Scenes and Incidents

Review of Second Trip of The Record’s Car Taken Last Week. Pathfinders Purpose Organizing “Mule Leaders Association.” Automobiles Have Made Splendid Records.

By McDavid Horton

On the second trip of The Record’s pathfinders the Brush runabout, which started out two days behind the Buick touring car, covered precisely the same distance as on the first trip. The first trip was of exactly 300 miles and the odometer showed just double that when the city hall corner was turned at 6:55 o’clock Saturday evening upon the return from the second trip. During the past week the Buick covered more mileage, having gone from Cheraw to Bennettsville and thence to Clio, McColl and Gibson and back to Cheraw via Bennettsville – a side-trip to Cheraw via Bennettsville – a side trip which the Brush did not take.

The pathfinders propose, when their travels are over, to form amoun themselves a club, “The Amalgamated Association of Mule-Leaders and Road-Losers.” Chauffeur A. J. Kind has scored the most points in the matter of coaxing terrified Tobies snorting past the machines, through his record in this respect was threatened upon the Columbia-Augusta part of the first trip by the notable performances of Mr. Geo. L. Baker, who was for that day a guest of the party. Mr. Baker exhibited a degree of tact and physical agility worthy of employment in higher fields than finance and manufacturing.

Saturday afternoon the pathfinders became path-losers once more. They had lost a whole hour at the Wateree ferry on the hither side of Camden and were making the best time they could through the sand-hills of the Blaney section, full of anxiety to reach Columbia before nightfall. In the maze of obscure paths running here and there among the black jacks and all looking alike, they strayed from the road to Columbia and had gone ten miles out of their way before the unfamiliarity of their surroundings began looking for someone to direct them aright, but went on for two miles further before signs of human habitation appeared.

At a tiny cottage in the pine barrens a comely woman appeared with her baby in her arms and at the same moment her husband came in from the field with his hoe on his shoulder.

“How far off the Camden-to-Columbia road are we?” one of the pathfinders asked.

“Well, not more’n ten mile, I reckon,” the man replied. “If you keep straight on like you’re goin’ you’ll get to Ridgeway in a few minutes.”

He could not direct them as to the Columbia road, but told them how to reach Blaney and back to Blaney which they had left far to the left, the pathfinders wearily doubled, there picking up their proper route.

Half-way from Blaney to Columbia they stopped to tighten a loose tap and were overtaken by Fishburne who, diving the Brush runabout had been trailing a mile or so behind to avoid the dust. Fishburne was mad as a hornet. He had taken it for granted the party in the Buick knew what they were doing and following their tracks had gone over the same detour toward Ridgeway that they had made.

Also he had struck the Spears’ creek ford just after somebody had raised the flood-gates at the mill-dam above the road crossing, and thus transformed into a racing flume of considerable depth a ford tht, even at the stream’s natural flow, is all the average run-about should tackle. The dep water did his machine no damage, but its erosive effect upon Fishburne’s temper was considerable.

The federal government’s action in requiring the removal of the bridge over the Great Pee Dee at Society Hill is deeply deplored by the large number of people in Darlington, Marlboro and Chesterfield counties whom its loss seriously inconveniences. The government insisted that the bridge was a menace to navigation as long as the draw was without wings that would permit of a vessel’s drifting through, the danger being that a vessel entering the draw would foul the bridge. The wings required could be built at reasonable cost only by driving long lines of heavy piling and these piles the river bed would not retain. About five feet below the bottom of the river the piles encountered solid rock against which the pile drivers could make no headway, and the piles that had been driven floated out one after the other. Accordingly, the government ordered the removal of the bridge and the long structure was torn away, at heavy loss to its owners.

Tuesday Mr. David R. Coker of Hartsville mounted one of the pathfinders upon a fine saddle horse and took him over his wonderful farm near the town, explaining on the way some phases of the volunteer work in plant-breeding and seed-selection which he has been carrying on since 1892. His most notable success has been with a variety of cotton. For his last year’s crop from this see, developed on his own plantation, Mr. Coker last year obtained readily a price 20 per cent in advance of that secured by his neighbors for cotton produced on their fertile plantations. This cotton, which Mr. Coker call his “Special 16,” is about a quarter of an inch longer in staple than the average of that raised in Darlington, and Mr. Coker is still experimenting in the hope of further improving it.

Mr. Coker’s experimental work has Developed from year to year until it is now of such extent that one man’s whole time is given to keeping the records. His achievements have already been of great value to the farmers of the Pee Dee and are likely to yield yet greater benefits. Research, experiment and demonstration are now being carried on along many lines, an exhaustive test of the Williamson corn method being a prominent feature of this year’s work. Mr. Coker has demonstrated to his own satisfaction that the best rotation for bringing up the fertility of Pee Dee lands is hairy vetch and wheat sowed together and mowed when the wheat is in the dough, followed by sorghum. Some of his most interesting current experiments are in hybridization.

Supervisor Frank Manning of Marlboro has been very successful in the sanitation of his convict camps, jail and alms house. He believes more in fresh air and sunlight than in malodorous disinfectants. Mr. Manning has also been fortunate in the matter of keeping his prisoners. THe only convict who has escaped during his administration was a ten-year man, who got away in a body of dense woods between Bennettsville and Lester.

Three years of ordinary oilcloth perfectly protected the baggage of the pathfinders during the steady downpour in which they traveled for several hours Friday between Chesterfield and Lancaster. In such rainstorms the carpet covering the floor of the tonneau should be taken up, so that the water may escape through the thumb-holes in the flooring.

An auxiliary tank carrying a gallon each of gasoline and lubricating oil is carried on the running board by the pathfinders’ Buick. This reserve supply has saved the situation more than once.

At Hartsville the pathfinders were entertained in the lovely home of Mayor Murray S. McKinnon, on Home avenue. Mr. McKinnon has a well kept and completely appointed place, with all the conveniences of a city and the space and scenic beauties of the country. Mrs. McKinnon, a charming and gracious hostess, is still devoted to her pet pony, but lately has become much attached to her automobile, which she drives with skill and confidence.

Mrs. McKinnon has been one of the makers of Hartsville. A Sumter man, he went into business in Hartsville when the town was not. The Coker store and several farmers’ dwellings were grouped at a cross-roads, but the village had not been incorporated. Now he is the managing partner of a mercantile concern, McNair & McKinnon, which has a stock worthy of the largest department store in the State and does an annual business of something like $300,000. And he is a young man, with bigger things ahead of him.

In the 600 miles of touring they have performed to the date, the automobiles of The Record’s pathfinders, a two-cylinder, 22-horsepower Buick touring car and a one-cylinder Brush runabout, have made fine records under trying conditions. They have been taken over places where no motor car had been before and where none is likely to go again; swamp tussock, blackjack waste, pine barren, corduroy, sand of every variety, clay of every consistency, fords, ferries and bridges – all these, embracing about every adverse condition a highway can offer the cars have traversed without a balk. Absolutely the only difficulty from which both cars did not extricate themselves by the own power was the trap into which the Buick plunged on Schultze’s Hill, at Hamburg. Here the Brush scrambled out unaided, but the heavier Buick sank deeper with each struggle and had to be hauled clear by mule-power. It is to be remembered, though, that the fault here was not in the car. The road was closed to traffic pending extensive repairs and the stiff Schultze’s Hill grade had been deeply plowed and the loose sand heaped in the center about two feet deep. In the circumstances it had little more consistency than water and there was nothing for the driving wheels to get any traction upon. No touring car could have climbed this grade, except with special equipment which no motorists in this part of the country ever carry. The light, flexible, low-hung Brush took to the ditch and scrambled up along the high bank in much the fashion of a bird-dog negotiating a high rail fence.

The other troubles were ordinary mishaps of the road, such as might occur with any machine or any driver.

Between Hartsville and Darlington the Buick was temporarily disabled through the loss of the starting crank and the breaking of a vibrator in the spark coil box. In rough ‘cross-country touring the starting crank should be carried in the tool box or securely seated in a strap hanger, and one or two extra vibrator blades should also be carried. They cost very little and are not often needed, but when the need arises it is great and immediate.

On the execrable road on the chesterfield-Lancaster border about Tradeville a Hartford Special tire on one of the Buick’s driving wheels blew out and a spare Michelin carried on the running board was substituted for it.

Investigation showed that the broken roller in the Hyatt bearing which made it necessary for the Buick to remain in Chesterfield from Wednesday afternoon to Friday morning would have caused little trouble if the fragments of the little roller had been taken out at once. The pathfinders wished to reach Chesterfield before dark and did not stop to make particular examination into the cause of the heating and grinding noticed in the hub. The fragments of hardened steel accordingly chewed around in the bearing for ten or twelve miles of very rough, stony road and of course did more or less damage to the other rollers, making it necessary to get from Columbia a new bearing.

Coming out of Lancaster Friday afternoon the Buick went out of business for a few minutes because in the rocky slopes above Tradesville a bolt holding in position the guard-iron which protects the chain at the rear had become loosened. The iron slipped from its position into one where it clamped the chain and this caused the chain to part. To replace the broken link was a matter of only a few minutes.

Motorists on trips through rough country will learn by little accidents like these to go over their cars every day or so with a wrench, for no lock nut has yet been invented that will always stay put and yet be adapted to automobile purposes.

These are all the machine troubles the pathfinders have had. The little gray Brush, it will be noted, has a clean score. The Buick has given entire satisfaction in the most tring situations.

In touring through the more isolated countries it is a good idea to carry a five-pound can of hard oil in the car. Gasoline and Cylinder oil suitable for the ordinary lubrication may be had in almost every village, but grease adapted to the transmission is to be found only in the larger towns. Lubrication is half the secret in long distance touring.

July 26, 1909  Columbia Record (published as THE DAILY RECORD)  
Columbia, South Carolina
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