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If you are like me, you’ve enjoyed the recent posts by Rob Roehm as he traveled through Texas on his way to Howard Days 2010, stopping in various towns and locations where Howard himself once visited. Rob has made nearly a dozen trips to Texas following in Howard’s footsteps and documenting all the places he visited during his short life.
The majority of these trips were covered by Howard himself in his correspondence with H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, August Derleth and a number of other correspondents. Due to finances and his somewhat isolated location, Howard traveled regionally by automobile in Texas and several surrounding states including Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Back in Howard’s time there were no interstate highways –- the roads were two lanes and in many instances either paved with gravel or just simple dirt roads. Also, in the 1920s and 1930s, cars were not as dependable as the ones we drive today, and while they they were simpler machines, mechanics were few and far between.
Speaking of automobiles, even though he left few clues behind in his letters, Rob also has done quite a bit of research on Howard’s automobiles. Luckily, Rusty Burke had previously done some legwork and found a few pieces of information that Rob recounts in his “Robert E. Howard’s Automobiles” essay:
There’s not much mention of Howard’s cars in his correspondence, other than him saying he went here or there. Even the description of his accident in Rising Star doesn’t provide much information about the car, though it does describe the incident involving his ’31 Chevy and a flagpole placed “in the middle of the street” in graphic (some say “exaggerated”) detail. This was my starting point.
Next on the checklist was Rusty Burke. I emailed Rusty some follow-up questions about Bob’s ’31 Chevy. Burke responded that Lindsey Tyson, a Cross Plains friend of Howard’s, had said the following in a letter to L. Sprague de Camp dated February 18, 1977:
Bob, Dr Howard and I went to Arlington Texas in about 1932 and Bob bought a used 1931 model Chevrolet. I drove the car home for him and then taught him to drive; after he learned to drive, he had a lot of fun driving on short trips around the country. I can not understand why Dr. Howard had never taught him anything about driving a car. (And by the way, Bob gave $350.00 for this car, about a year old.)
Burke had a wealth of information. His transcription of de Camp’s August 1977 notes from a phone conversation with Tyson revealed that the ’31 Chevy was purchased “second-hand after Lovecraft’s visit to New Orleans in the spring of 1932.” In a different interview with de Camp, Tyson described the car as “Dark Green,” and that it “had a glove compartment” rather than a door pocket: “This is where he carried his gun.” Upon further questioning, in 1978, Tyson added that the car was “a Chevrolet coach;” a “Twodoor.”
Later, perhaps toward the end of 1934, Howard purchased a black 1935 Chevy sedan. This is the vehicle in which he fired that fateful and fatal shot on the morning of June 11, 1936. After Howard’s death, Dr. Howard had the car cleaned and repaired and drove it for several years before finally selling it.
While Rob has done a yeoman’s job of chronicling all of Howard’s travels, REHupan Gary Romeo previously covered much of the same territory in his outstanding essay “In Search of Cimmeria,” which is posted at the REHupa website. A slightly revised version was published in 2004 in the form of a chapbook published by The Cimmerian Press.
In January 2007, Rob published Howard’s Haunts, which detailed a number of places Howard visited with excerpts from his letters, vintage and current photographs and other information. I would not be surprised to see Rob author a second volume showcasing the places he has scouted since Howard’s Haunts was published three years ago — after all, he has spent many, many hours on the road with Two-Gun Bob.