SWAMPOPOLIS, Mississippi — As dawn broke over a landscape of cotton fields and gently swaying pine trees, what seemed like the entire population of this sleepy burg had gathered on the town square. The object of their attention: local aristocrat Sylvester Boggs-Cockrell, who was preparing to fulfill his lifelong ambition to reach outer space.
Medically discharged from NASA’s human spaceflight program in the early 1960s for a chronic case of julep-elbow, Boggs-Cockrell decided early on that the only way he was going to get into space was to get there himself. Armed with legendary Boggs-Cockrell stubbornness and three semesters at the University of Mississippi-Swampopolis under his belt, he proceeded to eschew a lucrative position in the family molasses business and spend the next four decades planning his interstellar journey.
“It is indeed a pleasure of the highest sort to greet you in these moments before I journey to the heavens in ‘Ol Magnolia — my most wondrous and stately astro-craft, surely the finest ever to sail the celestial seas,” said Boggs-Cockrell, referring to the locomotive engine that he retrofitted for space travel.
The air in downtown Swampopolis was suffused with the pleasant aroma of burning hickory wood, which will fuel ‘Ol Magnolia on her epic voyage. The fire, Boggs-Cockrell explained, must be constantly stoked — both to produce enough vertical thrust to escape the Earth’s atmosphere and provide a warm and inviting environment in which to peruse the many leather-bound volumes in the on-board library.
The ship also includes a handsome screened-in front porch, complete with rocking chairs and a pressurized sleeping berth for General Sassafras, Boggs-Cockrell’s loyal blue tick hound.
Said the aspiring Dixienaut: “With the warm companionship of the General and a picnic basket containing the very finest fried chicken and other delectable victuals prepared so lovingly by the Daughters of the Confederacy, my time in outer space shall be as relaxing as a gentle evening of yarn-spinnin’ and whiskey-sippin’!”
According to mission control director Big Glenda, the ship is nearly fully provisioned and ready to launch, with final shipments of freeze-dried snuff and Templeton’s Gold Star Mustache Wax due to arrive by nightfall. Workers could be seen running to and fro as they made final launch preparations, such as ensuring that the distinguished Southern gentleman’s trusty shotgun had been thoroughly cleaned and loaded, lest the alien life forms he expects to encounter “prove themselves to be of an ornery disposition.”
Another innovative feature of this spacecraft is the specially designed heat shield that swaddles it from top to bottom in luxuriously puckered SuckerLab seersucker, which will protect it during its fiery reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. “As I return from my heavenly jaunt, my star-craft shall require its sheath of soft, cool seersucker to repel that dastardly heat,” said Boggs-Cockrell. “And I, too, shall be adorned in SuckerLab seersucker finery during the whole of my astronautical adventure.” With that, he slowly turned a complete circle, allowing the growing crowd to admire his royal blue SuckerLab trousers from all angles.
“Is there a more fashionable interstellar traveler in these parts?” cried Boggs-Cockrell, a fresh glass of Bourbon sloshing gently in his hand as bowed to the hundreds of onlookers. “By the sweet nape of gentle Persephone’s neck, I dare think not!”