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.

“Barrow”

Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker captured the imagination of Depression era America.  Although their actual success at crime was a far cry from the myth, people were starving to be distracted from the dire reality of the dust bowl and economic devastation.

For about three years, 1931-1934, the “Barrow Gang” traveled Texas, Oklahoma and Missouri attempting to rob banks but more often small grocery stores or filling stations.  Clyde was blamed for murders he didn’t commit. Criminal masterminds they were not, but the newspapers built them up into larger-than-life characters; publishing photographs of the couple that had been found at an abandoned hideout.

The portrayal in the press of Bonnie and Clyde was sometimes at odds with the reality of their life on the road, especially for Bonnie Parker. She was present at 100 or more felonies during the two years that she was Barrow’s companion, although she was not the cigar-smoking, machine gun-wielding killer depicted in the newspapers, newsreels, and pulp detective magazines of the day.

In May 1934 Frank Hamer, a legendary Texas Ranger, assembled a well-armed posse around Gibsland, Louisiana on Louisiana SR 154, just south of US 80, and they put over a hundred slugs into their bodies, bringing an end to their short but exciting run.

Barrow
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

He grew up a poor boy in Texas
A little smarter than the rest, and restless
He looked around and didn’t see no justice
The cards were stacked against a poor man
Said, he’d not be poor again

She had honey golden hair and was so cute
Got away with anything she’d do
Loved the movies and said she’d be in some too
The dreams of a poor girl ain’t free
Nothin’ could dent her belief

He stole cars and robbed grocery stores
Then bigger crimes that could not be ignored
Killed a lawman, when they sent him down he swore
They’d not take him alive again
He’d die before he went back to the pen

She was workin’ for tips at the diner
Ain’t the place her prince would find her
She wants to leave it all behind her
And live in a big house someday
Like the movies, make a getaway

When she met him she sure liked his flash
For a time they ran wild and fast
But even they knew it couldn’t last
A Texas Ranger was on their trail
Said he’d chase ’em all the way to hell

Blamed for crimes they did not commit
Magazines ’n’ newsreels reported it
Didn’t matter if the facts didn’t fit
The law was closin’ in
Was just one way it could end

In 1934 folks had so much trouble
They were rootin’ for the fugitive couple
The Ranger staked ’em out with a lot of muscle
They never really had a chance
Those bullets sure made ’em dance

© 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.

“Vivian, Louisiana”

Home to Mike “Sarge” Broussard and D.W. Washington, Vivian is a moderately small town in Northwest Louisiana.  As is true for many small towns the people live basic lives, centered on family, work and church.

Vivian, Louisiana
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

Named for a KCS executive’s daughter
Like Mena, Arkansas or DeRidder
Vivian ain’t got four thousand people there
But it’s big compared to Ida or Belcher

Down on Pine St. folks will stop and say hello
To Sarge and D.W. at the Texaco
When Sarge lost Marie they all came by
With their fried chicken and strawberry pie

Big hearts in a small town
Big hearts beating on and on
Town seems bigger when they are around
Smaller when they’re gone

Vivian’s called the “Heart of the ArkLaTex”
Just a little town without enough paychecks
Louisiana Redbud Vivian celebrates
Every March with a parade and pancakes

Big hearts in a small town …

© 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.

“I’m Still in Love With You”

Mike Broussard has never come to grips with his wife Marie’s suicide. Part of it is because she chose to confide in his friend D.W. and not him. Part of it is the fact that she most likely would have lived some months longer, giving him more time to accept her passing. But the suddenness of her death left him with feelings he can’t quite get a hold of.

At first he blamed his friend for helping her, but then he got mad at her. They had never gone to bed angry and were always able to talk out their differences.  But left alone like this, he feels betrayed and can’t accept her loss.

I’m Still in Love With You
WRITTEN BY: F.D. LEONE

I want to forgive you
But I cain’t
I want to forget you
But I ain’t
I’m still in love with you

I want to hate you
But I don’t
Move on and replace you
But I won’t
I’m still in love with you

If you were still around
We would talk it out
And set it right as the sun come up
Just me here all alone
Staring at that cold stone
Then I’ll climb back in my truck

Someday I’ll forgive you
But I ain’t ready yet
I’ll never forget you
Long as I draw breath
I’m still in love with you

© 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.

“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.