IT SEEMS W. Hodding Carter is always going somewhere and
getting in trouble.
Like the time in Kenya he got tipsy, and almost ended up spying
for a Soviet KGB agent. Unwittingly, of course. This is really
funny, not sinister. Most of his missteps have a high giggle
So you knew this latest trip of his, which started from the
floating McDonald's on the St. Louis levee, and went all the way to
the Pacific Ocean, would probably be a doozy.
Particularly when Carter admits that he and his cohort probably
couldn't organize a one-car funeral. His partner in this, Preston
Maybank, a Los Angeles actor, had recently been fired from a job as
a car parker.
Hodding Carter - the not-so-famous son of a somewhat famous
father - moves around a lot. Sort of like a fly in pursuit of scat.
He'd like that, fond as he is of scatological language, which
abounds in the book he wrote about this - "Westward Whoa" (Simon &
Some of his previous wanderings are covered in the dust-jacket
blurb of this delightfully offbeat book about life, in 1992, along
the 1804-05 route that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark made
On the back flap it says: "Grew up in Mississippi and graduated
from Kenyon College (in Ohio). He served in the Peace Corps in
Africa, checked facts in Esquire Magazine, and was a staff writer
for M. Magazine. He recently moved from Boston to West Virginia to
He's also looking to be the postmaster of Thurmond, W.Va.,
where he now lives with his lawyer friend, Lisa. It's a town named
for Sen. Strom Thurmond's family.
William Hodding Carter 4th, 31, is the only son of Hodding
Carter 3rd and his former wife, Margaret. They were divorced in
The Carters were a well-known crusading newspaper family in
Greenville, Miss., championing civil rights in the 1960s. Hodding
4th's grandfather - known as "the conscience of the South" - wrote
"Where Main Street Meets the River" and edited the liberal Delta
Carter's father, a Democratic Party reformer and major player
in the development of the "new South," went to Washington with
President Jimmy Carter, becoming a spokesman for the State
Department during the Iran hostage crisis.
Carter 4th was 19 years old when the family sold the Greenville
newspaper in 1980. No matter, he wasn't much interested in daily
What did his father think of the manuscript of his book on the
trek west? "He said it was disgusting. Later, I asked, `What did
you really think of my book?' He said he liked it. So who knows?"
After graduating from Kenyon College, Carter 4th was off to
Eldoret, Kenya, and the Peace Corps. He was there from 1984 through
`86, and had his big Red scare.
"This Russian guy I met tried to get me to be a KGB spy. He
plied me with vodka, and forced $20 on me," Carter said. "I was
really drunk. That happened a lot back then. He wanted me to take
something off the Peace Corps directors' desk.
"That's when I realized - `Oh, he is KGB.' I told our embassy
in Nairobi, and they told me to give him the money back. When he
came back to the school where I taught, I said, `I told on you to
my government. We have to end our friendship.' He just shrugged.
So that was my harrowing spy adventure."
Oh, Carter had one other espionage escapade, spying for Michael
Dukakis during the Massachusetts governor's ill-fated presidential
run in 1988. He began as a media and delegate tracker, and ended up
snooping on Republican George Bush and Democatic rivals Richard
Gephardt, Al Gore and Jesse Jackson. …