From Racing To Showing, Odie’s Run Is Iconic
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The annual Shuffield Car Show started in the early 1990s, but you might say the roots of the show date back decades earlier. Odie Shuffield’s love of cars extends back to his teenage years, when he first started driving. Although more than 60 years have passed since he was legal to drive, he still has some of his first cars.
“You might like to say I like to hold on to things,” he explains. Odie has spent countless hours working on and fixing up old cars. His friends have helped him and he has helped his friends on their car projects. Car enthusiasts are a tight-knit group and the car show was launched to compliment the Water Valley carnival weekend – it was a perfect venue to share those cars with others in the community.
Some people in Water Valley are familiar with Odie’s vehicles, the cars he has collected during his lifetime each have a story. He has an old ton and half Ford that was originally owned by Tillet Swindoll. The truck was a fixture in Water Valley, as Swindoll used it to haul his famous watermelon and cantaloupes as well as cotton pickers, livestock, feed, fertilizer and anything else that needed to be moved. The truck was finally put out to pasture, where it languished for some 20 years. Odie bought the remains in 1990 and the restoration took over a year.
The 1941 Chevrolet coupe (right) is another familiar vehicle, visible with Odie behind the wheel during the Christmas parade each winter. The car came from the Walker family.
“I believe it was 1998 when Bailey Walker walked in my shop. I looked up and saw him and said, ‘Mr. Bailey, what did your daddy do with that old car he had?’” Odie recalled about a conversation over 20 years ago. Odie remembered the Walker car from years earlier and knew it had been sitting for years. Walker replied that Odie’s name was mentioned in connection with the old car during a recent family gathering.
“I told him I would like to have it,” Odie added. So he went out to see the car and told Walker it would fix up nice.
“Knowing it was going to cost the stew out me to fix it,” Odie added.
When the car deal was brokered, it included driving Walker’s mom in the Christmas parade when it was fully restored.
“That is how I wound up with that car. It took two years to build it, and my wife never knew what it cost,” Odie added.
The car stories are familiar to many, but Odie also loved racing cars – a passion that also dates back to his teenage years. His racing days included hitting the track or street racing. Odie is quick to acknowledge that he isn’t bragging about some of the trouble that came with the heavy foot. In fact, he is almost reluctant to talk about those days and may of the stories have almost been forgotten. Until now…
His first trouble from fast driving came in 1960. Every day after lunch a few of the guys would go up to Teen Town, near where the high school football field is now. When they would leave, they would go back toward the school house and jump a big hill on Lafayette Street. He explained the gravel stretch looked a lot different back then.
“You would come down that hill, and you would go airborne for a ways. To tell you how much we did that, I knew how to position people in my car,” Odie explained about keeping the car level as it sailed through the air. On this particular day, a couple of the guys had made some big jumps, and he didn’t want them to outshine him.
He backed up to where the city’s police department is now located and pushed the old Studebaker as hard as he could. He shifted the car into low overdrive and caught second gear.
“I got too dag-gum fast,” Odie said as the car sailed for what seemed like a mile. He couldn’t stop and went all the way across the road – too far. When he looked up toward the school house, he saw Professor Bell and Bob Tyler standing outside.
“They turned and walked back into the school and I said ‘uh oh,’” Odie continued. He knew the law would be coming, so he hid the car on the east side of the old school house.
“I watched them as they were looking for me, I went ‘ha-ha,’” he recalled. He was quick to add he wasn’t laughing when he went to work later that afternoon, the law met him with a warrant for his arrest.
“I had that Studebaker taken away, and I had to walk to work for 30 days and pay a huge fine,” he recalled. Adding insult to injury, the car was impounded near where he worked, and he had to walk past it each day.
Odie noted that in those early years, he never had a lot of money to fix up his cars.
“I would keep working on mine until I got it perked up the best I could with the money I had,” he explained. He always had a few tricks when he knew he was going to be in a tight race. He may take the fan belt off before a run to gain a few more horsepower.
“I like for my car to run as good as anyone’s car. Really a little better, but it didn’t always work that way,” he added with a chuckle.
Odie’s stories then shifts to a strict Highway Patrol trooper back then – Billy Houpt. The trooper’s legacy including keeping the fear instilled in motorists, especially teenagers, if they were out hot rodding.
Back in those days Houpt’s patrol car was a black, 1960 Oldsmobile with a long whip antennae.
“He would drive the stew out of it,” Odie added.
One of Odie’s first run-ins with the trooper came after he and a buddy had been racing out by Colonel White’s place on Hwy. 32. They raced about three or four times that afternoon and went home. The next day Odie was next to Pee Wee Sartain’s cafe and Houpt was inside eating.
“Mr. Pee Wee came to the door and said, ‘Hey Junior, come over here. Mr. Billy wants to talk to you,’” Odie explained about that early encounter with the trooper. “I knew right away what he wanted.”
Odie walked in and Hoult asked him where he was yesterday evening.
“Then he said ‘you might not better answer that because you might not tell the truth.’ He told me exactly how many times we raced down that strip, somebody had told on us,” Odie continued.
After the trooper got through chewing him out, he sternly warned Odie not to race anymore.
Odie turned to leave and grinned, recalling almost 60 years later he was truly relieved and not jeering.
“I grinned because I was so happy to get gone, but he was watching me in a mirror,” Odie said.
“He said, ‘you think that is funny. I tell you what to do, you walk out there and stand behind that black car,’” Odie continued.
Odie stood behind the trooper’s car and waited as Houpt slowly finished his meal. When the trooper came outside, he provided a vivid account of what a few days of jail would entail.
“He said, ‘don’t you ever do that again’ about my racing. He didn’t like it because I was grinned,” Odie explained. “I wasn’t being smart when I grinned, but you think I was going to tell him that?”
Another night Odie was out in the county with a couple of other guys who had just raced.
“I was going to run one of those boys,” Odie added. When the two cars were coming back to the start line, Houpt was between them.
“He had his lights off, we looked up and there he was,” Odie said.
One of the racers took off, Odie continued. The fleeing driver was racing in Don Blackwood’s car that night.
Houpt told Odie and the other racer to stay right there.
“He ran after that guy, but he couldn’t catch him on those dusty roads,” Odie said.
The trooper came back and told Odie and the other racer that they wouldn’t be in trouble if they would tell him who fled. They didn’t rat him out, and Houpt finally let them go after checking their cars for illegal modifications.
It wasn’t long after that, Odie was lined up on Prophet Bridge just fixing to race.
“I looked in my mirror and Mr. Houpt was back there in the curve watching us,” Odie said. Odie got out of his car and popped the hood like something was wrong.
“He pulled up and said ‘you having trouble, Shuffield?’ I said I think my accelerator is messed up. He asked ‘anything I can do to help you.’ I said ‘no sir.’”
But Houpt knew exactly what was going on and told him if he had popped that clutch and took off, he would have been in trouble.
Looking back, Odie said Houpt never wrote him a citation or took him to jail. The trooper even helped him once with a problem. Odie had a wreck in Bruce, an intoxicated driver rear-ended him and tore his car up.
The problem was Odie didn’t have insurance and weeks later he got a letter in the mail instructing him to turn in his driver’s license and vehicle tag at the courthouse.
Odie went to Houpt’s house and the trooper was able to pull a few strings. And Odie promised he would never tell who Hoult got to help him. The trooper passed away in 2008.
It’s been years since Odie had a heavy foot. He enjoys bringing a car or two from his collection to the car show each carnival. He is proud of how much the show has grown, topping 200 entries in recent years In 2018, a parade was added as the vehicles rumble from Shuffield Park to City Park and back.
“That was Bennett Hill’s idea, I am so proud of him,” Odie said. Odie explained that Hill has assisted him with the car show during the last few years, helping boost participation to over the 200-mark. The 2019 car show was the biggest in history with 204 vehicles and one tractor. The 2021 show was even bigger, with almost 240 participants.
And while the classics are spectacular, the stories are even better. Bring a chair to Shuffield Park Saturday morning and if you are lucky, you may hear a few stories!