In 1964, when Sue Davis was in the 10th grade and riding in the school bus, her boyfriend Roland’s dad sent her an unusual birthday present — a Snuffy Smith comic strip and a penny.
Sue doesn’t believe she had ever seen Snuffy Smith before that day. Snuffy originally appeared in the comic strip Barney Google and Snuffy Smith as a supporting character. But for the past 60 years he’s been the main character as the story lines follow the life of this diminutive moonshiner. It’s hillbilly humor focused on the Southern Appalachian hamlet of Hootin’ Holler where Snuffy, his family and friends can be found living a simple country lifestyle, something that has endeared the strip and its characters — particularly Snuffy — to millions of readers throughout the years.
“That first one Ro’s daddy sent me was about youngins,” Davis said. “So I guess he was tellin’ me that he wanted me and his son to give him a bunch of grandchildren one day.”
She kept that strip as well as the penny and placed them in the first page of a binder that she has updated throughout the years.
“I collected the ones that I really liked,” she said. “I’m country all the way. Me and my husband were both raised on a farm. We’re just country folks and the things that Snuffy did were just like the things in our lives. We didn’t go to town often and stayed out in the country. Sometimes there’s possums around our house and sometimes my husband’s daddy was known to take a drink or two ... or more.”
Davis said she identifies strongly with the simple country life and many of the values Snuffy and his family exemplify. So she’d cut out a comic strip here and there that caught her fancy. When she and her husband moved to their current home on Old Dalton Road in 1972 is when Davis really started compiling her binder of comics and other information related to Snuffy Smith.
“When my husband and I first got married we didn’t have enough money to take the paper,” Sue said. “So when I’d visit my mom and daddy’s house on Sundays I’d look at the Snuffy strip, and if I liked it I’d ask them if I could cut it out.”
Sue admits that many of the most entertaining strips are the ones in which Snuffy doesn’t always exemplify the best behavior.
“I liked the cheatin’ and the lyin’ and moonshine drinkin’,” she said. “And the ones with possums.”
In 1994, Davis rescued and rehabilitated a small family of possums. Ever since then, she has dedicated her time to rescuing the animals whenever she can. And her home is a testament to her love of the creatures — with possum artwork, books and figurines covering the walls and shelves.
Once, when she had to come into town for dinner, she didn’t want to leave her baby possums home alone so she swaddled them in a fanny pack and sat at a popular Rome restaurant, baby possums in tow, and no one was the wiser.
Recently, when the Rome News-Tribune changed its comics page, one of the changes made was that Snuffy and a few other popular strips were taken away.
Davis was among the dozens of Rome residents who wrote, emailed and called the newspaper pleading for their favorite strips to return. She wrote to the paper detailing her long history with and love for Snuffy Smith and ended it by mentioning the first Snuffy strip she had gotten from her father-in-law.
“Evidently my father in law knew Roland and I were meant for each other almost 52 years ago now,” she wrote. “Please bring Snuffy Smith and all the other back that were omitted from the cartoon page. Go Snuffy!!!”
Readers concerns were heard and taken seriously. Snuffy will make his return to the pages of the Rome News-Tribune on Monday. No one will be happier to see him back than Sue Davis.
One of the pages of the binder bears a note to readers which says:
“Whoever gets this book in my later years, please do not sell it or give it away, except to my children or my grandchildren. It has given me lots of pleasure. Love always, Mama Susie.”