Tail of the Weak 1.22
Updated: Jan 24
Tail of the Weak is a series of insights and musical memories from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin, singer/songwriter and founder of the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, from Waycross, Georgia.
They was all raised up in a good part of town
Had a comfortable life when the sun went down
Livin' high at the top of Doghill
Watchin' the world turn and doin' what they will
Just watchin' and doin' what they will
— “Ballad of Doghill” by Uncle Dave Griffin
The road I grew up on was made of dirt.
In the early years, it was sandy enough that I bogged down learning to ride that ol' blue Schwinn bicycle from Western Auto. So, I would heave it off the ground and push it back up the small hill until I was home.
That home on Mount Pleasant Road was as sweet a solace of cinder block shelter and solitude as I've ever felt. Surrounded by family and friends, our neighborhood was idyllic.
Mama, a military bride and young mother, bought the house when Daddy was stationed overseas in the early Fifties. She took great comfort in knowing her older sister's family lived just next door.
The Air Force took us to Tripoli, Libya, Albany, Georgia, and Tampa, Florida; but, home was always in Waycross. In 1966, Daddy retired from service; and, we moved back to Mt. Pleasant Road for good.
Following the death of Mama's daddy, Everett Cecil Carter, we set up a mobile home in our backyard for Grandma Carter and my Uncle Vance. Poor Vance didn't sleep well in his new environs, serenaded by the nightly howling, yapping, and barking of the second most populous community on Mount Pleasant Road—the dogs—and there were a lot of them. In a state of insomniac unrest, Vance proclaimed his new address, Doghill.
Oh, the times we had growing up on Doghill. Me, my older brother Gary, and neighbors James Cocke, Greg Griffin, and Billy Ray Herrin were the original Doghill Gang.
James Cocke lived right next door with his mama, a former Army nurse, and her parents, Big Granny and Little Granny Lotz. Their yard was a spacious haven for us younguns. In the 50s, they owned a bull that was kept in the deepest part of the backyard they called the pasture.
By the 60s, the bull was history; and, the pasture was ours. We bled and died in that big pasture on Saturdays, playing football, baseball, and soccer. Black eyes, broken bones, and barbed wire lacerations were our normal rites of passage.
When we were young, we sought refuge in James's bedroom—a long, rambling room the width of the house with pinewood ceiling, floor, and walls. We'd sprawl out on that floor, listening to 45 rpms—“Moody River” by Pat Boone—Joey Powers's “Midnight Mary”—and the first Beatles album on Capitol, Meet the Beatles.
As we grew, so did our interests and it was, once again, James's bedroom where I got my first taste of beer, puffed my first cigarette, and smoked my first joint. That's just what you did in the Sixties and Seventies.
Soon, the nicknames came. Brother Gary was Tick—so named for crawling the inside walls and windows of a school bus in college. Greg Griffin was Slick—so named for his consummate attention to fashion and grooming. James Cocke was Sharky—so named for his no-holds-barred competitiveness in anything we did. Billy Ray Herrin was Bird Legs Ray—so named because his legs were so skinny, it looked like he was riding a chicken.
Me? I was Lonesome Dave because—well, I guess because I was the youngest of the Doghill Gang; and, the older guys didn't include me in all of their devious departures until I came of age.
High school graduations came and went; and, soon enough, we all had to start making life choices. Tick was the oldest and drew a low draft number. He joined the Air Force, managed to avoid Vietnam, and was stationed in Cornwall, England.
Slick got hired by Southern Bell and moved off to Atlanta in a brown Ford Pinto. Sharky, Bird Legs Ray, and I gave a good college try towards a higher education—and failed.
We all got married—some of us time and again—and fathered a whole new generation of Doghillers. Over the years, though, we never lost touch and have had each other's back through trials and triumphs.
This band of brothers loved, laughed, won, lost, struggled, and shared the innocence and beauty of a childhood on Doghill that bound us together for life.
There's an old saying, “You can't choose your family”. I'm glad I didn't have a choice.
My Doghill friends were—and always will be—my family.
American Spirit: Uncle Dave and The Younguns Download or Buy
REFERENCES Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin