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Tail of the Weak 3.50

Updated: Jan 28


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.

Not by any stretch of my youthful imagination would I have figured that some day my childhood neighbor, James E. Cocke, and I—Uncle Dave E. Griffin—would be celebrating the title of published authors. Life is full of surprises. James and I used to sit around in his bedroom on Doghill hammering out best-sellers when we were 10 and 11 years old thinking we were really up to something.

Future Doghill authors. Uncle Dave and James Cocke, 1957.

In 1968, during my freshman year at Ware County High School, I composed a poem that was included in the high school literary magazine, Lines and Shadows. The subject of my poem was Waycross, Georgia native Wayne D. Anderson, Communications Technician Second Class, United States Navy, who received a Prisoner of War Medal after his ship, the U.S.S. Pueblo was captured by North Korea the same year.

Three years later, I was selected as the co-editor of the school newspaper, Gator Gabb. But, a published author? Of a real book? That was for people named Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Lewis Grizzard.

As long as James Cocke and I have known each other, he has exhibited an unflinching tenacity for the pursuit of wealth and success. Growing up on Doghill, we nicknamed him Sharky because of his doggedness to be the winner of any neighborhood competition—be it backyard football, volleyball, ping pong, tennis, fishing, or even Jeopardy!, when he and I would go toe to toe and head to head with host Art Fleming and the hapless contestants in Little Granny's living room during our early Seventies unemployed months.

James has been the architect of many a great or near-great money-making idea. Like his antifreeze recycling campaign that eventually dissolved into the ground. Five years prior to the AMBER Alert System for missing children, James, along with an attorney, another good friend, and his brother-in-law, devised a plan called Operation Helping Hearts but couldn't get anyone to listen.

Says James, “I tried to take care of the environment; and, I tried to take care of the children. Finally, I had to try to take care of ME!” With his sons, Luke, J. P., and Jacob, James started up Big Cocke Charters, a fishing company off the salt water flats in north Florida.

That too died in the water, their launch of the company coinciding with the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Not to be deterred, they introduced the Big Cocke line of sport T-shirts, sporting Lucky the Rooster in honor of James's daddy, Wayne “Lucky” Cocke, Sr., who died when James was only four.

With the advent of reality TV shows at the turn of the millenium, an inquisitive reporter shot some footage of the Big Cocke operation in south Florida, resulting in a telephone call several months later, followed by a demo video that was aired for television executives in hopes that the Big Cocke family of fishermen, T-shirt entrepreneurs, and their Clyattville, Georgia shenanigans might become the next Duck Dynasty or, at the least, put an end to Honey Boo Boo's miserable reign.

None of these acorns bore any fruit; so, James turned his attention to writing.

In 2015, he wrote and illustrated a children's book, Papa's Dream, dedicated to his children, grandchildren, and all children for all time. Shortly after, he set about on his second book; and, after months of editing, his self-published Cocke Tales: Memoirs of a Redneck Hippy was released.

It was 2016 when James prodded me to start blogging. I came up with Uncle Dave's Tail of the Weak, a weekly blog of personal insights and musical memories that found a place on the internet, in the Waycross Journal-Herald, and in the bimonthly Southland Magazine. By 2018, James had introduced himself and me to Mike Orenduff, author/publisher/bookstore owner in Valdosta, Georgia.

Author/publisher/book store owner Mike Orenduff.

Growing up in New Mexico, Orenduff graduated from Tulane University with a PhD, became a professor, then went on to serve as president of New Mexico State University. He retired early to begin writing an award-winning series of Pot Thief murder mysteries, combining archaeology and history with humor and mystery.

In 2017, his dear friend and owner of Aakenbaaken and Kent Publishing fell ill; and, Orenduff offered to take the reins of the company, along with managing his Valdosta store, Book and Table Inn. Soon after, James Cocke came calling with an idea for a third book, a compilation of newspaper articles written by his Aunt Margie for the Florida Times-Union in the 1930s and 40s.

James got the go-ahead for his book, Margaret B. Long: Jewel of Jacksonville, then promptly introduced my weekly blogs to Orenduff, who approved and emailed me an official contract early this year. Following months of rewriting, proofing, and editing, my first book, Tails of the Weak: From Doghill to Tripoli and Back, arrived via UPS just in the Saint Nick of time for Christmas. Both books are available online at Amazon.com.

Come December 14th at 2 pm, James Edward Cocke and I—Uncle Dave Edward Griffin—will offer our books for sale at a book signing to be held at Mike Orenduff's Book and Table Inn in downtown Valdosta.

Then, on Saturday the 22nd, the two Doghill authors will be receiving friends, family, well-wishers, and book buyers from 6 pm to 8 pm on the outside dining patio of Applebee's in Waycross.

Perhaps it's the result of chance and coincidence—or it could be James Cocke's stubborn determination. Maybe it's our middle name, Edward, that we happen to share with several famous authors—Edward Lear, 19th century poet and writer of The Owl and the Pussycat and other nonsensible limericks—Edward Jablonski, who authored several biographies on American cultural personalities—or Edward Albee, who wrote Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

One thing is for certain and most-definite. Life is full of surprises.

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REFERENCES Wikipedia

Memories straight from the mind of James Cocke and Uncle Dave Griffin

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