I drive by this old house quite often and I have documented it’s slow falling down.  It reminded me of a song…

There is a good story and probably should be told more, but it goes like this. One of my heroes from the old days and the old movies was John Wayne. Wayne was cantankerous and ornery and often misunderstood in the roles that he took. To my mind the first movie “True Grit” was John Wayne.  The fact that his real name was Marion makes no difference, he was and still is one of my favorite actors.

Stuart Hamblin was a singer, songwriter and actor that appeared with Wayne in some different Hollywood productions. There are two stories about this friendship. One is that Stewart Hamblin, who considered himself the original juvenile delinquent”  was having some issues in his life and was so down in the dumps he went to see the evangelist Billy Graham. He had some kind of a conversion experience.  Later with John Wayne at a party Hamblin refused a drink and Wayne asked if was true that he had “got religion”.  Hamblin remarked, “it is no secret what God can do in a man’s life”. Wayne remarked that “sounds like a song to me” – and the rest is history. “It is No Secret What God Can Do” became a bestseller.  It was one of the first crossover songs between gospel and country.

The second story is pretty good too but there is some confusion as to what actually happened. In one version of the story Hamblin was alone hunting, and other sources say that Wayne was with him hunting in the Sierra Nevada’s. They
came upon a little cabin that looked as if it was abandoned and as they sat in the yard an old dog that looked like it was about starving to death came out and sat on the porch. Understanding that a dog will not hang around an abandoned building for long, but that if it’s owner is inside the dog will sit outside and starve to death if he has to in order to be with it’s person.  Inside was the dead body of an older gentleman sitting on the couch, and Hamblin explored and saw places where there was obvious signs of a good life from before. Children’s toys, and flowered curtains that  hung in the windows
telling him that there was a feminine component to this household. It was at that point that he began to write a song called “This Old House”.  He said later in life that his intention was to talk about two houses. The earthly house built and lived in by human beings, and the other, the bodily house built by God that we have it for just a short time.

He wanted it to be somber and slow but that changed when George Clooney’s mother got a hold of it.  Here are her lyrics.

This ole house once knew his children
This ole house once knew his wife
This ole house was home and comfort
As they fought the storms of life
This old house once rang with laughter
This old house heard many shouts
Now he trembles in the darkness
When the lightnin’ walks about

Ain’t a-gonna need this house no longer
Ain’t a-gonna need this house no more
Ain’t got time to fix the shingles
Ain’t got time to fix the floor
Ain’t got time to oil the hinges
Nor to mend the windowpane
Ain’t a-gonna need this house no longer
He’s a-gettin’ ready to meet the saints

This ole house is a-gettin’ shaky
This ole house is a-gettin’ old
This ole house lets in the rain
This ole house lets in the cold
On his knees I’m gettin’ chilly
But he feel no fear nor pain
‘Cause he see an angel peekin’
Through a broken windowpane

This ole house is afraid of thunder
This ole house is afraid of storms
This ole house just groans and trembles
When the night wind flings its arms
This ole house is gettin’ feeble
This old house is needin’ paint
Just like him it’s tuckered out
But he’s a-gettin’ ready to meet the saints

This ole house dog lies a-sleepin’
He don’t know I’m gonna leave
Else he’d wake up by the fireplace
And he’d sit there and howl and grieve
But my huntin’ days are over
Ain’t gonna hunt the coon no more
Gabriel done brought in my chariot
When the wind blew down the door

I think there is more in the background of this song than is usually explained.  Deep in Hamblin’s memory (he was raised in a deeply religious home) is an Testament image that is truly captivating.  More on this during the week.