Monthly Archives: January 2017

Dogpatch USA Remembered

There’s a young man doing a documentary on Dogpatch USA, a family amusement and theme park from the 70s and 80s that was based on the L’il Abner comic strip by Al Capp.  My brother, Rob, and I decided to go to an open call for interviews of people who had worked, or been involved with Dogpatch, and while the kind of information the interviewer was looking for seemed somewhat different from what we had to contribute, it was super fun to relive that time with my brother.

When we first started working at Marble Falls in Dogpatch, I was 10 years old.  It was 1980.  My dad gave me a guitar and told me to learn how to play it.  It wasn’t long before we were playing gigs together as a family.  At the time we were living in Low Gap, in between Ponca and Jasper, about a mile behind the Low Gap church down a dirt road.  We used to ride the bus to school and it took us an hour and a half each way.  That was part of the reason that our parents decided to home school us.  Too much time on the bus.

Our family was back-to-the-landers.  We bought 20 acres of land and proceeded to build an 11 sided log cabin by hand, with stone floors.  We loved it there. We didn’t have electricity, running water, or telephones.  My mom cooked every meal on a wood cookstove.  She gardened on a one acre garden and canned all of our food for the year.  We went to the store once a month for necessities, and tried to get by with what we had.  I think at one time I remember my dad saying that we lived on 1200 dollars a year.

My dad used to tell stories about taking the county road grader a case of beer in trade for dynamite that would help us blast past the rocks in our soon to be well.  Newton County was a dry county, meaning that it was illegal to sell beer there, and for as long as I can remember, there were several bootleggers where my dad went to get beer when he wanted it.

My mom and dad were musicians so it was natural for them to give us instruments and for us all to play together.  Sort of natural.  My dad was the task master who mandated that we practice so that we could excel at our music.  My mom played the bass, my brother played the fiddle, my dad played guitar, and I played guitar and mandolin.  We played old bluegrass songs and country songs.

At some point when I was almost 12 we moved to Possum Trot in Osage (Carroll County).  It’s a place best remembered by Frank Stamps’ store which still stands there today.  Frank has since passed on, but when we lived there in the early 80s we would go to Frank’s store where he would be with his white hair, tending shop with his 5 white dogs following him around everywhere he went.  We sometimes got to buy huge sandwiches there that he would make with his big meat and cheese slicer.  There were shelves and shelves of general store items, some of them covered in dust because product didn’t always move as fast as it did in more populated areas.  And in the winter time the wood stove in the middle of the store was surrounded by benches of old men chewing tobacco, whittling sticks, and telling tall tales.  It was a beautiful time.

When we first started working at Dogpatch we had a Volkswagen bug that we would load up with a bass, two guitars, a mandolin, a fiddle, and all of the sound equipment necessary to produce our show.  There were 4 of us.  It was an exercise in, how many elephants can you fit in an VW.

We performed 6 shows a day.  Every hour on the half hour.  I wore a black and white polka dot cancan dress.  Did I mention it was a summer gig in Arkansas.  There was a lot of asphalt and it was HOT.  My brother’s costume was red as was my dad’s and my mom also wore black.  In between shows I would run around the park, in and out of the character dressing areas, roller coaster rides, and arcades.  I remember riding a ride was a giant cylinder.  You stood against the wall and the centrifugal force would propel you against the wall as you spun deliriously in a circle, eventually the floor fell out.  I think if I rode that ride now I would puke my guts up, but then it was great fun.

Dogpatch was Daisy Mae and L’il Abner, costumed characters, and the Schmoo, hillbilly talking, goats on the roofs, and bluegrass music.  It was teenagers with summer jobs in the most beautiful place on earth.  It was a water slide and Ms. Pac Man when I didn’t have enough money to play arcade games.  It was roller coasters and slow train rides, waterfalls and trout farm.  It was music contests and Bill Monroe.  It was hours at home at night practicing with my family.  My brother with his self conscious slicked back hair and lack of a sense of humor.  My dad with his constant hope of hitting it big.  My mom working her butt off growing the food, cooking the food, canning the food, fixing everything, and at the end of the day singing and playing music.  Supporting.  Dogpatch was my first job.  I was 12.  I was a musician.  It was a different kind of existence.

My earnings at Dogpatch paid for my homeschooling books from Calvert.  It paid for my first braces on my very crooked teeth.  It was a sweet time.

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Levi–My First Son, Before Your Wedding

You are a person who gave me a purpose in life.  You focused my energy and helped me stop taking life for granted.  You gave me something to live for that was bigger than myself.  I didn’t know what it meant to truly value myself until I had you.

Levi and Sean have a sink bath

You are a person who has taught me the patience of saints, pain such as I’d never experienced before, responsibility, and humility.  So much humility.

You taught me that most holes in the wall can be patched.

You are a person who has taught me that raising children (and life in general) is an exercise in letting go.  Letting go of ideals, opinions, attitudes, expectations, attachment. Control is an illusion.

You are a person who has given me such a deeper understanding of profound love, such  as can only be experienced by a mother with her child.  You have brought me so many tears and sorrow, joy and wonder, and oh my god the laughter.

Qualities that will continue to be teachers for you are pride, desire, competitiveness, emotion, and a sense of certainty.

Qualities that you now possess as a blessing to others are your sense of humor, loyalty, love,  playfulness, thoughtfulness, seeking, support, sense of community, and faith.

You are a beautiful human and I am happy to know you, proud of the man you have become, and I have so much gratitude for you as an honored teacher in my life.

 

 

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20 Years Later, Diaries, Letters, Homesteading

We bought this house 20 years ago. When we moved in I stuffed a box of things from my old life in the attic and just pulled it down today. This box has stuff in it from 34 years ago.  So much fun!!! Diaries from when I lived on a farm and collected eggs from the chickens, milked the cow, played music, and wrote letters.  This particular segment of time is from when our family left the 11 sided log cabin we had built in Low Gap, Newton County and moved to a more developed farm with pastures and fences, old barns, a well, fruit trees, and a creek nearby.  I loved the place, and it wasn’t until 30 years later that I made the realization that it was a shack.  It didn’t feel like that to me.  My dad used to joke that I could freeze a pan of water in my room over night.  That may have been true, but it was my room, and my canopy bed from when my dad had a computer job and my mom made a point of buying me a completely new set of bedroom furniture.  I loved it.

January 1, 1982
Dear Diary,
My bird died last night.

January 5, 1982
Dear Diary,
Today we went to Harrison for the first time in 3 months. We had a bundle of fun.
Bye

This may seem insignificant to random people reading it. But when I say we went to Harrison for the first time in 3 months that means it was a big deal. We lived in the woods and rarely got out. Harrison was the closest town where we could get supplies. We didn’t really see a ton of people out there.

January 12, 1982
It was the first snow of the winter today.

January 19, 1982
We moved in today

January 25, 1982
We went to Jasper, Harrison, and Alpena. I got some new shoes. Jumped 2 1/2 sizes.

January 28, 1982
I ran 3 fingers through the ringer. Dad and Ned put up a fence.

The ringer is an outdoor washing machine with a “ringer” to ring out the clothes.  It was my job to wash clothes with this machine.  The hazards of this machine were that if you weren’t careful putting clothes through the ringer you could mash the ever loving bejeezus out of your hands.  Another hazard of this machine was that there must have been some electrical wire exposed or something because I distinctively remember getting shocked with the damn thing. 

Sometimes I took the laundry in a wheelbarrow down to the creek and washed it.  I remember losing a pillow case that way.

January 29, 1982
It has been a month since mom stopped smoking.

January 30, 1982
It snowed about 6 or 7 inches. Soon I shall get enough cash to buy a bird. It will survive.

January 31, 1982 (Sunday)
There’s not much to say. Bye.

February 1, 1982
I’m building igloo. Mom’s in a bad mood.

February 4, 1982
We ate at Pamela’s and Ned’s.  Made paper dolls with Meg.

Ned and Pamela Whitlock sold us our farm.  They had apple orchards up on the mountain from us.  I remember talk about his dad getting wealthy from oil.  I hear that Ned is in Hawaii now, still farming.

February 5, 1982
We got a cow.

February 6, 1982
I’m almost done with my rug. I started it again today.

I learned how to crochet about this time.  This particular rug referenced here was a very colorful single crochet stitch.

February 7, 1982
Saw a Bald Eagle.  Cardinals come to the bird feeder now.  Got a pulley with a well.  Bye

My main job was to haul water from the well.  The pulley helped lower the bucket down.  Pretty nifty.  We didn’t have running water at the time.

February 13, 1982
Mom went visiting with Pam.  Hard day for me.  She doesn’t realize that I had to wear shorts today.

Not sure what that is about.

February 14, 1982
Made a cake.  Spring!!

February 18, 1982
Miserable.  Tooth pulled.

February 20,
Went to Low Gap.  Saw Phillips, Ray Rylee, Mariere,  Ruth.  Jack spent the night.  Saw Superman and Airplane.

February 21, 1982
Carrolle and Barb came and got Jackie.

February 22, 1982
Got our dog Sally today.

February 24, 1982
Pam and Shelly came today.  Rob chopped his thumb.

Rob’s (my brother’s) main chore was chopping wood.  He used to love seeing how close he could come to his thumb on the top of the log he was chopping.  I distinctively remember him doing this.  Goob.

There was a lot going on around this move to Possum Trot, Osage in Carroll County.  We were getting settled in there.  So glad to reconnect with this.  Can’t wait to see what else is in this box.

 

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