For a generation of young rednecks, The Dukes of Hazzard was a Friday night institution. With flying cars, dynamite tipped arrows, Waylon Jennings and Daisy Duke, there wasn’t much more we wanted. The intro was even better than the show. I never missed gawking at Catherine Bach in that smokin’ hot red bikini and laughing at the exploding outhouse.
My redneck nirvana came in the form of Friday night Dukes of Hazzard at my grandparents’ farm, followed by an early Saturday morning country breakfast and a day of rabbit hunting with Grandpap. Roaming that old farm with him was magical, and every minute I spent with him was magical, too. So when that outhouse exploded in a ball of flame and splinters in the intro, I howled with laughter of a kid in heaven. Grandpap just chuckled, and said he used to do that as a kid.
My jaw hit the floor and I couldn’t believe him. No one could ever be so lucky as to blow up an outhouse in a ball of splinters and flame. But Grandpap did.
He grew up in the coal region of Pennsylvania and in those days coal miners blasted with black powder. The powder came in metal drums with screw top lids. Fortunately for Pap, the opening in the can was set back from the edge about ¾ of an inch, which meant it was difficult to get all the powder out of the can. The miners would pour powder until it stopped, shake the can a time or two, screw the cap back on and toss it into a dump. Grandpap and his friends scrounged those cans and collected the powder until they had a full drum. Outhouses and shacks lit up all over the country side.
I was astounded that my Grandpap lived my redneck dream. He loved to hunt rabbits and blew up outhouses. I could only imagine if he had Catherine Bach in that bikini… Holy $#!* !!! If it weren’t for the nature of American propriety and the absence of bikinis in the early 1900’s, he would have lived a country boy’s fantasy.
My Grandfather’s life wasn’t easy and didn’t seem like a dream at times. He didn’t think much of school and headed for the coal mines in his teens to apply all of his demolition skills underground blasting coal and rock. Pap was fired one morning when he came to work and a mine boss slammed a pick handle across the mine entrance in front of him. He demanded to know where my grandfather spent his pay and why the money went somewhere other than the company store. Grandpap replied that he would spend his money where ever he damn well chose, and that answer gave him a lot of time on his hands.
My grandfather found his Daisy Duke, married my grandmother and they had their first child in March of 1929. Wall Street fell later that year, and they suffered raising a family through the Great Depression. They lost a house to the bank and sent their kids to bed hungry at night – crying for food at times – but they worked hard and found a way to make it. They gardened, sold wild berries, and Pap brought home rabbits for the pot.
Then they found an opportunity they refused to squander. They found a small farm to buy where they could live the American dream. They had a chance to work and bring forth a family of two sons, a daughter, grandchildren, and eventually great-grandchildren. Their amazing family includes a well driller, pastor, nurses, a doctor, missionaries, business men and women, a veterinarian, artists, and veterans who served their families, neighbors, strangers, and country. Salt of the earth people who worked to make this country the best on the earth.
My grandparents didn’t have much, but they left this world in far better shape than they found it.
That’s why we homestead. We are teaching our sons the lessons that their great-grandparents learned in the crucible of hard work. Character is built through dedication and perseverance. Life is unbearably hard at times, but you can persevere. And if you let Him, God will change you through it all. In the end, you can live a life that may be simple, but is a life that is only dreamed about by so many others around the world.
This is the American dream of generations ago – shared by coal miners, farmers, well drillers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, pastors, mothers, fathers, and rednecks alike. It’s one that this family is determined to preserve.