In Alabama, Florida, Georgia and a growing number of other Southern states, thousands of people get together on Sunday afternoons to drive pickup trucks, Jeeps and other high-priced vehicles through mudholes big enough to hold a few hundred hogs.
The drivers are "boggers," and they claim nothing matches the thrill of slip-sliding down a 300-foot-long boggin' track, engine revving and tires rooster-tailing slop, as they try to keep from sinking up to their axles in front of the mud-freckled fans.
The sport of boggin'—never bogging, please—got its start in tiny towns like Boulougne, Fla. (pop. 150) and Richmond Hill, N.C. (pop. 826). But after only three years of formal existence, boggin' is already sloggin' its way to the outskirts of major Southern cities and even as far as Texas. There's a big boggin' track near Jacksonville, Fla., and another not far from Mobile, Ala. As many as 2,000 fans have gathered for the Sunday afternoon boggins at the Jonesboro Boggin' Hole near Atlanta. Boggin', however, is still primarily a small-town sport, and its most avid fans remain the citizens of the piney wood and cornfield counties of the deep South.
It was in Axson, Ga. (pop. 400) that a railroad mechanic named Jimmy White, then 25, staged the first organized boggin' event in October 1976. There isn't much to do in Axson, especially on Sunday afternoons, so White and his pickup-driving buddies would pile their wives and children and grandparents into their trucks and head for the nearest dirt road likely to feature a mudhole. When they found one, they'd take turns trying to drive through the bog. But good bogs were hard to come by, even out in the country. And the best bogs were often in the woods or somewhere equally as hard to get to.
"It got so we'd have 400 people trying to squeeze onto a narrow road so they could get to where the trucks were running a bog," White says. So he began considering ways to solve the problem. First, he bulldozed a 40'x 300' three-or four-feet deep trench in a vacant cornfield. Then he flooded it with a farm irrigation system. When the mud had ripened for a few days until it was the color and consistency of grits with a double helping of redeye gravy, it was ready.
The following Sunday, White invited everybody in Axson and the surrounding countryside to come over after church for boggin'. About 700 boggers and spectators showed up. The following weekend 2,000 people paid $2 apiece to crowd around the erstwhile cornfield and watch the pickups take on White's man-made mudhole. White knew then that he had a winner.
Now White has got his uncle managing the Axson track, so he can go off boggin'. White enters all competitions offering at least a $100 first prize, and he has bogged on 20 tracks in Georgia and Florida. In the last three years he's won 162 trophies and $10,000. White's wife Marsha says $10,000 is peanuts compared to the cost of outfitting and repairing his two boggin' vehicles, a 1976 Ford pickup named Walking Tall and a 1966 model called The Midnight Special.
Both trucks are rigged with oversized tires, heavy-duty shocks, torque converters, headers and custom paint jobs. They're geared so low that White wouldn't dream of driving them on the highway, so he tows them from competition to competition on trailers built specifically for that purpose.
The best boggers are those who work hard at it. The majority, the Sunday boggers, simply enjoy the sport, competing in vehicles they drive the rest of the week. The most popular boggin' vehicle is still the pickup, but Jeeps, dune buggies, motorcycles and anything else with wheels and a motor are likely to show up at a track.
Nine classes of boggin' vehicles ran in the Mellow Yellow Four Wheel Drive Roundup at Atlanta's International Raceway last May, when 140 boggers competed for $10,000 in prize money. The Southeastern Four Wheel Drive Association, headquartered in Chattanooga, agreed to draw up temporary rules and regulations for the Mellow Yellow, because boggin' is so new that permanent standards will not be officially adopted until December.
Even without a rule book, boggin' is done in almost identical fashion on all tracks. The contestants' aim is to get as far down the track as possible in the shortest time. Tracks differ in difficulty, and many a $15,000 vehicle has wound up mired to its door handles, far short of the finish line. That's when a barefoot teenager slogs out with a cable rigged to a bulldozer or a Franklin logger, which hauls the stuck truck out.
Boggin' is good fun, if not exactly clean. It isn't uncommon to see four generations of a family at the track, adults sitting on lawn chairs sipping drinks while the kids run along the sidelines having wonderful mud battles. And boggin' is probably one of the safest vehicular sports. Aside from the danger of an overstressed engine exploding, not much can happen in a big mudhole.
One final note. At many tracks, after the drivers have had a crack at the mud in their trucks, it is traditional for contestants and spectators to jump in for a slow-motion footrace. Anybody who has to ask why people would do a thing like that just hasn't got the soul of a bogger.