One Armed Bandits

Welcome to Hazzard County, a stretch of land where three states converge, none of which claim Hazzard as their own because, frankly, they don’t want it. It’s also where the local sheriff, Rosco P. Coltrane smuggles hundreds of slot machines into the county, which is the premise of the Dukes of Hazzard pilot, “One Armed Bandits.”

That’s right––the sheriff is a gambler. He’s also in cahoots with the county commissioner, J.D. (Jefferson Davis) “Boss” Hogg, the wealthiest man in the county who has all that money because he owns almost all of Hazzard County’s property and businesses. Always at the ready to “Get them Duke Boys,” Hogg isn’t exactly on the right side of the law he supposedly upholds.

And the Duke boys, Beauregard “Bo” Duke and his cousin, Lukas K. “Luke” Duke, while finding their way to trouble in most every episode, are perhaps more morally sound than local law enforcement. In the pilot, the boys’ goal is to turn the illegal slot machine racket into a good deed.

Where did the idea of public servants being corrupt come from? Well, we know it happens from time-to-time that county commissioners have more power than state senators and some of them find their way to sideways activities––not all of them, of course.

I mention this because the first episode of Dukes of Hazzard aired January 26, 1979, thirty-seven years ago this week. It is because of Dukes that I’ve met some of the best people I’ve ever known, who taught me about the same deep morals and values that we tried to impart by way of the show––those people are you, the fans. Thank you for your consistent support throughout the years.

You’re Never Too Old to Start Again (or Too Young to Start)

There was a man I knew years ago, whom I only met once when he was 93 years old, totally blind and partially deaf. His name was Father Morgan, and he showed me that you’re never too old to start again and never to young to start.

Father Morgan was a renowned Episcopal priest and a brilliant botanist whose flora & fauna facts were featured in Encyclopedia Brittanica. At retirement age, he retired in Cherokee country, high up in the mountains of North Georgia. While he moved there to settle, community members encouraged him to start a church. So, at the ripe age of 65, he and one other man built a new church from the ground up. He started a whole new life at a time when most are winding down, and this wasn’t the only time he did that.

He looked like Moses with long, flowing gray hair. He didn’t care what people thought of him, just worked hard and never complained. One Sunday he arrived for his sermon without having any time to prepare. His nephew shared the morning service with him, from the liturgy with comments, scripture, sermon, and all of the readings in between. Remember, he was blind, so he couldn’t read anything at that point, and also at least half deaf. He just listened to his nephew, took it in, and did the best he could.

Well, wouldn’t you know…Father Morgan got out in front of the congregation and gave the entire service from his nephew’s verbal recital––every word, all by memory, without a hitch, at the ripe age of 93!

If this wasn’t incredible enough, we found out after the service that the night before, Father Morgan lost everything in a house fire. The home he lost was two generations old and housed every book and paper owned by him and generations before him––all of his sermons, all of his data on flora & fauna…everything.

He never mentioned a word about the fire to anyone during or after that sermon. When asked by his nephew what he wanted him to do about the house, he said, “Call the contractor and tell him we need him to start rebuilding tomorrow.”

Father Morgan was a true American hero. He quietly went about his life with humility, a remarkable work ethic, unending persistence, and the ability to rebuild his life no matter what challenges befell him. At an age when most are waiting to die, Father Morgan started anew, over and over.

What do you want to start, but tell yourself you’re too old (or young) to do it?

I say, do it!


Uncle Jesse and My Grandfather McGill

There is a person in each of our lives who has a tremendous impact on us. For me, it was my grandfather. As a matter of fact, he inspired much of who you know Uncle Jesse to be on Dukes.

My grandfather, Franklin McGill, was a teller of tales. Country folk loved him; he had a way of sharing adventures that pulled you in and made you want to hear more. An Irishman, he had a wit about him that made every story hilarious, with possible embellishments that family and friends didn’t question or mind.

One of the stories he told time and again was about my uncle, when he was six years old. He made him drive horses down to a rail station in Foster, Kentucky to bring back feed. It was a precarious, steep road with a massive drop. (Imagine sending out your six-year-old to fetch anything on horseback on a single-person trail set on a cliff!) The depot workers asked my grandfather how he could trust the boy on such a road, wasn’t he worried? He casually responded, “You didn’t know the horses! I could’ve sent them alone!” This reinforced his belief that a well-trained animal could be trusted more than any human he knew, six-years-old or any age.

Grandfather McGill was a strong man. He shared stories about the Civil War. He had a massive stroke that left him half-paralyzed and partially blind yet he had unrelenting strength despite his physical challenges. With sage-like wisdom about any and all moral questions, I knew I was in good hands taking my problems to him. He always had an answer, but didn’t always have to be right. Humility came naturally to him, even with his tall tales.

His legacy lives on in my generation and of course in our beloved Uncle Jesse. Grandfather McGill had a major impact on my children and their children, all who have my grandfather’s ability to tell a story that draws a crowd.

Who has strongly influenced you?