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Found! Author of The Man and his Dog

Eureka! Thanks to one of our readers, we've discovered who wrote the usually anonymous story about the man and his dog wanting to enter Heaven, that has delighted readers around the world for more than 40 years. He's Earl Hamner, who later achieved fame as creator and narrator of the Emmy Award-winning series The Waltons, the long-running TV show that millions of viewers around the world have enjoyed for a quarter-century.

Last month, we wrote that "the story (author unknown) is probably older than the internet itself. It plucks at the heartstrings. These days, countless web surfers read it with a smile, then send it on to their relatives and friends."

One of our readers, Anthony Simmons, of Port Orchard, Washington (whose town used to be named Sidney, Washington) remembered where he had seen the author's name. He sent us this email:

This story, in slightly different form, appeared in the episode "The Hunt" of The Twilight Zone in 1962. It was written by Earl Hamner Jr.

In the Twilight Zone version, a man is hunting raccoons with his dog when the dog jumps into the river after a raccoon and is drowned. The man jumps into the river to save the dog and is also drowned. They find themselves back on the bank, so they go home.

After discovering that nobody can see or hear them, they head off down a road, where they come to what they think is Heaven, but the dog isn't allowed in, and the man decides that he doesn't want to live any place where dogs aren't welcome.

A ways farther down the road is another place where both are welcomed. The gatekeeper explains that the first place was Hell, and they don't allow dogs because while a man will walk into Hell with his eyes open, a dog will recognize it for what it is.

Searching the Internet, we found that Earl Hamner was born in Schuyler, a tiny village in the foothills of Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, in 1923. After service in France with the US Army in World War II, he began a long and highly successful career as a radio and TV writer and novelist.

In addition to receiving an Emmy from the Television Academy, he has received a Peabody Award for Distinguished Journalism, a Man of the Year Award from the State of Virginia, a Man of the Year Award of the Broadcast Industry, and honorary doctorates from the University of Richmond, Berea College, Morris Harvey College, DePaul University in Chicago and Loyola University of New Orleans.

These days, at 82, Hamner lives in Los Angeles and Laguna Beach, California with his wife, Jane. He often revisits his home State, Virginia.

Across the street from his boyhood home in Schuyler (population 400) is The Waltons Mountain Museum, which every year attracts thousands of visitors from all over the world. One of its many exhibits is a model of The Waltons' house that was filmed on location in California.

The good news is that the famous author is talking of writing another TV series. After interviewing Hamner a few weeks ago, Chris Graham reported in the Augusta Free Press: "The Schuyler native has had his share of troubles trying to pitch an idea for a series centering around a family in Los Angeles that decides to give up on the fast-paced life in Southern California to return to its roots in Virginia when a family member passes away and bequeaths it a long-forgotten apple orchard."

Sounds as though he wants to write another series to keep the world amused for the next 25 years. Let's hope he succeeds!

Earl Hamner: From Walton's Mountain to Tomorrow

The creator of the ’70s TV show The Waltons and the ’80s Falcon Crest is now the subject of James E. Person Jr.'s book Earl Hamner: From Walton's Mountain to Tomorrow. Earl Hamner, who also wrote episodes of The Twilight Zone and adapted Charlotte's Web for the big screen, is accompanying Person on the road with a tour that's focusing on Virginia and California bookstores. The duo set out on Saturday, Aug. 13, at Polly and Jim-Bob's Bed and Breakfast and Gift Shop in Hamner's native Schuyler, Va., with four additional stops in Virginia, and wrapping up in Los Angeles on Aug. 30. The event in Schuyler helped propel Hamner's biography to the No. 2 spot on The Book Standard’s chart for the Roanoke-Lynchburg, Va., area.
- The Book Standard.

 

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Story first posted October 2005

Copyright © 2005

Eric Shackle

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