September 21, 2023

With or without a bat, Bo could hit ’em out of the park


A box was sitting on the highway. It looked like a package.

I was going one way, and it was on the other side of the four-lane.

But approaching, I was far enough away to witness what happened.

A car on that side of the road screeched to a stop. A door opened, and someone snatched the box inside. The car sped away.

I wished I could have made a U-turn and followed them.

Instead, I dialed back 50 or so years to a story told by Howard Warren.

Everybody called him Bo.

I remember the lightning-bolt news that Feb. 24, 1985, afternoon.

Howard “Bo” Warren had collapsed and died during an after-Sunday-lunch backyard basketball game.

“Couldn’t be,” I said.

But it was so.

The legendary athlete, the beloved teacher, the witty poet and the devout family man was dead, just 49.

Our community, our church (Jesup First Baptist) and his hometown of Ludowici, across the Altamaha River, were shocked into disbelief and then grief.

But what’s a box in the road got to do with Bo?

Bo loved a good story, and he could tell them with the best of raconteurs.

He always got tickled telling about the teenage pranksters who preyed on “Yankees” coming through Ludowici. Before I-95, U.S. 301 and U.S. 17 were preferred north-south routes. U.S. 301 made Ludowici famous— or rather infamous—to travelers. Gov. Maddox once installed a billboard to warn tourists of a “speed trap” ahead. State patrolmen guarded it to make sure the sign wouldn’t be torched.

But back to Bo and that box.

He always withheld the names to protect the guilty, but the prank included a suitcase sitting in the middle of U.S. 301 at the town’s notorious traffic light. Inside the handsome suitcase was a bobcat—also called a wildcat—that had been trapped in the Altamaha River Swamp.

The pranksters hid and watched. The plot didn’t take long to unfold. A car would screech to a halt—no matter whether the light was green or red—and someone would grab the suitcase. Within 30 yards, the car’s tires would skid to a smoking stop. All four doors would fly open. The bobcat could have the car.

I bet Bo has told that one in heaven a hundred times.

Here’s another off the list of Bo’s funny stories.

A stranger stopped in Ludowici.

He asked, “Can you give me directions to the Ludowici Church of God?”

Scratching his chin, the local fellow said, “Well, let me see. The Parkers have the Baptist Church, and the Dawsons have the Methodist Church. Come to think of it, I don’t think God has a church in Long County.”

And all of this, just because of a box sitting in the road.

The spirit of Bo Warren lives on.