Westward Ho-Ho-Ho on Lewis & Clark Trail Hodding Carter 4th Spins Incredible Tale

By John M. McGuire Of the Post-Dispatch | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), August 29, 1994 | Go to article overview

Westward Ho-Ho-Ho on Lewis & Clark Trail Hodding Carter 4th Spins Incredible Tale


John M. McGuire Of the Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


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 quotient.

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 & Schuster, $21).

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 famous.

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 raise goats."

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 1978.

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 Democrat-Times.

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 journalism.

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?" Carter said.

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. …

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