Friday, March 29, 2013

Art imitates life, at least the life we'd all love to live in Hazzard County

Jim Wilson of London, Ontario, had dreams like any other kid growing up in the 1970s who watched "The Dukes of Hazzard" when it originally aired. He wanted to meet the Dukes, he wanted to see the Duke farm, and Hazzard Square, and any of the other sites featured on the show. He wanted to see a General Lee.

"Well, I did watch 'The Dukes' every Friday night when it was new, when I was a kid," Jim tells BRBTV. "Looked forward to it, and my mom would always pop some popcorn on the stove for me, back then we did not own a microwave, LOL."

Jim made his dreams come true. He did grow up to meet the cast members, even see John ("Bo Duke") Schneider and Tom ("Luke Duke") Wopat in concert, and he visited Hazzard Square and the Duke farm. And he's seen a few General Lees over the years, both at Dukesfest and elsewhere, even though he lives in the Great White North where it would seem you wouldn't see such a sight!

"You would be surprised, there are a few General Lees around my area," he says. "I always seem to find somebody who enjoys the show. My good friend Jason Darling, who lives near Kingston, Ontario, is building two Generals right now, a dirt tracker and a nice street car."

But while all of that is mighty fine, that's not the reason we're featuring Jim Wilson on the BRBTV News Blog today. You see, he's the kind of fan that is so inspired by "The Dukes" that it touches off his artistic creativity. More specifically, it sets him to painting.

"As for inspiration for the paintings, I like to capture the feel of the late '70s, early '80s," Jim tells us. "Hard to explain, my childhood seemed to last forever back then, always wondering when will I grow up and be a big person like Bo and Luke. I have always drawn things, have a gift I guess. I had a special art teacher who would come in once a week to expand what I had done. Taught me perspective, stuff like that. But basically I just draw or paint or weld what is in my mind."

And what a talent and imagination it is. We especially like his interpretation of the recovery of Lee 1, the very first General ever jumped on "The Dukes of Hazzard." Now, there's an interesting thing to paint, especially for what that moment, and the ensuing years of the car's change in ownership and its restoration, have meant in the "Dukes" fan community, both positive and not so much.

Jim is sure capturing a certain feeling in his work. And it's clear that comes from his own love of the show and of all that surrounds it these days.

"I love going to events in the South," he says. "Last year at the Hazzard Homecoming I finally met Tom Wopat, so now I have met everybody, even Honest John Ledbetter, who until his death lived in Canada. I had a nice talk with him about the 'Dukes.' I can see why Cooter lives in the Blue Ridge mountains. I fell in love with 'em, too. Any reason to go back there, I would. Beautiful."

"My favourite 'Dukes' character I would have to say is Uncle Jesse," says Jim, who had the above moment at the site of the original Duke farm in Georgia captured for all time. "I don't own a General Lee yet. That pic of me you saw was just luck that somebody was at the farm with one; he let me pose in front of it. I'd like to mention that the gas pumps were Jason's idea and the Hoggoco oil cans were mine. He lives and breathes the 'Dukes' like me."

And does it seem unusual that such a fervent "Dukes" fan would be Canadian born and bred? Not to us, as we used to attend the Hair Dare Dukes Days in Ontario and see the love of the show there in the North.

"I don't think the Canadian perception is any different from the American on the show," Jim says. "We both know you can't fly a car without damage, LOL. For some reason there are a lot of Confederate flags flying up here. Everybody wants to be a rebel, I guess, and American flags, after 9-11, the stars and stripes were everywhere in Canada in support."

And "The Dukes" isn't the only classic TV show he loves.

"As for what I watch on TV today, not much. I did enjoy the new 'Battlestar Galactica' series. I also like 'The Big Bang Theory.' Everything else I buy on DVD. Love the 'Waltons.' I went to Waltons' Mountain museum last year after the Homecoming as it was two hours away from there. Makes you wish you grew up on Waltons' Mountain. I also enjoy the series 'Rat Patrol' from the '60s. 'Magnum P.I.,' I adore that show. 'The Fall Guy,' 'McHale's Navy,' 'Beverly Hillbillies,' 'Petticoat Junction,' aughhh so many!"

When he's not painting, Jim's "day job" is at St. Thomas Rent-all in St. Thomas, Ontario. He also enjoys making welding sculptures out of scrap material from work, model railroading. "In my younger years I was dirt biker. I miss my motorcycle. ;("

But his No. 01 hobby, as he puts it, is searching for 'Dukes' stuff! He does admit it's harder to find in the Great White North.

"Back in the '80s, Canada had Kmart, (not anymore) and I got my first 'Dukes' toy, an ERTL General Lee. I was so excited. The '90s were a real dry spell for 'Dukes' stuff. I remember hearing about the first reunion movie, but we didn't have cable. I missed out on it, then when the DVDs starting coming out, I was in heaven. It's like every show is brand new again, and that's when I found out about Dukesfest. I HAD TO GO!! My first was 2005 in Bristol, my first real trip South as an adult. Terrible drive there. Long story short, we got there late at night on a back road, thunderstorm, we stayed at a crappy hotel. I woke early next day, it was humid, dark, grey sky, and in the mist, I see my very first General Lee sitting on a trailer. I was so excited, I MADE IT, it was a dream come true, 50,000 people like me in the same town!! And I have been going ever since, pic of that General in the mist included. ;)"

He says traveling to Atlanta was another dream come true. "When I went inside the Duke farm, stood in front of the Boar's Nest, drove around Hazzard Square in my Cadillac at the time. Never thought in a million years I'd ever see this stuff. What HISTORY!"

He continues, "Then a couple years back, I put an ad on Kijiji looking for '69 Charger parts. Well, this guy named Jason Darling answers. He had a trunk lid for me. I met him in Toronto, as it's kinda halfway for both of us. I walked up to him, and I felt like I had known him my whole life. Well, thanks to him, I have a trunk lid and a door, one piece at a time like Johnny Cash. The door blew me away. I met him in Niagara Falls last April for the John and Tom concert. I was thinking I was getting an old rusty dented door; he pulls out of his truck a freshly painted 01 orange door signed by Bo and Luke. I started to well up. I was floored. He is now one of my best friends. I consider him my brother; we text everyday, no less, always comparing 'Dukes' stuff. Amazing who you meet through the 'Dukes.'"

Yup! Don't we know it! Many thanks to Jim for sharing his story.

Photo and art courtesy of Jim Wilson; please do not copy without permission.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very nice!