Part 4: Sometimes people lie and that makes me sad.
This update, unlike all previous ones, will eschew the humorous narrative format and instead focus briefly on the process of doing history. However, before we get underway, something must be freely admitted and totally understood.
So I’m an idiot.
I had seen brief mentions of an Alabama Supreme Court case that dealt with our aforementioned meteorite. Instead of confirming these suspicions with a simple phone call to the state supreme court’s office, I said to myself “you fool, you half-witted dogman, you demi-librarian, fly to Montgomery and mount the Goat Hill. Surely they will have what you need.”
So I did. I traveled to Montgomery during real trucker hours, fueled by one-half of gasoline and the other of Red Bull, and found short shelter at the Red Roof Inn off Zelda Ave. After spending fifty real American dollars to sleep for four hours; your unfortunate, and stupid, narrator rolled into the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
What a splendid building they made there. The outside is all arches and faux-Grecian charm. Visitors park across the street from the Archives; next to the Alabama Cattleman’s Association – proud home of the Mooseum. Geology buffs might mention that the whole thing rests atop an ancient barrier island full of bones, particularly those of the Alabama state fossil: Basilosaurus cetoides or “King Lizard Like a Whale.”
Once inside you’ll find that the corridors are lined with old imperial busts of Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, and other famous Alabamians. Propaganda commemorating the deeds of this state’s Boy Scouts during The Great War hangs off the walls like fine art. A display case in the gift shop contains electoral highlights from the long and strange career of George C. Wallace. It is an enthralling and nuanced place.
When you come to the door of the archives an elderly man greets you. He asks if you’re already a registered researcher. If you are not then you will register. If you are then you will produce a small blue card that allows you to access the great stores of knowledge inside. He will then ask you for a quarter.
“I do not have a quarter,” I said after producing my official researcher card.
“That’s fine.” He gestured at the tray full of quarters, “just return it when you’re done.” I took the quarter and used it to open a locker. Inside went my backpack and camera case. I had a notebook and little else to record my findings.
“I, uh, I’m looking for a Supreme Court case.” I stammered at the bright and beautiful sages which guarded all the ancestral documents.
“Oh, which one you looking for?” Replied the learned ones.
“Guy v. Hodges, took place around 1954 or 1955.”
“Well, what’s the case number?”
“I don’t have that.”
They just stared at me. Finally one stood up and said “I’ll just go look down in the stacks.” The minutes dragged on and finally the keeper of pages returned.
“We don’t have that. I’d suggest calling the Supreme Court office. They’re very helpful people.”
So I did.
They informed me that contrary to exaggerated newspaper accounts no supreme court case ever originated in the state of Alabama following Ann Hodges’ impact with a meteorite.
I stood outside and felt nothing but defeat.
And that’s what it’s like to do history when you’re dumb.
p.s. Shout out to Brian York, the circuit court clerk for Talladega county. He found the original case from 1954 but it only declared Birdie Guy’s intent to sue the Hodges, apparently the publicity from the suit convinced Guy to settle out of court, which included the Hodges purchasing the meteorite from her for about five hundred dollars and eventually donating it to the Alabama Museum of Natural History after briefly using it as a doorstop.