Introduction

Highway 80 is a stretch of road that ran at one time from California all through Georgia and was once part of the early auto trail known as the Dixie Overland Highway.

However, the entire segment west of Dallas, Texas, has been decommissioned in favor of various interstate and state highways. Currently, the highway’s western terminus is on the Dallas–Mesquite, Texas city line. Highway 80’s last stop is Tybee Island, Georgia, just past Savannah.

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My focus will be the stretch from Dallas to the other side of Macon, Georgia.  I will weave a fictional narrative revolving around nine families and many secondary characters going back to when they first came to America. More specifically, when and how they got to Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or Georgia. In the process the vicissitudes of American history will be the context for the lives, the successes and losses, of the characters in these stories and songs.

Although the stories and songs are based on real events and typical experiences of the people who settled the southern United States, all the characters and stories are fictional.

“Going West”

Homer and Virgil Hardin were distant relatives, of Louanne Bowden, on her mama’s grandma’s side.

Going West
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

John Henry Hardin was an engineer
Railroading for the T&P
He had a good wife and two ornery sons
This would’ve been about nineteen and aught-three

The Hardins come from North Carolina
Alabama, then Texas in eighteen-seventy-nine
They would move on about every ten years
Leaving progress: the lawyers and the bankers behind

And go west, hoping to stay free
Even if it meant a harder life
Go west, hanging on to liberty
Life ain’t worth living otherwise

Homer and Virgil were John Henry’s sons
They were dyed-in-the-wool true Hardins, them two
Stuck there in Big Spring, standing at the tracks
Staring and waiting for the coal train to blow through

Each had a nickel in his pocket
Earned that mornin’ from chopping two cords of wood
When they were younger they’d put ’em on the track
But they been saving their nickels to get out for good

And go west, hoping to stay free …

© 2019 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“Say Roy”

Royal Raney was the grandson of Lonsom Raney, legendary moonshiner and general hell-raiser of the North Georgia mountains.  Here, Lonsom is with a young Royal, spending some time on the family farm telling some history of their clan and in general initiating him into the Raney fold.

Say Roy
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Say Roy, get my walking stick
I want to take a look around the place
Get up boy, and you best be quick
I’m old ‘n’ ain’ got time to waste
Come on Roy, find your sense
I want to see that stretch o’ fence
Did you mend it right?
Let’s go, it’s almost light

Get up and make your bed
Boy don’ keep me waitin’ long
Ain’ you heard a single word I sed?
I want to sweep off your Grandma’s headstone
It looks like it might storm
Gonna stick my head in the barn
Did you milk the cow?
I wanna go and go now

[…]

I can see it just like yesterday
Walkin’ with my pap just like this
I was just about your age
And wanted a walkin’ stick just like his
Pap cut a branch, gave it to me
He cut it from a hickory tree
Said, “when that dries it’ll be good”
We’re standing where that hickory stood

Say Roy, let’s head back home
I done looked around the place
Come on boy, get a move on
I’m old ‘n’ ain’ got time to waste
Light the lamp, trim the wick
Here, take this walkin’ stick
It’ll be yours from now on
Come on Roy, let’s go home

© 2019 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“Missouri”

During the 1920s and ’30s the boll weevil devastated the cotton crop in several Southern states along the Highway 80 corridor.  Many farmers gave up and left their farms since the weevil appeared to be impervious to all attempts to drive it out or kill it off.  Ironically the thing that finally caused the weevil to move on, was a widespread drought in 1930, which farmers did not see as much of a savior.  After the drought the Great Depression caused the remaining farmers who had managed to survive the weevil, as well as the drought, to be threatened yet again with economic collapse.

The West offered a virgin land, a territory full of promise.  The allure was irresistible for some men who uprooted themselves and often their entire families to try their luck “out West”.

Missouri
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

There’s land in Missouri
I’ve heard tell it’s rich and dark
Ain’ nothin’ for me ’round here
I’d like to make a brand new start

Boll weevil killed my cotton
What drove him off was a drought
I’ve had enough of Texarkana
I’m thinkin’ hard of movin’ out

To Missouri – I’ll head west
Where a man can start fresh
I won’t rest until I’ve left
To Missouri I’m bound

Ol’ man Taylor thinks I’m lazy
Says soon it’s bound to rain
I should stick it out and make a crop
No matter where I go it’ll be the same

Since my Julie took sick and died
I’ve got no reason to stay
Texarkana is for Taylor
As for me, I’ll move away

To Missouri – I’ll head west …

© 2019 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“Molly’s Got a Secret”

Molly Motts was sexually molested by her step-father in Delta, Louisiana from the age of 12.  But Molly is resilient and refuses to identify herself as a victim.  As soon as she was grown up enough she crossed the river to Vicksburg and attracted the attention of a prominent Mississippi man, Vernon Raney.  Molly marries him and over time becomes the matriarchal  figure of the Raney family whose criminal enterprises began with bootlegging and under Molly’s leadership branched out into marijuana and pills.

Molly’s Got a Secret
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Molly’s got a secret, a deep dark secret
She ain’t told, but don’t know if she can keep it
It’s burn’d a hole in her heart, all the way up to the skin
Once it’s out, it can’t be put back again

She’s protected him for so long
She knows he hurt her, knows it was wrong
She still feels guilty all the same
Even though she knows he’s the only one to blame

Molly’s got a secret, a deep dark secret …

[…]

Molly’s got a secret from years before
She can’t forget it, can’t live with it no more
She drinks a little too much, laughs a little too loud
When his name comes up she don’t wanna be around

Molly’s got a secret, a deep dark secret …

First chance she got she put Delta behind her
Won’t let what that man did define her
What happened in Delta she’s buried it deep
Her skin is thicker now, it’s a secret she can keep

Molly’s got a secret, a deep dark secret …

© 2019 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“Mike & D.W.”

Mike Broussard and D.W. Washington met and became lifelong friends during the Vietnam War. After the war, Mike returned to Vivian, Louisiana, where he owned and operated a filling station and repair shop. D.W. followed when he was discharged and worked there with Mike for decades. The only thing that came between them was how Mike’s wife, Marie, handled her late stage cancer, and the role D.W. played.

Mike & D.W.
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

D.W. Washington worked for Mike Broussard
Mike was his sergeant back in the war
They been best friends since 1965
But ain’t spoke a word since Marie died

Mike owned a filling station and repair shop
Mike worked on the cars, D.W. worked the pump
D.’d go to Bossier Fridays and get a little drunk
Monday mornin’ Mike’d roll by and pick him up

Marie was the only love of Mike’s life
D.W. was her friend, but she was Mike’s wife
They weren’t romantic but she and D were close
She’d tell things to him she’d never want Mike to know

As the cancer took its toll Marie made up her mind
She had D.W. swear to help her if it came time
Marie hid from Mike what was in her heart
But made sure that D.W. would do his part

Mike never forgave him for his role at the end
He didn’t blame Marie, no, he blamed his friend
Mike wanted every minute there was with Marie
D.W. robbed him just like that disease

Thirty years went by without a single word
Then D.W. got “old-timers”, was what Mike heard
Mike set aside his pride, set aside the past
Two old friends shared a bottle and a few laughs

Marie was the only love of Mike’s life
D.W. was her friend, but she was Mike’s wife
They weren’t romantic but she and D were close
She’d tell things to him she’d never want Mike to know

D.W. Washington worked for Mike Broussard
Mike was his sergeant back in the war

© 2019 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

James Lamar Halladay (1973)

James “Jamie” Lamar Halladay was born in Monroe, Louisiana, in 1973.  His father was a musician, guitar player, Frank Halladay, who played in a series of bands, traveling Texas, Louisiana and eventually Nashville.  By the time Jamie was four, Frank Halladay stopped living with the family, which also included Jamie’s younger sister, Sadie, although not out of their lives altogether.  He would show up on birthdays and Christmas, when he could (see song “The Laughing Man at the Door“).

James Charles Halladay (1913-1995), Jamie Halladay’s grandfather, was a fighter pilot who served with distinction in the Army Air Corps during WWII. He learned to fly as a crop dusting pilot for the Huff Daland Dusters, as part of the eradication of the boll weevil. This company, moved from Macon Georgia to Monroe Louisiana, in 1925 but Charlie didn’t hire on until 1933, but stayed with the company as it became a regional commercial carrier, which eventually became Delta Airlines.

Hi son Frank showed a talent for music early on and learned to play the guitar listening to the Grand Ole Opry and especially Hank Williams when he was still pretty small. While in high school he started a band with some of his friends and they got pretty good. Good enough to become the backup band for Webb Pierce and played on the Louisiana Hayride.

It while he was playing with Webb Pierce that Frank met the woman who was to eventually become his wife and Jamie’s mother, Lee Ann Lucas. But while Frank and Lee Ann were in love and did get married, the itinerant lifestyle of a musician did not make for a stable home life and the marriage failed. Frank tried to see his kids as much as he could, but was not a regular presence in their lives.

Nevertheless, he did have an impact on Jamie’s life.

On his twelfth birthday, Frank gave Jamie a guitar and taught him a few chords, but that was just the start for Jamie. He eventually got good enough to move to Nashville and get some gigs there playing behind country stars. He ended up breaking into the studio scene and became a member of the “A list” players, i.e. first call musicians for recording sessions.

It was while he was living in Nashville, around 2003, that Jamie began visiting a bar, McLemore’s and became friends with the owner Jake McLemore (see song “McLemore’s“).

© 2019 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

“The Laughing Man at the Door”

Jamie Halladay’s dad was a guitar player, in a traveling band, who only made it home for birthdays and a few Christmases. But he did teach Jamie how to play guitar, which Jamie also made his living from.

The Laughing Man at the Door
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

In Monroe, Louisiana, standing at a window
A four year old sees his father drive away
Cowboy hat on his head, six gun on his hip
Jamie waves goodbye until his next birthday

Say goodbye to a man you hardly know
As his car disappears down the road
Say goodbye, watch him go
On a gray December day in Monroe

His daddy plays guitar in a traveling country band
And don’ live there with them no more
Jamie has a sister, eighteen months old
Who don’t remember the laughing man at the door

Say goodbye to a man you hardly know …

When Jamie turned twelve his dad gave him a guitar
Showed him where to put his fingers for his first chord
His dad died in ’93, when Jamie was nineteen
And who played better than the laughing man at the door

Say goodbye to a man you hardly know …

© 2018 Frank David Leone, Jr./Highway 80 Music (ASCAP). The songs and stories on the Highway 80 Stories website are works of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.