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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 3.38

Updated: Jan 25, 2020

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.

It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born

And was always his treasure and pride

But it stopped short never to go again when the old man died

—“My Grandfather's Clock”

“My Grandfather's Clock”, written by Henry Clay Work in 1876, was a popular period folk song covered by artists of many genres over the years, including Doc Watson, Johnny Cash, Sam Cooke, and The Everly Brothers. Back in 1995, Bill and John Randall Smith, Gerald Dukes, and I recorded it as The Rebelaires; and, we played it time and again at Civil War reenactments and heritage balls around the South.

The old song tends to remind me of just how time, space, fate, and coincidence shift and combine to form cosmic circumstances in our day-to-day lives. At the

risk of sounding like Rod Serling in the opening segment of The Twilight Zone, there are things out there that are hard to explain.

It wasn't a grandfather clock, but a simple Timex watch, a gift from Mama and Daddy on my 13th birthday, that I wore everywhere I went, including a weekend Boy Scout Jamboree at Camp Tolochee on the marshes of Glynn County in Brunswick, Georgia. Located on Blythe Island—where my old high school classmate, Danny Johnson now lives with his sweet wife Nancy, and all their kids and grandkids—Camp Tolochee backs up to Fancy Bluff Creek, the little channel we Scouts canoed up and down in 1967.

Fellow members of Troop 320 were Coy Crews, William Downing, Danny Jordan, Doug and Rusty Gibson, Bobby Cardwell, Terry Dowling, and Remer Kent, just to name a few. Led by our Scoutmaster, Lamar Gibson, an intelligent and soft-spoken man, we used to hold our weekly Scout meetings in the 4-H building at the Okefenokee Fairgrounds in Waycross, Georgia.

Troop 320 at Brasstown Bald, 1967
Troop 320 at Brasstown Bald, 1967

We hiked the edges of the Okefenokee Swamp—camped in the shadows of Brasstown Bald, the highest point in the state of Georgia—and got set loose on a solo survival trek, with nothing but a compass and a crude map, in the dense piney woods of Schlatterville, bordering High Bluff Road, where many of my Griffin ancestors lie buried. It was good clean fun; but, I only made it through Tenderfoot and about halfway through the ranks of Second Class because I failed at knot-tying—proven further in life by two divorces.

Camp Tolochee was a huge Scout Jamboree, with troops attending from all around the southeast. I was nerdy enough to have kept a boxful of mementos, now tucked away in a closet under my staircase, that holds a few memories—an aged and folded up paper target showing my not-too-deadeye accuracy at the rifle

Boy Scout memorabilia from the Summer of Love, 1967

shooting range—a half-whittled wooden neckerchief slide that looks more like the mangled hand of Django Reinhardt than it does the three-finger Scout salute—and a daily diary in a little green spiral bound notebook detailing the many highlights of the weekend.

My most-memorable recollection is of me and another Waycross Scout, lawyer-to-be Jim McGee, freestyling 50 laps, up and down that concrete camp swimming pool until our arms fell off—proud to earn our Mile Swim BSA awards.

On the last night we were there, all the boys of Troop 320 sat around a blazing campfire, Mr. Gibson leading us in the classic non-sensical singalong, “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”, until our minds were mush and we dragged off to bed.

The next morning after breakfast, as were breaking camp, I noticed my left forearm was missing a Timex. I scoured the campsite, desperately looking for my coveted timepiece, to no avail. The thought crossed my mind, 'It'll probably show up in the last place I look', when I heard someone shout, “Is this it”?

I think it was Rusty Gibson, standing by the smoldering ashes of last night's campfire, holding the charred wristband on a smoking stick. It's hands were fried at 10:10—probably about the time we hit the eighteenth chorus of “John Jacob—whatever his name was”.

Over the 50-some odd years of life since then—more times than I can count—I seem to catch that 10 minutes after 10 blinking back at me from wall clocks, digital alarm clocks, dashboard radios, and lately, computer screens and cell phones. Not that anything bad has ever happened that I know of. It's just a cosmic coincidence related to the fiery death of my Timex—a distant, dismal moment in time.

Although, it does seem that 10:10 must hold some relevance in my journey through life—enough so that I wrote a blog and a song about it. Every time I turn to face the time—the tickin' of the clock stops on a dime

Life and death winds up in perfect rhyme

Discretely—completely—ten after ten

Several weeks ago, I went to help a young lady change her flat tire on Highway 82. She was stranded on the shoulder of the highway just in front of Brantley County High School in the August night. After getting the vehicle up on the jack, I was not a match for those garage-torqued lug nuts.

I pulled out my cell phone and called my buddy, Boatdock Bill Davis in nearby Hoboken, who promptly volunteered to pore over his yard for a piece of lead pipe that I could use to gain a little leverage on the tire iron.

Before he could get back to the phone, a pickup idled up behind me, headlights glaring. It was 10:10 when Richard Gill, a big, big-hearted Brantley County High School Ag teacher crawled out of his cab; and, between me and mostly him, we got the little lady back on her way. Eerie coincidence? Divine intervention? Probably both.

Back in the Sixties, there was a series of live TV commercials starring John Cameron Swayze—a prominent NBC newscaster and father of dirty-dancin' Patrick. Mr. Swayze would tout the indestructible virtues of the shock-resistant, dust-proof, water-proof, Timex watches, often closing with the words, “Timex—It takes a licking—And keeps on ticking”. If only they'd made 'em campfire-proof and John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt-resistant.


I should have known that Google would have a final say. After reading the blog above, my ol' high school classmate, Wayne Smith, directed me to the following link: And that—as Paul Harvey used to say—is the rest of the story. Or, at least, somebody else's version of it!

21st Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival

Advance 3-Day Passes:


Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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