Bedtime Story: Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me
Nancy K Pearson
Nov 20, 2012When I was a kid, I used to watch the country-themed TV show, Hee Haw, with my father on Saturday nights. Hee Haw aired (in local syndication) for over 25 years. If you've never heard of Hee Haw (shame on you), picture Saturday Night Live in a cornfield; replace "Weekend Update" with "KORN News," and Tina Fey with Minnie Pearl. Think pickin' and a grinnin', corn-pone humor, and over-the top hillbilly satire. My father loved the sketch "Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me," which featured country singers like Roy Clark and Archie Campbell drinking moonshine and howling about life's miseries like hound dogs. Here's the chorus: Gloom, despair, and agony on me-e! Deep dark depression, excessive misery-y! If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all! Gloom, despair, and agony on me-e-e! Truth be told, I never thought Hee Haw was very funny. As a child, I didn't get the jokes and when I was old enough to understand the puns and innuendos, I found many of the skits offensive. But the show made my father laugh and hearing my father laugh made me laugh and that was worth an hour of suffering through Buck Owens' knock-knock jokes. My father rarely smiled during my childhood years. And because we saw each other only on occasional weekends, Saturday night Hee Haw was like our bedtime story hour. Over the tales of Kornfield Kounty, my father and I bonded. Right now, I could use a little Hee Haw humor with my Pa. I'm writing nonfiction essays about experiences on psychiatric wards, poems about illness. I'm also reading articles like "Suicide and Despair in Milton's Samson Agonistes," "Why Didn't Samson Just Kill Himself?" and "Milton's Samson: Gloom, Doom and Vermin" (adapted titles). I recently finished J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace and Alice Sebold's Lucky (her memoir about being brutally raped). Call me crazy, but I'm not finding any of this good bedtime reading-- though I'll admit Milton's wound-by-wound account of the blind and chained Samson is occasionally thrilling. Needing some light reading and in search of what I might have read as a kid had I not been watching Hee Haw, I picked up John Fitzgerald's The Great Brain, a 1970s children's series centered around a few kids living in a small Mormon town. What could be better than a story about a clever kid who swindles money from grown-ups? Turns out, illness and death. A few days ago, I finished the part where old man Abie, alone and living in a rundown trailer, dies of severe malnutrition. The next chapter was better--kid Andy, who loses a leg to infection, ties a gunnysack over his head and tries to drown himself.