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“If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.”
—Barry Lopez
(as Badger, in Crow and Weasel)


To be nobody but yourself -- in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else -- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.
- e. e. cummings


Benji and Rusty and the Carousel of Time
------ Some movies don’t need to be re-made. I recently saw a television promotion about a new version of the family movie “Benji.” I guess I’m a little biased, but I don’t see what was wrong with the original. After all, I watched them film some of it and met several of the stars. My grandmother’s dress shop played in important role, my cousin doggy-sat the star, Higgins (a.k.a. Benji), and my grandfather appeared in the film.
------ It was all great fun when Joe Camp brought his production team to my mother’s hometown of McKinney, Texas. He bought an old “mansion” on S. Tennessee Street and allowed it to deteriorate for a period of months so that it could serve as the haunted hideout for the kidnappers of the children in the story. I was allowed to tour it when it was decorated with cobwebs and old antiques during the filming. He paid my cousins and many other children fifty cents each for live butterflies for one of the scenes. My grandmother’s dress shop on Louisiana Street was painted to become the façade for “Joe’s Café” and also served as the downtown kennel where Higgins would escape the Texas heat between scenes.
------ When the film came out, it was, for my family, an instant classic. This was a few years before the video craze, so rather than rent it at Blockbuster, we had to make several trips to the theatre. And of course, I bought the soundtrack album and literally wore it out, replaying each scene in my head as I listened to the music.
------ I guess the thought of not being able to see the movie whenever I wanted to was just a bit more than I could handle. So I decided to follow in Joe Camp’s footsteps and film my own version with my 8-millimeter camera. The stars were the neighborhood kids, and of course, Rusty, my beloved cocker spaniel. Rusty so loved his squeak toy; it was easy to get him to perform just about any trick we needed by withholding it from him while squeaking it.
------ Our version didn’t stray from the original script at all. The real challenge was condensing the ninety-minute version into the three and one-half minute reel that my camera could produce. What great memories those are, and anyone who loans me a Super-8 projector that works can have a private screening, though the reel-to-reel soundtrack that had to be synced with each performance is long gone.
------ As luck or fate would have it, my first teaching job after receiving my degree was in McKinney, Texas and I have taught and lived there ever since. My mother’s hometown has become my children’s. The first house I ever owned was two blocks from the haunted house, now a fully restored historic bed and breakfast.
------ Little did I know while standing on my grandparent’s town square, watching the excitement of the filming of a major motion picture through the eyes of a child, that I’d one day call it home. Little did I know then that in my adulthood, the producers of the Hallmark Hall of Fame movies would come to that town and I too would appear in a motion picture shot on the same location. All he did was walk down the sidewalk and cross paths with the little dog, but when I see that movie today, my grandfather is very much alive. Maybe one day I will come back to life as my grandchildren see me waving from the crowd as the parade passes by in the opening scene of “An American Story.”
------ The seasons change, the years fly by and by, but the carousel of time rolls round and round. In the timeless simplicity of life, only the faces change.

© 2004 The Trill House


“And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We’re captive on the carousel of time
We can’t return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game”
---- ------ ---- Joni Mitchell
- - - - - - - ----"The Circle Game"

© 1966 Crazy Crow Music