TRENTON, Ga. — Jeratt Givens and his family haven’t had a lot to smile about in the last two months.
The April 27 tornadoes splintered their community on County Road 95 in Alabama, killing Jeratt’s great-grandparents and his great-aunt, splintering the family’s mobile home and raking the landscape into a scraggly caricature of what once had been home.
Even their iron skillet was broken in half.
Jeratt, 12, lost the “Dukes of Hazzard” collection he had gathered since he was 4 years old. Hats, T-shirts, DVDs, watches and cars were blown to the four winds or buried in mud and debris.
But on Saturday, Boss Hogg and his “Hazzard Live” cohorts arrived at Canaanland Baptist Church in the General Lee and Roscoe’s patrol car, their trunks full of memorabilia from the famous TV series. Tom Sarmento, who helped build the stunt cars on the set, drove in from Charlotte, N.C.
Jeratt didn’t have a clue what was about to happen when he arrived with his family. He appeared stunned as the cars pulled into the parking lot, escorted by the Georgia State Patrol.
He was speechless as volunteers pulled out orange T-shirts and hats and cars autographed by John Schneider — who played Bo Duke — and other cast members. A phone call from Schneider himself capped the celebration.
Finally, sitting on the church steps amid the loot, Jeratt started talking. He was smiling.
“There really ain’t no words to explain it — my mind just exploded,” he said. “It’s amazing.”
Saturday’s event was organized by Donna Kirk, who worked as a volunteer at Ebenezer Baptist Church’s distribution center after the tornadoes. One day Jeratt’s grandmother, Beverly Phillips, asked Kirk if they had any “Dukes of Hazzard” memorabilia for her grandson, who was heartbroken about losing his collection.
“He spent days searching through the rubble. It was devastating to watch him,” Phillips said. “He found one T-shirt, but it was plastered in mud and had holes in it.”
Kirk posted Jeratt’s story on Facebook and shared it with WRCB news anchor David Carroll, who is from northeastern Alabama.
Within days, responses poured in from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and even as far away as Germany. Rusty “Boss Hogg” Cash, from Athens, Tenn., contacted his friends, Kenneth Mahan and Kenny Rhody. The three own the replica cars and a 1972 Chevrolet wrecker. Everyone contributed memorabilia, including a package from Schneider and Schneider’s mother.
And soon the event morphed into a celebration for all the storm survivors.
Kirk invited everyone affected by the storm. Trenton and Bryant restaurants donated food, and a band from Nashville provided live music.
Dozens of children ran around the church parking lot, carrying autographed posters and chattering about the cars. Across the road from the church, roofers worked to replace a roof torn off by the tornado and destroyed homes stretched across the landscape behind them. But for just a few hours, the Dukes of Hazzard ruled supreme on Sand Mountain.
“It makes a difference when you just take a day and forget,” Corrie Whited said. Her son, Stormy, 6, showed his friends his autographed poster. The family lost their home and are living with grandparents.
Jeratt’s grandmother and mother, Christie Givens, wiped away tears as they watched Jeratt — wearing an orange T-shirt and orange hat — grin from ear to ear. He posed for pictures with the cars and then climbed into the General Lee for a ride.
“It’s everything just to see him happy and to get his stuff back,” Givens said. “After all he’s been through. There’s not words for this.”
Cash said the look on Jeratt’s face was all the payment they needed.
“Not everybody can run a chain saw; I figured this was my gift. Just making this boy smile for a day was worth it,” he said.
Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...