Part 3: “What did he mean taking it away?”
Hewlett Hodges raged. The tree surgeon saw his injured wife and sagging roof. He heard the reports of the Air Force carting off the perpetrator like it was some kind of celebrity. Oh lord, Hewlett Hodges raged.
He hadn’t even seen the rock yet and it was already reorganizing his whole world.
For instance, instead of eating dinner or heading to the Comet Drive-In across the street for a late night film, Hewlett Hodges found himself berating the chief of police. W.D. Ashcraft lamely presented a receipt signed by Air Force personnel stating that they would return the meteorite when they finished their examination. Hodges pointed out that Ashcraft never possessed the authority to turn it over.
Hodges didn’t even want to start with the Alabama Museum of Natural History. Ed J. Howard, the once and future mayor of Sylacauga, contacted the state geologist, Dr. Walter B. Jones, the moment that George Swindel realized a meteorite hit Ann. Mayor Howard promised the stone to Dr. Jones and his salivating Tuscaloosa cronies; Hodges may have paused during his tirade against Ashcraft to ponder whether the geologists were already picking out display cases.
Hewlett Hodges understood trees. He knew them well. In the first day this had moved far beyond trees. The Hodges’ found themselves embroiled in the things that trees made: newspapers, courthouses, receipts, and laws.
They needed a lawyer. They got a Talladega man named Huel Love.
Headstrong, confident, and local – Love promised to bring suit against whatever entity currently possessed their meteorite. Be that the Air Force or the police chief or the University of Alabama.
If someone wanted the damn thing they’d have to buy it. And preferably soon, while the nation still gawked at Ann’s misfortune. Newspapers as far afield as Reading, Pennsylvania gladly reported on the insomnia caused by her injuries. The Smithsonian offered to appraise it. The University of New Mexico desperately wanted it. The California Institute of Technology sent Ann Hodges a telegram just to ask if the meteorite was badly damaged. A museum in Evansville, Indiana offered them five thousand dollars, up front, for the rock.
The entire English speaking world knew about Ann Hodges and her meteorite.
So when the Air Force returned it to her on December 2, 1954, they triggered a bidding war. One that the Hodges intended to win.
Yet nobody accounted for Birdie Guy. For although the meteorite hit Ann Hodges, it did so on Guy’s property. They rented their house from an elderly widow and now she intended to make that stone hers.
Birdie Guy filed suit during the second week of December, 1954.
“Meteor Hits Alabama Woman.” The Tuscaloosa News (Tuscaloosa, AL), December 1, 1954.
“Meteorite Is Studied By Air Force.” Daytona Beach Morning Journal (Daytona Beach, FL), December 2, 1954.
“Alabama Woman to Receive Meteorite Which Bruised Her.” Reading Eagle (Reading, PA), December 2, 1954.
“Offers Received For Meteorite.” Spokane Daily Chronicle (Spokane, WA), December, 4, 1954.
“Battle For Meteorite.” The Sydney Morning Herald (Sydney, NSW), December 13, 1954.
“Alabama Woman Who Was Struck By Meteorite Now Has to Cope With Suit for Possession of It.” Lewiston Evening Journal (Lewiston, ME), December 22, 1954.
“Who Owns The Star That Fell On Alabama?” Sarasota Journal (Sarasota, FL), December 22, 1954.
“Suit is Filed on Tail of Meteorite.” Prescott Evening Courier (Prescott, AZ), December 22, 1954.