Three Strikes


          John Needham Cox, Jr. and Mary Perline Inman were married on December 4, 1879 and had four sons, Headly, Grover, R. L., and Allen. Grover was in time to become a physician and have a distinguished career in his hometown of Tabor City, NC. But in his youth, Grover–the handsomest of the Cox boys–was, to use a modern phrase, quite the ladies’ man.


          Similar to modern disputes over use of the family car, in the early part of the 20th Century, there were disputes over who used the horse buggy. The Cox family had a fancy buggy and a fine horse to pull it. They also had a farm wagon and a choice of several mules to pull it. Grove often made use of the horse drawn buggy to pay visits to one or another of the neighboring belles and, if lucky, to convince her to go for a ride. On one particular evening, Grove had made arrangements to call on a particularly lovely daughter of a neighbor. Running late, as was the lifelong custom for all the Cox boys, he ran out to the stable and, to his discomfort, discovered the horse and buggy were both gone. Immediately, he remembered his father, John, Jr., used them to go to a meeting of the Columbus County Board of Commissioners, of which he was a member.


          Because his intended companion for the evening was too pretty to disappoint, Grover decided he would hitch up a mule to the farm wagon and take it. In his haste, Grover made his first mistake of the evening: he grabbed the first mule he found without thinking about which mule it was. This mule had a characteristic, that under other circumstances Grover would have found amusing. Whenever this mule met another horse or mule on the road, he would give a short musical fart with each step until the other animal had passed.


          Because Grover did not pass another buggy on the way to the neighbor’s house, the mule’s peculiar manner of greeting his kin remained unnoticed. Once at the young woman’s house, she looked slightly askance at the rough wagon. But it was Grover’s wagon so she hopped aboard and thought herself lucky. Off they went for a short ride in the summer twilight. Before long, Grover saw a buggy in the distance. Instantly, the consequences of his first mistake came to fruition. Putt, putt, putt, with each step, the mule loosed a short fart. In his frustration and embarrassment, Grover made his second mistake of the evening: he laid the whip to the mule’s back to hurry him past the oncoming horse.


          While this did cause the mule to speed up, it in no way diminished the farts the mule sent forth in greeting. With the increased pace, the steady putt, putt, putt was transformed into one long, sustained fart that continued unabated until the horse passed. If anything, the total volume of gas expelled by the mule was increased by Grover’s use of the whip.


          With the mood of the evening effectively ruined, Grover returned his companion to her home and he returned to his. Then Grover made his third mistake of the evening: he told his brothers about the problem with the mule and how it had ruined his evening. Footnote

Grover revealed this embarrassing incident expecting to receive comfort and solace from his brothers. Instead, his tale of woe was greeted by hoots of laughter and his brothers rolling on the floor imagining Grover and his date “facing into the wind.” While the origin of the nickname is unknown, from that point on, Grover was known to his brothers as Gaily Wiggle.

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