Curtis Coulter: The Wreck Of The Old 97 At The Rock Creek Trestle

  • Thursday, April 11, 2024

Granted, I have quite an imagination, but even I cannot make up stuff like the stories I am getting ready to tell here. In all the annals of town history, there have never been any wrecks to come up with the following three – a train derailment with box cars loaded with Budweiser beer, a truck carrying a load of slippery pork lard, and a truck loaded with peanut butter. You can already tell where these tales are headed.

By sheer luck, survivors of those three wrecks lived long enough to tell about the misfortunes, and I as a witnessing party saw the dad blamed train wreck myself.

If you wanted to get the whole town alarmed during the 1950s, just let an ambulance come blaring through town or start passing the word “Train wreck at the railroad trestle. Come and lookee hyaaaar, what a wreck.” Being from a sleepy little town like Sale Creek where not much excitement took place, the prospect of a good roiling train wreck was enough to cause officials to call off school or church just so people could go and gawk at the proceedings. But that is exactly what happened one Sunday morning in Sale Creek around 1954 (not positively sure about the year, but by the doagies, it really happened)

While my family was eating Sunday breakfast before Sunday School that morning word came from a neighbor that a train had derailed just north of the Rock Creek trestle. Well, we all took one last bite of biscuit and gravy and then lit out for the railroad. This was something that had to be seen. None of us had ever seen a good train wreck, and this one promised to take the rag off the bush. When we arrived at the section of track that had given way just north of the trestle, we beheld a sight that I will never forget. There were several boxcars off the embankment and lying on the edge of the Flat Woods. Listen to me now. There were Budweiser beer bottles th’owed all over the place, stretching all the way back to the crack of doom on both sides of the railroad, the embankment, in the woods, all over the place. And that was not all, brother. All the imbibing good Samaritans from Sale Creek, the Ridges, Graysville, and Bakewell were swarming over that wreck like flies on honey assisting the Southern Railway crews in removing the mess. Lay abouts who usually were so lazy that they wouldn’t say sooey if the hawgs had ‘em were now very actively working with might and main like Trojans to get that beer off the ground.

I remember seeing boxes of beer bottles, but many of the bottles were broken. Most of the good bottles of booze got scarfed up by all the helpers eagerly grabbing at them. I think people were afraid to put the good bottles in the boxes for fear that someone else would take them, so the good Samaritans confiscated as many as possible.

I saw one man with nearly a whole case of beer on his person. He had ‘em stuffed down his shirt, under his belt, two in his back pockets, a couple in his front pockets, one under his chin, one under his arm pit, and he was doing two five-fingered discounts by sticking all ten carpal digits into the mouths of opened beer bottles. He looked like a walking tavern. He actually got a crick in his neck from holding the one under his chin so tightly and for so long.

There was more than one case of mooning of fellow workers when pants gave way under the strain of the weight of the beer bottles inside people’s clothing and carried their trousers clanking to the ground. Several nasty cracks were made about people’s behinds showing!

And he was not the exception, either.

One old lady had nearly a case of beer on her person as well. She had beer bottles everywhere. She had one of those “fightin’ purses” that ladies swing when they fight…looked like a collapsible bushel basket with straps attached, and she must have had eight or ten bottles in there. She had several down the bosom of her dress until she looked like a well-known country singer. She, too, had her fingers down the mouths of bottles just like the man, but they kept slipping off and falling and bustin’. She even had one tied to the top of her head with her hat ribbon until she looked like she was growing horns out the top of her head or else had an amber-colored headlight up there.

Even still, that was not the worst of it. Some of the good Samaritans began hiding the booze in hollow trees so they could come back and get it later. Net result was that because of their drunken stupor, they forgot where they put the beer, but the wildlife found it. We had drunken squirrels falling out of trees for the next six weeks. Kind of disconcerting to hunt squirrels, and they just voluntarily and drunkenly stagger out onto a tree limb forty feet in the air, surrender, and do a kamikaze maneuver off the limb, ending up right at your feet as dead as a truck-pressed pheasant without a shot being fired.

A huge vacuum sweeper could not have cleaned up that area any quicker than all the helpful folks swarming over those woods and railroad tracks. When the beer was all cleaned up, the crowd went clinking and clanking their way back across the trestle bridge to the Leggett Road crossing or turned north to Detour Road. Several were walking spraddle-legged because the weight of the beer was pulling their pants down. Some just staggered into the woods and slept it off for the next half a day.

I’ll never forget that sight as long as I live.

* * *

Curtis Coulter writes about other humorous events that have occurred in his hometown of Sale Creek on his FaceBook page, and his latest book of humor, “This Is The Way I Heard It”, which is available on coulterpublications.com. He can be reached at cncoulter318@epbfi.com


Memories
Properties Considered For The National Register Of Historic Places At State Review Board Meeting
  • 5/8/2024

The State Review Board will meet on Wednesday, May 22 to examine Tennessee's proposed nominations to the National Register of Historic Places. Beginning at 9 a.m. (CDT), the meeting will be held ... more

Grave Marking Of Private Joseph Holt, War Of 1812 Patriot Held In Haley, Tn.
  • 5/1/2024

The Volunteer-Wauhatchie Chapter of the National Society United States Daughters of 1812 honored Private Joseph Holt on April 27, by dedicating a War of 1812 veteran marker at his grave in Haley, ... more

Historian Tyler Boyd To Speak On Old-Time Politics In Polk County
Historian Tyler Boyd To Speak On Old-Time Politics In Polk County
  • 5/1/2024

When: Wednesday, May 15, 2024 at 12 p.m. (and virtually) Where: East Tennessee History Center, 601 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, Tn. 37902 For almost two decades, Polk County Sheriff Burch ... more