Bob Hodge

The Driver With The Copper Bugle

BOB HODGE, who every other day drove forty-eight miles from Atchison to Kennekuk and return--stood as straight as an arrow, and was a rather heavy-set man. In a number of respects he was a curiosity. Nearly every one in Atchison knew him. He had a copper bugle that he always carried, and which he had blown on the golden shores of the Pacific. He had also blown it the entire length of the overland line. He seemed to be very proud of his instrument and, no matter what the weather was, he took it along with him every trip. No living mortal ever appeared to enjoy anything in the way of a musical instrument more. He had blown it from the summits of the Sierra Nevadas, the Wasatch range, and the Rocky Mountains; along the parched alkali region of Nevada and in the Salt Lake valley. He blew it as he entered the Mormon capital, in the early `60's. He blew it over the plains, on the "Great American Desert," on his entry in to Denver and Fort Kearney; along the Platte and Little Blue rivers and over the rolling prairies of Nebraska and Kansas. Nearly every time Bob came to Atchison on his return trip from his run to Kennekuk, as he reached Commercial street about Eighth, with his bugle in one hand and the four or six lines in the other, he would blow all the way down the street to the Post Office--then located in a one-story frame building on the south side of Commercial street, between Third and Fourth--a distance of nearly five blocks.

One of Bob's favorite pieces--especially if the stage came along from the west in the night--was "Get Out of the Wilderness." While he appeared to be a great lover of music, in reality he knew no more about the various musical characters than a Hottentot does of the geology of Kansas. However, he was possessed of a pair of gutta-percha lungs, and he could, if an opportunity was given, "toot his horn" from morning till night, only stopping occasionally to irrigate his throat with Kentucky whisky. Apparently nothing gave him so much pleasure as blowing his bugle. He could, in his peculiar way, blow "Susannah" way up and down the hill and send "Yankee Doodle" over on the "Other Side of Jordan."

Before coming to Atchison, Bob used to drive in California; later out in Nevada and Utah and on a number of divisions east of there. He was jokingly spoken of as the "great blower" from the eastern to the western terminus of the long stage line. He held the reins of a spanking four-horse team of bays in and out of Atchison for a long time and seemed very proud of them. While employed on the east end, he had his harness decorated with scores of ivory rings and ornamented the finest of any driver on the line. He was dressed in a gorgeous buckskin suit, wore high boots with pants' legs inside, and was a rather gay-looking fellow. Socially, Hodge was a good man, had any amount of friends, and was one of the best drivers on the line. His great failing, however, was his uncontrollable appetite for liquor. Under his cushion he always carried a private bottle when on the box. While he was most always "full," and apparently could hold the contents of a limited Kansas saloon, he seldom was seen beastly drunk. Very few ever saw him on the "Overland" without being fortified with a drink or two of "cold pizen." He finally left the stage line and went away--no one ever knew where.

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