LOOK OUT- COWS ON THE ROAD
by Frank Howard
February 22, 1995
Traveling by automobile in 1937 was not nearly as dangerous as it is now. It certainly was less exact than today as one could leave Tallahassee headed toward Panama City and not know exactly which route one would take. It would depend on whether or not the Ferry at Blountstown was running. Or if the floating bridge was operable.
Or worse, if the road through Wewahitchka had been rained on recently. That road was un-paved red clay and when wet caused much machinations in the tourist as the male members of the entourage set out to cut pine saplings with which to both pry the auto out of the mud and to make hard fill for the ruts.
It was just such a trip in that year that another danger of the day was forced upon one group of travelers. Florida was well known as a livestock state. There were many cattle ranches throughout the northern and central parts of the state. Swine were allowed to run loose with ownership being proclaimed by marks cut into the ears of the hogs. Cattle also were not so carefully contained. They were free to roam. Imagine this auto filled with a family of five getting closer to the home stretch as night overtakes them. Such a trip was expected to take most of the day!
The auto is a very sleek 1932 Chrysler traveling, perhaps, at all of 50mph. Moving around a curve in the narrow highway the 6 volt headlights of the day suddenly light a small herd of a dozen or so cows standing on the roadstead. Perhaps they were soaking up the last of the day's warmth from the roadbed.
Anyway, the Chrysler's brakes squealed as the auto hurtled into the middle of the herd. One cow went up the sloping hood into the windshield and over the top. Another slammed into the right front fender and around into the side doors. There were no seat belts in that age. Kids suddenly rolled off their sleepy perches and into the backs of the front seats.
Kids yelling. Glass everywhere. Are they hurt or just badly shaken and frightened? Blood, "guts" and cow feces are dripping off the roof onto the windowsills of the open windows (there was no air conditioning, of course). It is difficult to quickly make sense of such a wild and gory scene. Parents yelling at crying kids to hush and tell if they are hurt or not, kids not really knowing if they are hurt for they have never experienced such before.
Today one may, all too readily, come upon such a scene from a collision of autos, but not from one with cows! That is because of legislation during the administration of Fuller Warren (Thirtieth Governor of Florida). Warren, a native of Blountstown, had the banning of livestock from Florida roadsteads as one of the two main planks of his pre-election platform. Warren was a very active sponsor of the "fence law".
The 1949 Florida legislature enacted such a law and cattle very quickly disappeared from the highways of the state. Many of the good things we take for granted today at one time had to be hammered out by the forward thinkers of our past. We thank the forward thinking Fuller Warren and the 1949 Legislature that we now only have to watch out for other drivers and not for herds of cows!
But they didn't lock up chickens! It was in that same year, 1949, that this writer recalls coming around a curve on the (then) unpaved Highway 69. As the road meandered between a farmer's house and his barn, there suddenly appeared a flock of chickens pecking at the coarse sand in the roadbed. The mechanical brakes of that old Model A Ford roadster were not enough to save several of those chickens as we plowed into the flock! Just glad there were no cows with them!