trip to Mulat alone.

It was not uncommon for him to fall asleep at the reins. It was late, he was relaxed with a soul full of good food and conversation. The horses, operating on an early version of automatic pilot, found the way home without human intervention. The roads were unpaved and unmarked. They would remain so for another twenty or twenty-five years.

Once, according to Uncle Cuyler, the night was so still and so dark the horses lost their way. Cuyler was awakened from his gentle, rocking nap by an unusual bump. He strained his eyes for a familiar landmark. There was none. He was lost. Cuyler reined in the horses. He unhitched the buggy, and the trio camped out on the spot. With daylight he would find his way home.

As it turned out, he was somewhere near Pond Creek, off course by six or seven miles, perhaps on what is today known as Hamilton Bridge Road. Two wars later, there would be a U.S. Navy practice landing field for student aviators in the area—"Spencer Field." Of course, in 1904, nobody in Santa Rosa County would have dreamed of such a thing.

The twenty-mile courtship was an effort. Maintaining the horses was a job. I am sure he was disappointed when the Brown girl turned her attentions toward a young man named Jones. It was several years later before Cuyler's determined efforts at courtship won him the hand of Bessie Savelle.

My wife, Karen (Gatewood) is a great-grand niece of the Brown twins, whom my Great Uncle and Grandfather dated near the turn of the century. Karen's Great Grandma Tinsley was sister to the Brown twins, Minnie and Mae. Ed Tinsley and Ed's sister, Floress Burnett, who still live in Avalon Beach, are descendents of the Brown family.

Uncle Cuyler told me "You did well to marry into that family, boy." I agreed.

Karen's Grandmother, Floress Burnett, remembers the events mentioned here. She lost track of Uncle Cuyler and my Grandfather shortly after they turned their attentions in other directions. She was relieved to hear, after more than 80 years, that everything worked out so well for my Uncle.

My cousins—Clayton, Otto, Oswald, Evelyn , Lucille, Donald, Louise, Rufus, Glen, Winston, and Colbert—are also pleased with the turn of events. They are the offspring of Cuyler and Bessie. If relationships had developed otherwise, they might carry names like "A.G.," Leroy, Robert, May Evelyn (actual Jones descendents), Bertha, Ralph, Minerva, Arthur, Zebadiah, Calvin, and Theodore (or some such combination). And they would not look a bit like they do now.

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EAU DE HOOF...

In some ways, little has changed in Chumuckla over the last 80 years. Chumuckla is a community of farmers and other souls struggling with mortgages, low pay, little recognition, and poor television reception. It is a microcosm of the Twentieth Century "Dixie Experience."

The last story told how my Great Uncle Cuyler Campbell sought and courted young, respectable, ladies. He traveled to distant communities within Santa Rosa County. In 1904 his travel was restricted to horse-drawn wagons over unpaved roads, through rough terrain, and in all manner of weather. Even with all the effort to overcome the inconveniences of pioneer Florida, he was rejected by at least one prospective flower. In truth, he was probably turned down by several before he won the hand of Miss Savelle.

Move your calendar up sixty years. Flip the pages past "The Somme," "The Crash of 1929," "The Great Depression," "Pearl Harbor," "VJ Day," "Inchon," "I Like Ike," and "The Annual Chumuckla FFA/FHA Banquet of 1962" (Mabel Salter presiding). Turn the pages of your calendar all the way to about 1965. Look at a vision of the past.

There goes Cuyler's fifteen-year-old grand-nephew, Vic. He is wearing one of his best flannel shirts. He is riding his quarterhorse mare, Ol' Ripple. Vic is headed south alongside County Road 197 to visit and to impress the most recent passion of his heart, "The Little Jernigan Girl."

The roads have been paved now for some twenty or twenty-five years. White dotted lines were added to the blacktop, reducing the possibility of becoming lost. If ever in doubt, you can follow the dotted line back the way you came.

At the Jernigan home, Vic dismounts. He wipes some of the sweat off the horse and onto his shirt. He ambles to the front door. The walk is practiced to appear confident. The stride is somewhere between John Wayne and Roy Rogers.

He knocks politely, scrapes some manure off his brogan lace-up work boots, and is invited inside. Mrs. Jernigan is breathing shallow, but the boy does not know why. Maybe she is sick, he thinks. His "atmosphere" follows him to a chair. He removes his hat with a flair. The $2.97 straw hat is essential equipment for horseback riding. Boy Vic sits a spell with the family.

After some months of this modest approach, Boy Vic has a sixteenth birthday. He becomes an amazingly mature person. He claims—as his own—wisdom, confidence, common sense, and other mature characteristics.

On occasion, Pop loans Vic the 1965 blue, longbed, stepside, standard-transmission, Ford pickup truck. It has an excellent platform for dating girls. Clean out the hog manure from the last trip to the sale barn, and the smell is acceptable.

Enter Vic's buddy, Junior, who takes an interest in the dark-haired vixen. He enters the competitive field of contenders who vie for the attention of Miss Jernigan. With full battle gear—a two-tone, blue and white, 1965 Ford Galaxie (with a 390-cubic inch V-8 engine, automatic transmission, AM/FM radio, and air conditioning); a quart of Clubman aftershave; a Gant madras shirt; a pair of penny loafers with argyle socks; and a complete collection of Pete Fountain's LP Jazz albums, Junior turns her dark eyes from mine to his. Face the facts. "Kid Vic" is outgunned.

Junior held her attention for only a few months. He, too, was then abandoned for a more mature and better prepared gladiator.

Recall the last chapter—the story of Uncle Cuyler. I learned from my experience, much as he had 60 years before. First, we had to face the truth. Our magnetic personalities, good looks, fine manners, and almost irresistible charm would simply not move some women. There are rare exceptions where being very nearly perfect in almost every way is not a sufficient draw. Second, after careful analysis, it became obvious. The fault lay not with ourselves. The blame could be leveled at the horses.

A few hours ON horseback, or even IN a buggy BEHIND a horse, will lend a "certain aire" to the participating equestrian. It follows, logically, that this "aroma" or "eau de hoof" may not be altogether attractive to the sensitivities of refined ladies. Anyway, I noticed that my luck improved when I started dating with the pickup truck. My luck was even better when, in time, a car was available.

Barring the use of deodorant, the switch from horse to car had probably the most dramatic effect on my relationships with the fair gender. I am sure Uncle Cuyler, as well, had better results when he began courting from an automobile—of course, in 1904, the supply of autos was limited.

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