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Earl Hamner recalls his Man and Dog story

World-famous writer and TV producer Earl Hamner, now 82, has told us how he came to write his memorable story about the man and his dog wanting to enter Heaven. His description is just as heart-warming as the usually anonymous story, which for 40 years has charmed countless readers around the world.

In last month's edition, we told how, thanks to one of our readers, we'd discovered that the original story, since stolen by hundreds of unethical webmasters, had been written by 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.

Here is the text of an email Earl has sent us from his home in California:

In thinking back I can remember one of the threads that may have inspired me to write "The Hunt." My father was a hunter. He did not hunt for sport but to feed his brood of eight children.

We enjoyed venison, quail, duck, and rabbit which he hunted with the assistance of an English setter, a hunting dog as well as a family pet.

One terrible evening, while he was hunting quail, my father accidentally shot the dog, and the dog ran off. My father came home at dusk to see if the dog had by some chance made his way there. Finding he had not, my Father went back and searched for the dog all night long.

At daybreak he came home with the body of the dog in his arms and he buried it there in our yard. My father grieved for months.

I am sure this incident must have stayed with me for all those years until one day I sat down with an assignment to come up with a story for The Twilight Zone.

On the same day that we received Earl's email, we read a report by Megan Rowe in the Charlottesville (Virginia, US) Daily Progress, that after 22 years of attracting Earl Hamner fans eager for autographed books and “Goodnight John-Boy” nightshirts, Walton’s Mountain Country Store will close its doors on November 7.

"Located 11 miles from Schuyler, the hometown of 'The Waltons' creator Hamner, the store also sells a hodgepodge of T-shirts, crafts, antiques, local honey, old-fashioned candy and toys," she wrote.

The store was owned by Joyce Wood, a friend of Earl's youngest brother, James (Jim-Bob), and stocked antiques and local crafts. It attracted Walton fans from all over the world.

“Mom really enjoyed sharing the background of his show and the story," her daughter told the reporter. "She enjoyed sharing that with tourists.”

Joyce Wood died last year. Her three children, who live elsewhere in Virginia, are looking for a tenant to rent the building, and hope it will remain a store or be turned into a restaurant.

“Even though the television show was ’70s vintage, it is still an important part of our tourism inventory,” said. Maureen Corum, Nelson County’s tourism director. "The Waltons appeal to so many different kinds of folk.”

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Story first posted November 2005

Copyright © 2005

Eric Shackle

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