A Southern Legend

4 Oct

A few weeks ago, I was making a late night drive from Atlanta to my home in Tennessee. This trip requires taking Interstate 75 before veering onto Interstate 24 in Chattanooga. Just north of Chattanooga the road crosses a steep ridge known as Monteagle. The route up the ridge is relatively straight, but the way down is winding to say the least. It’s steep, curvy and takes concentration to get to the bottom safely.

I like the drive because it is fun and because it always brings to mind a story that I heard as a kid. It is the story of a truck driver who became a legend while delivering a load from Atlanta to Tennessee. Some people compare his story to those of John Henry and Jesse James – real people whose stories are clouded in song, myth and the need for heroes.

The year was 1963, and the driver hit the climb at Monteagle in a driving thunderstorm. I imagine the going was slow up the ridge because trucks have difficulty there on a good day. Heck, they say he couldn’t even see the passing lane. He probably stopped at the town on top of the ridge to take a break and get out of the storm. However, the load needed to be delivered.

As he started down the mountain, the rain had not let up, and the driver realized that he needed to gear down. He missed his gear and hit the breaks as the truck started to speed up. The breaks didn’t have air, and the truck driver realized that he was in trouble. However, more trouble was ahead as the trailer jack-knifed.

Now, he was going down Monteagle backwards with no breaks and in a driving rainstorm. He flew by cars and trucks. Later, the drivers of those vehicles reported that he had his head out the window and was yelling for everyone to get out-of-the-way.

Finally, he made it safely to the bottom, and people gathered around to ask him how he had gotten down the ridge. His reply has gone down in southern lore – “Folks, when the truck picked up too much speed I just run along beside it and drug my feet.”

It wasn’t long before word of this feat spread through the trucking world, and he became known as the driver with ice water running in his veins. They say he had a foot like lead and nerves like steel. With this newfound fame, the driver was paid to attend truck driving rodeos throughout the south and, honestly, became a shell of his former self.

Fifteen years after his experience on Monteagle, the driver was offered the chance to make another legendary run. The trick was that he had to drive from Atlanta to Texarkana and pick up a load of Coors. Then, he had to return to Atlanta within 24 hours. It was an impossible run that included breaking bootlegging laws. However, being the driver that he was, the bet was not going to be turned down.

The truck driver’s real name was Bo Darville, but in legend he is known by his CB handle, The Bandit. A southern legend, his story has been remembered in cinema and song.

12 Responses to “A Southern Legend”

  1. javaj240 October 4, 2012 at 03:38 #

    Cool story! I never realized “The Bandit” was a real piece of folklore!

    • surroundedbyimbeciles October 4, 2012 at 03:40 #

      Thanks, but I will give you a little tip when it comes to historians. You can’t believe everything that we say.

  2. javaj240 October 4, 2012 at 03:44 #


    At least your training has given you the necessary skills to make these type of “facts” believable. Too funny!

  3. lifeonwry.com October 4, 2012 at 14:51 #

    I watched Smoky and the Bandit at least 30 times when I was young. On a BETA tape, to boot. loved that TransAm. And I wanted to marry the Bandit. Thanks for the post.

    • surroundedbyimbeciles October 4, 2012 at 18:46 #

      You’re welcome, and thanks for commenting. I can never understand why it is not included on the AFI listing. Citizen Kane and Vertigo do not hold a candle to this classic.

      I saw it 5 times in the theater and have watched it numerous times since. 10-4


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