We’ve spent the last couple days out of pocket; taking a bit of a respite. First, The Pete Seeger exhibit at the Woody Guthrie Center, then Kristofferson in Tulsa, then we jetted across to Dyess, Arkansas and onto Memphis.
The trip to, and from Dyess, was an adventure After driving up Interstate 55 for too long, I decided to break my normal rule and consult Google. They directed me off on exit 36, and I was a little worried when I saw a gravel road laid out before me. We proceeded, though, and turned where they told us, to find ourselves staring down a combine. I didn’t think the trip worth ticking off a farmer, so I went on back to the frontage road and rerouted. About 8 miles and 20 minutes later on rough gravel roads, we found ourselves by the site oof the old Dyess cannery, now the only store in town. We headed to the visitor and decided to take the official tour since we didn’t come all this way to miss any of it. We noticed as we were coming in that there was a paved road to the north; Goggle just hadn’t considered it.
So I played my version of “I Still Miss Someone” on the porch of Johnny’s boyhood home, but the wind cut the audio something fierce so I couldn’t use it. I did manage, though, to get a video of my own tune “Ballad of a Dime”, which is on my new CD, recorded on the steps of the main building from Dyess Colony. Here it is, for your viewing enjoyment:
We headed out of Dyess and I tried to take the backroads, which took me up over the levee and to a road that ended before a heavily wooded area that most likely came out to the Mississippi on the other side. We saw some pretty severe poverty, especially in Dyess, where the community has nothing left. No retail outside of the aforementioned store, no industry, just the tourist draw of being Johnny Cash’s boyhood home.
As I was snapping pictures, I headed over to a building marked “Recreation Center”, and had a great conversation wiith a 73 year old man who had moved to Dyess when he was 5. His name was JR, which I found pretty cool, because that was Johnny Cash’s name as well. He told me that Johnny Cash had played there in ’67 when he was shipping off to Nam, where his knee was shot off and replaced with an artificial joint. The kind of story you look for your whole life and sometimes never find. I resolved that when we come back in October I am going to take JR for a burger at the little store and talk with him a bit longer, maybe even see if he’ll let me turn the voice recorder on.
I loved Dyess, and couldn’t help think this is what we are all about. When I expressed appreciation for the town to the lady at the store (I have a hard and fast rule at spending money at businesses in the small towns I visit because I know how important outside money is to them), she laughed somewhat cynically. I would love to help her and others see hope in that little town.
I’ll give more about the history of Dyess later on.