Mt. View, Arkansas – March 21, 2011 by Bob Phillips
What started as a ‘doodle pad idea’ in Hidalgo, Texas, in 1996, eventually evolved into an incredible resurgence of interest in old-time ‘rural’ corn pone humor. Dr. Robert Earl Reed was trying to figure out a way to regain the popularity of old-time rural humor. What he dreamed up was an act called ‘Ooty, Cooty, and Pooty,’ a comedy mainstay that would later become his “Chicken House Opry.”
“I had a pretty good career in traditional country music,” Dr. Reed said, “I recorded for Arco Records in California, and then K-Ark Records in Nashville, Tennessee. To see me over the rough spots in the road, I became an auctioneer, and discovered early on it’s as easy to get big bids on earth-moving equipment as it is a box of buttons, so that’s the direction I took. I teamed up with Leroy Van Dyke (the Singing Auctioneer), hiring him to help me with the business, and that led to a direct relationship with Hank Thompson, a western swing artist. I had a band that occasionally backed Thompson for our smaller projects. Lucy Jackson was my keyboardist. Hank took such a liking to Lucy’s music, he eventually included her in his own band, and started using her regularly. At the same time, I was taking a personal interest in Lucy, and was also pursuing a way to bring back good down-home humor to country music.”
Rural humor goes back a long ways in the American psyche. Sometimes just mentioning a name brings instant recall. Judy Canova! Homer & Jethro! Minnie Pearl! Rod Bradsfield! Andy Griffith! Yes, even Andy Griffith. Before he played the bashful Sheriff in Mayberry, he began a recording career at a very young age, recording an LP as a young mountain boy describing a football game that he had seen for the first time. The dissertation is hilarious. Dolly Parton’s hour-glass figure and outrageous outfits, along with her angelic voice, played perfectly against Porter Wagoner’s corn pone humor and his use of old-fashioned country sensibility. A guaranteed laugh usually told about the wealthy city-slicker wanting to get out of his congested, smelly, dirty, traffic snarled big town and go to the country. Once there he gets lost, and in trying to get directions from a hillbilly, the story relentlessly ends with the same punch line, as the hillbilly says, “I’m not the one that’s lost, you are.”
This post was submitted by Bob Phillips.
The Dumbest Thing I Ever Did – submitted by Jack Strong
Editor’s Note: This is a tall tale that my Uncle Jack shared recently at his 81st birthday party, ostensibly in the form of a family confession; however, his sly grin betrayed a clear lack of any genuine contrition. ;). In 1945, his big brother, my dad, was involved in WWII. Jack, however, was still a restless 15 year old boy back home who managed to get into some fairly harmless mischief, as country boys that age are prone to do. After these childhood shenanigans, Uncle Jack went on to serve as a distinguished state senator, and he was also quite successful in his law practice and many business ventures.
Probably the dumbest thing that we ever did had to do with watermelons. We liked watermelons, as most boys did, but we didn’t like hot watermelons – we liked cold watermelons.
There was a particular farmer who lived about three miles out of Carthage, Texas. He was just next to the road there, and had what we believed to be the best watermelon patch in all of Panola County. We found a place in the fence that was easy to get across, and we would just go get two watermelons. We got two, not because we would eat them both, but because the man at the ice house had a deal that if we would bring him two hot ones he’d give us one cold one.
One night we went out there, and we had a flashlight so we could try to locate the two best watermelons. We were very careful – seriously – to not damage any of the vines or any of his crop. We might have been thieves, but we were considerate thieves.